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Budget, salaries, class size questioned

By Katie Zerr –

Salaries, budget and the growing number of students in the district were discussed Monday, Sept. 10 at the Mobridge-Pollock School Board meeting.

With the 2012-2013 school year in full swing, the board and administration discussed the changes in student numbers, the number of students in classrooms and hiring for positions dictated by those numbers.

The resignation of the high school principal in July created an opening for a Kindergarten through grade 12 curriculum director on the staff. The position of principal was filled when the district hired Andrew Overland, but adding the other position to his plate on such short notice was not in the best interest of the district or Overland, superintendent Tim Frederick told the board at an earlier meeting. Administration and the board decided to look within the staff for a person to fill the position.

At Monday’s meeting, Frederick requested the board approve a contract for $6,000 for Mary McCorckel to fill that position and work closely with Overland in order that he may take it over next school year. He said it was important the director have an advanced degree in education and be able to work closely with staff and administrators.

“There probably has never been a time in education when this position has been as important,” he told the board. “Mrs. Mary McCorckle has a strong background in core curriculum. She is a good choice for this position.”

Board member Jane Looyenga questioned whether paying $6,000 for that position was necessary.

“That seems like a lot of money,” she said.

Frederick reminded the board that there had been a significant savings from last year’s director position. He said McCorckle would be spending significant time on research as well as working with staff and administration. He said with the changes that are occurring in education at this time, this is a critical position. There will need to be research the viability of using electronic devices versus purchasing textbooks in the future, he said. The board needs information before moving forward on those types of curriculum decisions.

The board approved the contract for position.

Frederick also told the board no applications had been submitted for the early childhood development position. The board then approved a contract with Oahe Special Education Services in Java for the evaluation of students at $100 per hour.

2012-2013 school budget was also presented to the board for approval. Frederick told the board the amounts in fund categories will not change from the provisional budget. The only change may be the amount that goes into reserves at the end of the year.


Student numbers

Frederick told the board the enrollment figures for the school year are projected to hold between 678 and 683. He said these figures were “quite healthy.”

He reminded the board that any student enrolled in the district after Sept. 28 will not count on the average daily membership count that is used in the state aid for students formula.

Currently there are 65 kindergarten students and 23 and 20 students in the two second grade classes.

“We are watching these numbers very carefully,” he told the board.

Looyenga expressed concern at the number of students in the kindergarten classes.

“That is just too many for one teacher,” she said. “Anytime there are more than 12 or 13, the teacher can not be meeting their needs.”

She asked why the district had not monitored the incoming numbers and hired another kindergarten teacher.

Elementary Principal Jill Olson said the numbers are higher than what was indicated and that kindergarten was a class where the numbers can fluctuate greatly.

When asked by Looyenga, Olson said adding another para-professional to aid with those classrooms will help to lighten the teacher’s load and is the best option at this time.

Looyenga asked Olson if each class should have its own para-professional. Olson replied with the number of paras and teachers, the district is able to balance the needs of the students. She said the numbers continue to change throughout the year.

“Other students in the district have needs also,” Frederick told the board. “Some middle school classes have as many as 30 students. Through our meetings with the teachers we hear they are happy with the para situation.”

He went on to say the student numbers are so unsure the district could not make a commitment to a fourth teacher. He said if the district makes a move to bring more students into the district from outside of Mobridge, the board would need to consider establishing a junior kindergarten.

“There are students who fall through the cracks and don’t qualify for pre-school or whose parents can’t afford a private program,” he said. “With a junior kindergarten we would be able to prepare these kids for school.”

He said the need for a bi-lingual paraprofessional is foremost and that need will be filled through the next hiring.

–Katie Zerr –