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Sun, Aug. 25

Teachers' aides to help in larger classes

One unfilled teacher position at Coyote Springs Elementary School just became five part-time teacher aide positions shared among five school sites. Each aide will help two to four teachers at each school who have larger than desired class sizes this year.

At this past Tuesday's meeting, Humboldt Unified School District governing board members unanimously agreed to convert one vacant teacher's slot into five 5-hour teacher's aide positions to assist in the larger classes.

The teacher's position, with benefits and insurance added in, represents a $47,000 expense; each teacher's aide position costs the district $8,800.

Decreased enrollment and a decrease in the number of teacher positions have resulted in some elementary classes being larger than previous district guidelines prescribe.

Recently, HUSD Supt. Henry Schmitt raised the maximum target class size caps set for kindergarten from 24 to 28; from 26 to 28 for first grade; from 27 to 32 for second and third grades; and from 29 to 34 for fourth and fifth grades.

In order to assure equitable class loads for teachers and quality instruction for students, the board set the guidelines in 2005. When the average size class in a building reaches the maximum cap, and if additional classroom space exists, the district considers reassigning students into a newly created class and adding a teacher; or it may provide a 2.5 hour per day aide (for full-day classroom).

The district has no money in its budget for hiring additional teachers, even after making

adjustments this past year that recouped about $1.5 million. Declining enrollment and State budget cuts do not allow for the hiring of more teachers.

"While not ideal, we are confident that our teachers will continue to provide a quality education for all students even in larger classes," said HUSD Human Resources Director Phil Young.

Essentially, the five aides will split their five hours between several classrooms. At CSES, with four third-grade classrooms, each of four teachers will decide when to receive their 1.25 hours of assistance.

Liberty Traditional School and Granville have three teachers each to divvy up the 5 hours; Humboldt Elementary and Lake Valley will split their aide between two teachers at each site.

Young said other districts have increased their maximum number of students per grade level classroom. Paradise Valley Unified increased its kindergarten size from 25 to 27 HUSD-28), but the Cartwright School District maintains a cap of 20 for kindergartners and 25 for first through third grades. Paradise Valley caps its third-grade classes at 31 (HUSD-32).

Young said the district would re-assign aides to other areas of greatest need if enrollments drop in any of the designated classrooms.

"With the support of our parents and community at large, we will pursue every available opportunity within our means to enable our students to achieve to their fullest potential," Young said.

In other business, the governing board approved (with board member Shelly Damschroder dissenting) two overloads as athletic coordinator ($16,244) and one coaching stipend ($4,704) for Bradshaw Mountain High School Athletic Director Maury Ruble, raising his teaching contract from $40,610 to $64,738, including an estimated $3,000 in 301 money.

Young said Prescott Unified School District pays its athletic director $65,436, and Apache Junction Unified, a like-sized district, pays $60,399, not including extra coaching duties.

In addition, Ruble has taken over some of the duties of the assistant administrator's position eliminated during Tier I budget cuts.

Damschroder said her concern is not about Ruble's performance, but rather how the position has evolved. The district has approved similar overloads and stipend for Ruble for the past four years.

Board member Rich Adler agreed, saying, "It just looks a little odd with the different funding streams and sources." He added that, bottom line, he felt that it was appropriate compensation for the amount of work Ruble puts in during weekends, evenings, and over the summer months.

The board also unanimously approved the revised class and extra-curricular fees, to be reviewed annually each spring. Since the district already has printed the fee schedule in the handbooks for this year, the board will look at revising them in the spring for the 2010-2011 school year.

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