Board discusses services position

By Erika Pedroza | Published Saturday, April 27, 2013

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Although it is unclear what will come of the 83rd legislature currently in session, the Northwest School Board is taking preparatory steps in staffing.

During a budget workshop prior to its regular board meeting Monday, the board heard a second request for staffing from Gary Gindt, assistant superintendent for administrative services.

A first request, based on enrollment projections was approved in February. The second petition, formulated after further analysis of instructional programs and departmental needs, would have a budget impact of $890,000.

Among the 19 positions are two student services facilitators – one for each Northwest and Byron Nelson high schools – with a potential budget impact of $125,000.

Those people, Gindt said, would help guidance counselors sift through the “paperwork nightmare” caused by the documentation required for 504 Plans (for children with special needs), Response To Intervention reports; and “the whole debacle associated with EOC (end-of-course exams) and cumulative scores” – changes that came with the STAAR tests.

“All of those things are fairly new, coupled with what was already in place with transcripts, college applications, scholarships,” said Dr. Edward Chevallier, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “If we could have one person that coordinated any one or two of those pieces, working in conjunction with the counselor, that’s going to take a huge load off of them.”

That, he added, would help make the counselors more responsive to students.

“It will allow the counselors to be counselors,” Chevallier said. “Counselors will still have clerical, logistical duties, but right now their jobs are so much of that that as far as the counseling role, they don’t get to be counselors. They’re just keeping up with paperwork.”

It’s likely they’ll have even more to keep up with, regardless of what is decided during this legislative session.

“We began talking about these positions when we were looking at the STAAR system, where we’ve got to keep up with end-of course exams, cumulative scores and where students are in all of that,” Superintendent Karen Rue said. “This will significantly change graduation plans.”

Legislation being considered would minimize the effects of the standardized test on graduating seniors and instead provide flexibility in the focus of public education. House Bill 5 would facilitate a traditional path to colleges and universities, or help students hone “critical skills” to move directly into the workforce upon graduation.

It would also reduce the number of end-of-course exams from 15 to five, which would not comprise 15 percent of a student’s overall grade as originally proposed.

Although school officials consider it an ideal alternative, it would not reduce the workload on counselors.

“We’ll have a foundation diploma, essentially structured like a college diploma,” Rue said. “You differentiate what you want to major in – arts and humanities, math and sciences. But you’re still having to keep up with several different students on several different tracks. This position is needed either way.”

The job is considered a professional post, not support staff, because whoever is hired would have to access confidential records. But it is not considered a counselor role – which confused some board members.

“I’m just not understanding – if they’re doing part of what a counselor is doing now, why aren’t they counselors?” board president Mel Fuller asked. “What else will they be doing?”

The board will discuss the job description at its next meeting, Monday, May 13.

Other requested positions, with estimated costs are:

  • three pre-k teachers and three pre-k assistants, contingent on student enrollment ($180,000 and $75,000, respectively);
  • three kindergarten teachers to reduce the 24:1 student-to-teacher ratio to 22:1 ($180,000);
  • two dual-language kindergarten teachers, which would also alleviate the current 24:1 kindergarten student-to-teacher ratio ($120,000);
  • a secretary for the Outdoor Learning Center ($40,000);
  • a district occupational therapist ($80,000)
  • a district teacher for the audio impaired ($60,000);
  • an assistant wrestling coach for Byron Nelson and Northwest high schools ($20,000);
  • an assistant golf coach, who will teach one period at BNHS ($10,000)

The item will be voted on in the consent agenda of the May 13 meeting.

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