Archive for Wednesday, September 11, 2002

School district considers adding third-grade teacher

September 11, 2002

Tonganoxie's growing enrollment may result in the addition of another third-grade classroom.

Board members and administrators Monday night debated the pros and cons of adding a classroom within the next month.

A year ago, 116 second-graders were divided among six classrooms, at about 19 student each.

When the numbers were estimated for this year, it looked as if the third-graders could be put in five classrooms at about 23 students each, said Jerry Daskoski, principal of Tong-anoxie Elementary School.

"I had my fingers crossed," Daskoski said.

"You don't want your numbers to go down, but if they could that's where I would want them to go down. Even at 23, I thought this does not look good, but there were no other options."

The district didn't have enough teachers to shift one teacher from another grade level into the third grade.

When the school year began, enrollment climbed. Of this year's 30 new students, 10 are in the third grade. As a result, the district now has 125 students enrolled in the third grade, now in the five classrooms.

Daskoski presented two suggestions to the board: Add a sixth third-grade classroom, shifting some students from existing classrooms to the new class. Or, hire an additional teacher to work with Tonganoxie's five third-grade teachers to provide more individualized instruction.

Daskoski said he prefers the first option. He said an additional third-grade class could be set up in a trailer where art lessons are currently taught.

He said he had talked to the art instructor, who agreed art could be taught in individual classrooms this year.

Third grade is a pivotal year, Daskoski said.

"The third grade is a key grade, especially when it comes to reading," Daskoski said. "That's where we tie the knot in the sense that when they leave the third grade we want them to be proficient readers."

Superintendent Richard Erickson calculated that the elementary school's 30 new students would bring in about $150,000 in additional state aid. A new teacher's salary and benefits, he said, would total about $40,000. Erickson said that although he expects the state will decrease the per pupil amount of state aid, there would still likely be ample funds to hire another teacher.

Richard Dean, board member, countered that the board had earlier in the evening approved $22,000 of expenditures for grade school streetside parking improvements and playground equipment.

Board member Ron Moore said if the board wanted to add a classroom, he would vote for it.

"But I just want us to be careful," Moore said.

Board members also considered students and parents and teachers who would be affected by the change, as well as the responsibilities of a teacher charged with establishing a classroom well into the school year.

Board member Rick Lamb said he trusted the judgment of Daskoski and assistant principal Tammie George, who also spoke in favor of adding a classroom.

"As much as we're trying to think through all these issues, these people breathe it day and night," Lamb said.

Erickson noted that Daskoski has been sitting in on third-grade classrooms to observe and evaluate the situations.

"He's been in these classrooms, he's been working on this, he's done his homework," Erickson said. "Yes, we're taking a risk, but I think we're taking a risk for the right reasons to keep classrooms small and I feel that this is a risk we can handle."

Dean suggested that the board postpone making a decision until after Sept. 20, when the district sends enrollment numbers to the state. Aid to school districts is calculated on the number of students in schools on that date.

"A special meeting could be held after September 20th to make a decision," Dean said.

By general consent, the board members agreed to table the decision.

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