RCAPS hires 12 new employees

Webster
Webster

REED CITY – Better learning is the outcome of smaller class sizes – an idea Reed City Area Public Schools is promoting this school year. The district’s board of education hired six long-term substitute teachers and six paraeducators during the board’s September meeting.

Although the district is unable to provide accurate enrollment numbers until the official student Fall Count Day on Wednesday, Oct. 1, superintendent Tim Webster said he feels confident the numbers are up.

“Our enrollment unexpectedly jumped,” Webster said. If practice counts are accurate, “the district is up more than 60 students, but the numbers are unstable until next Wednesday.”

Before the 2011-12 school year, only 75 percent of funding was allocated from Fall Count Day. Now, Fall Count Day determines 90 percent of a school’s state funding, according to the Michigan Department of Education. The other 10 percent comes from Winter Count Day on Wednesday, Feb. 11.

Schools have five weeks to submit Fall Count Day information to their intermediate school districts. The districts then have 24 weeks from Fall Count Day to provide the audited information to the state.

Webster said the district had a large pool of teacher candidates to choose from.

“It’s an interesting market right now because there are a lot of teachers looking for jobs,” Webster said.

With the new teachers, the kindergarten class sizes will reduce from 30 students to 24 students, fourth grade will reduce from 28 to 22, fifth grade will reduce from 30 to 24, and sixth and seventh grade English language arts will reduce from 33 to 26.

“Our district, between the administration, board of education and the Teacher’s Union, supports 27 students being the ‘max’ in the classroom, per our contract,” said Tonya Harrison, curriculum and assessment director at RCAPS. “At this time, all classes are at 27 or lower at the elementary school. Our district supports the concept that the lower the grade, the more important small class size is for instruction.”

If the teachers perform well, it’s likely the district will permanently hire the substitutes at the end of the school year, Webster said. Hiring long-term substitutes, opposed to permanent teachers, will save the district money.

Although the community may feel some skepticism about hiring long-term substitutes, “all of these people are highly qualified to teach,” Webster said. “They are all certified teachers.”

The newly hired long-term substitute teachers include: Brittany Flint, kindergarten; Chelsea Turner, art; Stephanie Spencer, fourth grade; Sherrie Ingraham, fifth grade; Jared Rose, middle school physical education and high school math; Tellie Clairday, middle school English language arts.

The newly hired para-educators include: Amber White, elementary; Scott Cole, elementary; Nicki Strach, elementary; Bill Lutjens, elementary; Tammy Dryer, middle school; Kim Marek, high school.

The district hopes to hire one more middle school para-educator.

“If the teachers are knocking it out of the park, we will permanently hire them,” Webster said. “This is a good way to look at them before we permanently hire them.”

The district also added a new teaching assistant position that will assist in the library and monitor the school’s newly added virtual school.

“Last year, we didn’t have enough money to keep the library open,” Webster said. “We’re excited to get the library opened back up.”

Previously, the library only was available to students who had teachers who brought them to the library. Now, students will be able to come and go from the library anytime the library monitor is working.

Although the newly hired teachers are considered long-term subs, they will be treated like permanent teachers, said Harrison.

“At this point, they will go through professional development just like any other teacher,” Harrison said. “They will be a regular part of our team and go to any kind of staff meeting or training, just like full-time employees. Regarding permanent-position placement, decisions will be made at the end of the school year."

Most of the newly-hired employees are residents of the local area who have been searching for teaching positions, Harrison said.

“It’s always great to have new staff because they provide fresh ideas and a new perspective,” she said. “They share those ideas with other teachers. I’m excited that we are able to reduce class sizes.”