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Board OKs Hiring 5 New Teachers

Decatur schools superintendent cites more than $1.5 million in savings in proposing to hire new kindergarten teachers.

The Decatur School Board Tuesday approved hiring five new kindergarten teachers to help schools deal with a larger-than-expected enrollment.

The five new teachers would be certified long-term substitutes at , and elementaries, Superintendent Phyllis Edwards told the board. has already gotten two additional kindergarten teachers.

The move would reduce the ratio of teachers and paraprofessionals to students from 1 to 12 down to 1 to 10, Edwards said.

"Our goal is to increase the adults in that area," Edwards told the board.

Edwards told the board that the system's budget "has come in better than expected," with more than $1.5 million in savings from the previous year.  

The system needed to hire for additional sections of Spanish and English as a Second Language at , to convert a part-time Renfroe Middle school counselor to a full-time position and to hire additional administrative staff at the , Edwards said.

Edwards said the new kindergarten teachers would reduce "the load from actual teacher." 

She opposed creating new kindergarten classes because "no one wants to start moving students out." Students are familiar with their classmates and teachers, Edwards said, and "it's just not a good practice to move them around."

The board also voted to authorize school employees to apply for $616,314 from the state to convert 's former gymnasium into classrooms. If approved, the state money would be matched with $1.77 million in local funds.

Edwards said Decatur qualified for the state funding as one of the 15 state school systems experiencing "exceptional growth."

Renfroe's old gymnasium area would be converted to six additional classrooms, one drama space, three regular education classrooms and two science labs.

Also at Tuesday's meeting, board members apparently convened into executive session to discuss the job performance of Edwards, but not before lame duck board member John Ahmann asked some questions.

Ahmann, who will not run for re-election, said he was having difficulty understanding the student achievement targets submitted by Edwards and wanted to know how to get them answered before "going into executive session to complete the superintendent’s evaluation." Ahmann said he was "trying to understand the MAP data."

He said he would not feel comfortable approving an evaluation in executive session without "more clarity" on the achievement data.

Two School Leadership Team members are , and both attended Monday's meeting.

 Peg Bumgardner spoke to the board about her departure as chair of the Renfroe SLT, and said she'd learned a lot from three years on the team. 

Garrett Goebel, her opponent, is also a SLT member and worked with Bumgardner to design an Oct. 1 training session for the SLT. Goebel came within 82 votes of winning a School Board seat in 2009.

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