Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
February 05, 2013
FALLS CITY -- In an ironic consequence of tight budgets, the Falls City School Board may decide to reduce its high school science teaching position to part time to add back a half-time math teacher.
In its two-year 2012-14 budget, the district elected to use an online program for high school math instruction as opposed to a classroom teacher to save money.
So far, the online classes have been a success -- only one student in high school math is failing and test scores have improved.
Assistant K-12 Principal Art Houghtaling said at the board's Jan. 28 meeting that extra instruction and tutoring is available in addition to what is offered in the online sessions.
However, some board members felt the need to add back a classroom teacher in response to parent concerns. Falls City Superintendent Pat Evenson-Brady said in December the board asked for a proposal for reinstating a half-time teacher.
"It was the board's decision that we need a math teacher," Evenson-Brady said. "I do understand ... it doesn't feel like a quality high school without a quality math teacher."
The decision does come at a cost, though.
"The recommendation that we would very sadly make to you is to reduce the science teaching position to .5," Evenson-Brady said at the meeting. "We do that based on the fact that we can cover the science classes with a .5 position."
Evenson-Brady said district staff couldn't find another way to pay for hiring a math teacher.
Mike Rodriguez, the school's science teacher, said he fears reducing his position will encourage students to attend other schools with more electives, further decreasing the district's already declining enrollment. He also argued he would have less time to help students after school if his position was reduced.
"They really seem to need that support despite our best efforts," he said. "That is part of what I provide as a full-time teacher that will be lost if I were to be reduced to half."
Board member Jami Kidd acknowledged Rodriguez's concerns about enrollment decreases, but also said the district can't afford to pay for the online program and extra teacher time to help students.
"Financially, that doesn't make a lot of sense," she said. "If our kids need that one-on-one time to grasp the concepts, we need to provide that stable math curriculum."
Two of the five members of the board were not present for the entire Jan. 28 meeting, so the board decided to wait until a future meeting to vote on the proposal.
Not all board members were convinced of the need for a change.
"Our math scores are way up (compared to what) they were last year when we had a math teacher. I'm still not sold on it," said Bob Young, the board's chairman. "I don't know what the answer is. But I do know that the scores are up and everybody is passing except for one kid and we couldn't say that two years ago."