Friday, December 13, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
New Ash Creek Elementary fourth-and fifth-grade teacher Alice Holliday places name labels on students' folders Monday while preparing her classroom for the school year.
August 27, 2013
MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE -- Schools across Central School District will start the 2013-14 school year in what administrators are calling the first step in building back.
Years of budget cuts caused several school programs to be drastically minimized and some almost completely discarded.
Music and P.E. were some of the hardest hit, especially at the elementary level -- Wendy Bemrose was pulling double duty as music teacher at Monmouth Elementary School and Independence Elementary School.
Counselors throughout the district were reduced to a bare-bones staff, with some serving multiple schools.
When the state appropriations for K-12 education settled at $6.55 billion, instead of the original $6.3 billion, at the end of the 2013 legislative session, the district was able to bring in new staff and teachers to boost these reduced programs.
"When I came here, P.E. and music were both part time so I have never had the benefit of a full-time P.E. teacher and a full-time music teacher," Dorie Vickery, MES principal, said. "It's amazing that Wendy Bemrose managed, between two buildings, to run two children's choirs. She didn't cut back."
Seven new teaching positions were added across the district over the summer, providing for the expansion of music and P.E. programs at the elementary levels.
When the district decided this spring to repurpose Henry Hill Elementary School at the end of the 2012-13 school year, not only were the students distributed to the other three elementary schools but so were the teachers.
With new hires and newly transitioned teachers, MES now has three teachers per grade to accommodate for the larger classes.
"It was certainly nice to have three teachers per grade level when I made the class list," Vickery said. "It's just more options, different teaching styles and opportunities for students."
On top of the several new teachers brought in over the summer, each school in the district now has its own counselor.
Previously, the district had just two counselors covering the four elementary schools and Talmadge Middle School had been without a counselor for five years.
"We were able to define the bottom of the barrel for us and to start building back," Central superintendent Buzz Brazeau said. "The things that really stood out as far as glaring holes were in areas of counseling."
Vickery and TMS Principal Perry LaBounty handled less severe cases, but were ill-equipped to address serious issues.
When TMS or MES had crisis situations or more serious cases, students were regularly referred to Polk County Mental Health and Addiction Services in Dallas.
The lack of a qualified counselor put enormous strain on staff that will now be alleviated, LaBounty said.
"The biggest addition to the middle school staff is not just that it is a new counselor, we have a counselor," LaBounty said. "It's unfortunate when a parent comes in needing to talk with a counselor and having to tell them to drive to Dallas. That's just not right."