Haines School District Superintendent Ginger Jewell presented a proposed staffing plan for next year to the school board at a workshop Thursday. The plan includes four new positions and a blended teaching approach for fifth and sixth grade.
Jewell says she gathered suggestions and requests from staff and she’s working to incorporate those into next year’s school budget.
“So things are based on real requests, not what we have historically spent on something,” Jewell said.
One issue for the Haines school: science. Student science scores have declined in the past three years. Jewell wants to hire a science and math — or STEM — coach who would work with elementary teachers to strengthen science and math curriculum.
“The score trends are downward and not upward in both math and science,” Jewell said. “So we feel we really need somebody in elementary to help teachers teach better.”
Jewell says in most of the Haines School elementary classrooms, there is a lack of science and social studies instruction because there’s so much focus on reading. And, the elementary teachers don’t feel as skilled in science and math.
Jewell says the high school is in need of another social studies teacher. She says adding that teacher would give high school staff more flexibility to lead electives, which have been limited this year.
Two of the new positions Jewell is proposing could be paid for by grant money. One is a Director of Student Support, also referred to by Jewell as a Special Education Director. In addition to overseeing SPED teachers, this person would also schedule and manage all the state-required testing of students.
Right now, the school counselor is in charge of testing. The school board talked about how that doesn’t leave enough time for the counselor to actually counsel students.
The other grant-funded position is an innovation coordinator and technology specialist. The specialist would help teachers use technology in the most effective ways in their classrooms. Jewell says this position would help the district prepare students for a changing job market.
“We are preparing students for jobs that don’t exist,” Jewell said. “Today they simply don’t exist, we can’t even guess what they’re going to be.”
The school board members gave Jewell the go-ahead to advertise STEM coach, SPED director, and technology specialist as anticipated jobs. But some members said with looming cuts from the state and borough, the district might not be able to afford all of the new positions.
Jewell is also proposing fifth/sixth grade blended classrooms where students are taught by two teachers. One teacher would instruct fifth grade reading, and blended writing and social studies classes. The other would instruct sixth grade reading, and blended math and science classes.
Jewell says that structure gives teachers more time to teach to their strengths.
The board didn’t look at specific budget numbers at the workshop. That will happen on March 31, when the school board will go over a first draft of the 2015-2016 school year budget.