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School Board declines to cut position, adds new curriculum program

The Glencoe-Silver Lake School Board took on two major financial issues Monday night — a proposed reduction of a full-time fifth-grade teacher for the 2018-19 school year, and a proposal to implement a literacy curriculum.
The reduction of a 1.0 full-time equivalency (FTE) teacher failed 4-2, and the expenditure for a new literacy curriculum passed 4-2.
Though seemingly unrelated, the former could have obtained a possible monetary reduction for the district; the latter would be an expenditure of around $150,000. The reduction of a fifth-grade teacher doesn’t mean that a teacher is being let go — everybody is keeping their jobs.
The reduction came as a suggestion due to smaller third- and fourth-grade class sizes than the current fifth-grade class sizes, and to keep the fund balance healthy. Currently, the fifth-grade team sits at around 20-25 students per classroom. The next two grades are smaller by about that same figure, warranting the reduction of one of the fifth-grade teachers to keep a similar, efficient minimum class size as decided by the board. The teacher would be then moved from fifth-grade to fill the spot of the retiring teacher, wherever that may end up. Now, the district will have to fill the spot to which the current fifth-grade teacher would have been moved.
Seemingly, most of the fifth-grade teachers in the district were there to advocate for each other and for the students they plan to teach in the future. They claimed that keeping all the teachers with the fifth-grade team would be the better move for the students, and that there must be a more efficient way to move teachers around.
“There weren’t any (new) suggestions on what to do,” said Board Member VonBerge, who ended up voting against the reduction. She continued, “We don’t know what else to do … letting go of one teacher is nothing compared to what we had to deal with in statutory operating debt.”
Board Member Clark Christianson, who voted in favor of the reduction, noted that a lack of action on decisions similar to this landed them in statutory operating debt in the past, and that’s a place that isn’t beneficial for anybody — students, teachers or community members.
The heaviest tears and most audible outcries of the night came after Chair Jamie Alsleben stated, “I’m torn. We’re struggling with this too,” which, to the audience of teachers and supporting family members, sounded like a death decree for the prospect of sticking together. To their joy and surprise, the board ended up voting against the reduction.
For more from the school board meeting, see the May 16 print edition of The Chronicle.