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Local News

September 13, 2013

School board deals with last-minute staff concerns

SLIPPERY ROCK — Classes start Tuesday in the Slippery Rock Area School District and board members on Monday debated last-minute staffing concerns at the two elementary buildings.

"We need to have another teacher," board member Diana Wolak said of the three kindergarten classes of 26 kids each at Slippery Rock Area Elementary in the borough.

There is space for a fourth classroom and she believes 26 students is too many for one kindergarten class.

Enrollment concerns have been addressed a number of times over the past year during talks about Har-Mer Elementary, the district's school in Harrisville that closed at the end of the 2012-13 school year with declining enrollment cited as the main reason.

Har-Mer students have been transferred to Area Elementary and Moraine Elementary in Prospect; the schools house kindergarten through fifth grade.

Board members on Monday ultimately decided to add: one teacher's aide to help with kindergarten classes at Area Elementary; and one floating teacher's aide at Moraine with a priority to assist second grade.

That vote was preceded by much discussion, starting with an update on some of the latest enrollment figures from Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Nogay, who said if the board is going to focus on the kindergarten classes with 26 kids, they should also consider the second-grade Moraine classes with 26 and 27 students.

"They're going to continue to fluctuate," Nogay said of how enrollment figures don't settle until the beginning of October. "I don't want to add a teacher and then say maybe we shouldn't have."

In the last week alone, Area Elementary has lost 13 kids and Moraine gained 12, she said, giving an example of how the numbers change at the beginning of the school year.

Kids want to know as soon as possible who their teacher for the year is going to be, and hiring a new teacher now could interfere with classroom assignments that are already set, board member Polly Shaw said.

"I like the idea of adding aides," board member Kirby Lotz said.

Wolak's initial motion to add a kindergarten teacher at Area Elementary failed to pass with a tie vote of 4 to 4. Board member Kenneth Speer was absent.

A second motion was made to transfer a fifth grade teacher at Area to kindergarten, which also failed with a vote of 2 to 6.

The third motion passed with a vote of 7 to 1 to add the two aides, one at each elementary school.

In other business Monday night, board members agreed to hold their executive sessions before the 7:30 p.m. board meetings, rather than in the middle of the meetings they have been doing.

They held an executive session during Monday's meeting for personnel issues that lasted a little over an hour.

The public portion of the meeting will still start at 7:30 p.m. and the board can hold an executive session before or after if necessary, said the Rev. Michael Scheer, board president.

"Why don't we try it for the next meeting?" he asked, telling the board to plan for an executive session at 7 p.m. Sept. 9, when the board meets at Moraine Elementary.

Published Aug. 28, 2013, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.

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