The agenda was light for a special District 124 School Board meeting on Wednesday, but the board did discuss the hiring of both a new fourth-grade teacher for Southwest School and a replacement for Superintendent Diane Cody.
Staffing Based on Public Choice
Under No Child Left Behind, students attending schools that are not meeting Annual Yearly Progress requirements for two consecutive years have the option of transferring to a public school within the same district that is performing to AYP standards.
In District 124, stands out as the lone school meeting AYP, and that is putting a strain on class size in fourth grade.
This year, students attending Southeast Elementary and can transfer to a west school of their choice under the federal law. Although the tentative deadline to do so was today, parents are still allowed to transfer students for a few more weeks.
With the east schools considered Public Choice Schools, board members must honor a transfer request.
“If a parent only requested one school and that choice is overflowing, then I can say no,” Cody said after the meeting. “But I do need to offer them one of the two schools and I have to accept their choice if they choose one.”
Cody said that while is not meeting AYP either, it has not failed to do so two years in a row and is not a choice school.
Cody told board members that as of the tentative deadline, requests for transfer on behalf of 41 students had been made. She added that four had not provided a second choice and were denied, but they could come back with a different request. Currently, 19 students will transfer to Northwest and 18 to Southwest.
Southwest will now have two sections of fourth grade with 27 students each. However, eight special education students in fourth grade need to be integrated in the regular classroom, creating a class sizes of 31.
“We won't make a formal vote tonight, but I am asking for your direction on this,” Cody said.
Board members agreed that a class size of 31 was far too high and were in favor of looking at more staff.
“With these numbers, I would say yes, proceed (with hiring another teacher),” said board member Dawn McNamara.
With a third teacher, class sizes would be under 20, not counting the eight special ed students. Cody said after the meeting that how the eight students would join the classroom (which sections they would join) would be discussed later.
Kim Foley, who has a daughter at Southwest, said that while class sizes under 20 are a “dream come true,” she questioned whether it would just drive the class size up further.
“Will kids from other classes (in other schools) now want to continue to influx into Southwest to get a lower class size?” she asked board members during public comment.
Board President Kathy Rohan said Foley's concern was a possibility, but under No Child Left Behind there was nothing the district could do about it.
“We can't close a section. There are private schools that can, but we cannot,” she said.
Cody said she will begin the search process and the board will officially vote on whether or not to make a new hire at the Aug. 17 regular board meeting.
Search Firms Being Interviewed
The board also began interviewing search firms to help find a replacement for Dr. Cody, who at the end of this year. The firm that is hired will aid the school in locating candidates for superintendent in District 124. The board interviewed two firms on Wednesday and will interview a third at a later date.