School has new administrative plan

FAIRMONT – Fairmont Area is planning to reconfigure its administrative team and change the way its school days are structured.

The ideas were discussed at a school board work session Tuesday.

The district currently has one principal, a social worker and a dean of students at the high school; and a principal, assistant principal and social worker at the elementary. What the board is considering is installing a principal and assistant principal at each building, as well as a social worker and dean of students at each building.

The change will allow the district to focus the tasks of the administration teams. Principals can focus on what Superintendent Joe Brown calls “adult issues,” such as curriculum, implementation of standards, teacher observation and staff development. The social worker and dean can then focus on “student issues,” such as attendance, discipline, family issues and student environment.

Brown said an impetus for the change is regulations coming down from the state, including a requirement that teachers are regularly evaluated by a licensed principal. Currently, teachers are evaluated by peers.

Upcoming bullying legislation is also in the works, something Brown says will be best handled by a dean.

“We just felt having a dean of students at each site, you could really focus on the students,” said business manager Sue Nelson.

Another reason for the change is to work on student issues affecting graduation rates – specifically attendance.

“The kids that are burping – which is what I call kids who are failing – are the kids that are not coming to school,” Brown said.

He hopes the change will increase the school’s graduation rate, which is at 90 percent.

The cost of the change, as well as increases the school nurse from part time to full time, and the addition of a special education teacher at the elementary school, is $268,589.

The district will save about $91,000 with five teachers retiring and $47,000 with three teachers resigning. Other reductions due to lower enrollment add up to $175,000, with the loss of one kindergarten teacher due to lower enrollment, the loss of a part-time science teacher, three special education paraprofessionals and classroom paraprofessionals.

Nelson said the difference in the employment figures from the current status to the projected changes next year is a net savings of $45,000 to the district.

“This isn’t going to cost the district any money,” Brown said. “It is a wash.”

Also at the work session, high school Principal Dave Paschke proposed changing the school day, so that a teacher will have staff development time from 7:30-8:15 a.m. four days per week. On the other day, the teacher would tutor students during that time or after school. The arrangement would rotate, so that a core group of teachers would be available to help students each day.

Students would then start school at 8:30 a.m. and finish shortly after 3 p.m., which would shorten their school day by a few minutes.

Brown explained that the state requires students be in class a certain number of hours, and even with the proposed schedule change, Fairmont would still exceed the state’s requirement.