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Emmetsburg School Board Discusses Third Grade and TAG Positions

By Staff | Mar 31, 2011

Allowable growth, or the potential lack of, has impacted staff decisions at Emmetsburg Community Schools. The Board of Education learned of this development at their Mar. 21, meeting.

“Due to the legislature proposing zero-percent or two-percent allowable growth, I do not recommend the addition of a third grade teacher at this point,” said Superintendent John Joynt.

Joynt related that three options exist to deal with the large third grade class situation.

One option is to stop offering pre-Kindergarten to five-year olds. The pre-Kindergarten teacher would then be moved to a third grade section.

“At first, we thought there would be less need for the pre-K class with the voluntary four-year old preschool program, but that would put 25 kids in each Kindergarten section, and that’s a lot of kids in Kindergarten,” Joynt noted.

Another option is to move the newly hired special education teacher who is half-time at West Elementary and half-time at Middle School to full-time at West. A half-time special education position would then be added at the Middle School.

“We have more and more needs there [at West Elementary] and that might help our situation a little. They work with the third graders now,” said Joynt.

The final option involves changing the TAG (Talented and Gifted) program by hiring a full-time teacher to do .7 FTE K-12 TAG and .3 FTE elementary teacher. Currently, three teachers are involved with part-time TAG positions. Erin Siefken works with middle school TAG students, and Kari Schany and Deb Jurrens work with elementary level TAG students.

Joynt explained, “We have around $44,000 to 46,000 available for TAG and we’ve got three teachers doing bits and pieces of that. We thought about making one position out of it.”

Board member Tammy Naig wondered what TAG activities are offered at West Elementary.

“They go out and find the top tenpercent of the kids and work with them during their intervention times,” answered West Elementary Principal Matt Pugh. “They’re working with them and trying to further them individually.”

“Is this the first year for that?” Naig asked.

Joynt and Pugh replied, “Yes.”

“So, you’d take those three teachers and one of those would become the TAG teacher?” Board member Laure Egland questioned.

“All three of those teachers are certified and probably endorsed so one could do that or we could advertise for it,” said Joynt. “The elementary teachers are doing TAG on their prep time and are given a stipend. At the high school, it’s built into her day. So, this would be an addition to the general fund, but it would help in several areas.”

Joynt added that the administration would begin looking at the matter more seriously and see if anyone in-house was interested in the position.

“I think our TAG program has been lacking for many, many years,” said Naig. “We spend beaucoup bucks on our below-average to bring up to average, and we spend zilch on our above-average kids. I think that would be a very good thing to explore and hopefully be able to do.”

“The program we have right now is in an effort to be in compliance with the Department of Education, and it is, but it’s just not working as well as we think it should,” said Joynt. “The problem with doing a part-time TAG teacher is that they never stay there; they’re always looking for full-time, so this should help the situation.”

“The money for TAG comes out of the special education fund, right?” wondered Linda Tienter, member of the board.

“No, it’s its own separate account,” Joynt replied. He noted that the amount received each year fluctuates based on the allowable growth rate as determined by the legislature.

The issue will again be discussed at the April meeting of the board.

In other business, the board approved Travis Birkey as the seventh grade boys track coach for one year and also approved an out-of-state music trip to Albert Lea, MN, March 26.