Funds add a few teaching positions to district schools

The school district has hired the equivalent of 3.7 full time teaching positions with money gleaned from last spring's job action.

The shell game of educational funding continues.

The school district has hired the equivalent of 3.7 full time teaching positions—money gleaned from the teachers’ job action last school year—after losing almost eight teachers and two teacher-librarians last spring from the current budget.

Through the $60 million Learning Improvement Fund (LIF), School District 20 (Kootenay Columbia) superintendent of schools Greg Luterbach said the district has allotted out most of the $455,880 the province had given it this fall—and nearly all but $28,395 has been accounted for.

But it’s a bittersweet pill to swallow, said Andy Davidoff, Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union representative. Half of the savings for the fund came from the net of what the province saved on teacher job action last year.

Even with the new hires, Davidoff added that the funding shortage in the educational system is still so severe that the LIF isn’t enough.

“The problem is this Learning Improvement Fund was a good thing, but it doesn’t make up for our massive … shortage in education,” he said. “B.C. is dead last in the dollars we spend per student (in Canada).”

LIF is targeted money provided to districts with an emphasis on learning improvement. Throughout the spring the school district came to agreement with CUPE around the portion of the LIF that was targeted specifically to the union (just over $58,000).

Then funds were used to support additional hours for those direct student support staff who work less than 35 hours a week—with the additional hours being used for collaborative planning or staff meetings.

With its allocation of LIF funds schools in the district have hired additional staff with an emphasis on co-teaching in specific classrooms identified by the school, said Luterbach in his report to the board of trustees in their regular meeting Monday night at Trail Middle School.

Most schools received an additional .25 in teaching, he said, including Fruitvale, Webster and Glenmerry in the Greater Trail region.

In Fruitvale the .25 teacher full time equivalent (FTE) will add a teacher in three grade classes (Grade 1 and 2), at Webster in Warfield it adds a .25 FTE teacher among four primary classrooms providing literacy and numeracy support using a co teaching model.

In Rossland .286 teacher FTE will be added for co-teaching support related to project based learning and resource development and co-planning related to the blended learning environment.

MacLean Elementary School in Rossland adds one hour of educational assistant time per day for supporting classrooms and students with the use of assistive technology for “receptive and expressive communication systems,” Luterbach said in his report.

The Glenmerry .25 teacher FTE adds co-teaching with intermediate teachers targeting challenging classes with “pull-in” support.

At J.L Crowe Secondary School they will receive .857 FTE teaching time focused on learning supports for students, as well as co-teaching in chemistry and calculus.

“A small amount of funds will be retained for us to support immerging situations throughout the year,” said Luterbach in his report.

Davidoff said the process went smoothly as each school was asked to identify what the hot spots were, where priorities were and where the greatest needs were.

“We were very happy to see the board focused their additional spending on teaching staff because that was a real problem,” he said.

Last spring the board of trustees cut nearly 14 full time equivalent jobs across the board for the current school year to deal with a $1.55 million operating shortfall.

The proposed cuts to staff—including two teacher-librarians, almost eight teachers, three non-enrolling teacher staff, and one custodian—meant the district would save $1.17 million in 2012/13, the largest chunk out of the $1.58 million in total cuts made.

The Learning Improvement Fund grant for next year is $455,880 and $570,000 the following year. Under the terms of the grant, 12.5 per cent must be spent on support staff.

All money must be spent by end of the school year or the following year’s grant will be reduced.

The district will be spending $349,812 on teacher staffing, $64,523 on CUPE staffing, $13,150 for “release time” at Stanley Humphries in Castelgar, leaving $28,395 in a contingency fund. That money will be held in reserve for semester two and other issues throughout the year.

The money came as part of the government’s response to the Bill 27/28 court challenge. Its purpose was to add resources into the districts to target complex classes that present challenging learning conditions, said Luterbach in his report.

That meant the money could be used to hire additional teaching staff, additional direct student support staff and professional development.