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INDIVIDUAL TUTORING SOUGHT FOR SPECIAL ED PUPILS

The Starpoint School Board Monday received a proposal for individual tutoring for special education pupils and a request for an increase in staffing for 1998-1999 from the Elementary Remedial Services Committee.

Linda M. Weygandt, director of special programs, said the committee recommended that the number of special education teachers in the elementary school be increased to five from three. The two new teachers would be dedicated to reading remediation.

In the following year, 1999-2000, one special education teacher would be added for remediation in math and one more in reading, bringing the total to seven teachers. Speech therapy would have an increase of eight-tenths of a full-time position that year. In the third year of the plan, there would be no staffing increase, but it would be realigned to address the possibility of full-day kindergarten.

The committee said elementary enrollment had increased to 1,441 from 895 in 1985 but the number of special education teachers had remained at three since 1985.

Under the proposal, pupils in the first grade would be given 30 minutes of remedial instruction every day for 16 to 20 weeks with one teacher to one pupil, ensuring the highest "at-risk" pupils would get specialized help.

Florence Staples, a special education teacher, said the plan would change teachers schedules dramatically.

Mrs. Weygandt told the board, "Through early intervention students are able to maintain gains so they are less likely to need remediation in the higher grades. This kind of program is expensive up front, but it pays off down the road."

Superintendent Robert D. Olczak agreed, saying it was a situation of "pay me now or pay me later."

English teacher James Gatley told the board, "Our teacher-per-student ratio is among the highest in the state. Remediation requests shouldn't be a dream."

The board also was given a first draft of a budget for 1998-1999, and Business Administrator Peter H. Michaelsen noted that staffing was the biggest component with salary costs expected to rise to $11.4 million from $10.6 million, roughly half the budget. The recently negotiated teachers' contract calls for a 3.75 percent increase for 1998-99. But, Michaelsen told the board that over the next few board meetings they would discuss ways to bring down other proposed cost increases.

The board will receive a revised budget proposal April 22 and a final draft May 11.

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