SOM Teacher Defends Job Against Budget Ax
District's only reading specialist makes spirited statement against proposed budget cut.
The article has been updated to include a comment from Board President Beth Daugherty.
A South Orange - Maplewood School District employee whose position is likely to be cut if the Board of Education votes to approve the administration's proposed 2013-14 budget spoke out against the move at Monday night's BOE meeting.
Elimination of the district's two elementary curriculum specialists (one each for reading and math), is part of a package of reductions being proposed by the administration in an effort to close a $2.8 million budget gap.
Elementary Reading Specialist Donna Grohman read from a written statement deploring the cuts, to the enthusiastic response of several district teachers in the audience.
"At a time when teachers have more and more responsibilities and requirements placed upon them, the reading specialist/coach position is needed more than ever," said Grohman. "We are asking teachers to teach in an everchanging curricular world, address Common Core State Standards, assess students frequently, gather data, analyze the data, reflect and differentiate instruction and that is only the beginning."
Grohman's statement and the district's budget presentation are both attached to this article as a PDF.
As Grohman and the district's math curriculum specialist, Katie Costello, both are tenured, they would likely be moved back to classroom teaching roles if their positions are eliminated. "This would be a net reduction of two people to the system," said SOMSD communications director Suzanne Turner in a phone conversation with Patch.
"...we have made great strides to improve and change the language arts experiences and education that our K-5 students receive through curriculum work, professional development and teacher support," said Grohman. She continued, "A classroom teacher with an additional stipended salary will not have the time, resources, knowledge or expertise to impact, change and support our district teachers. So...we will not continue the momentum that we have worked so hard to create over the past four years."
Superintendent Brian Osborne said that he appreciated the specialists' expertise, professionalism, and determination but that the administration was looking for a "more cost-effective" way to do their work.
"We're finally in a place where... we've seen those results and we see the momentum," said Osborne, but the district is at a point where necessary budget reductions have had a real impact on the district's achievements.
He lamented that the curriculum specialists, with their developed expertise, whom the district had trained and invested in, might be replaced by stipended teachers who would take on additional responsibilities while continuing their full-time teaching duties.
However, Osborne said that he was confident that administrators could identify particular teachers who would be effective teacher-leaders who could serve as "turnkey trainers" for other teachers within the schools.
The 12 teachers (one math specialist and one language arts specialist in each of the six elementary schools) would each receive a $3,300 stipend, for a total of roughly $40,000 -- as opposed to the $170,000 currently budgeted for the two full-time curriculum specialists.
"Donna's comments were compelling and caused me to press the administration on their rationale and confidence level in their budget recommendations," said Board President Beth Daugherty in an email to Patch after the meeting.
Osborne also answered questions from board members regarding other proposed personnel cuts, including reducing six special education teachers, two elementary enrichment teachers and three elementary specials teachers. Patch reported on some of these cuts in a previous article.
The superintendent also addressed the proposed cuts in the technology budget, and the district's plan to purchase 700 Chromebooks as preparation for the upcoming PARCC Assessment.