More teachers for Calhoun County classrooms
by Laura Johnson
lbjohnson@annistonstar.com
Sep 25, 2012 | 4922 views |  0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Calhoun County’s school system will place a particular emphasis on hiring locally funded educators in 2013, and Alexandria High School will reap the benefits.

The school system’s budget for the 2013 fiscal year shows it plans to spend almost $1 million to pay for 30 locally funded teachers’ salaries. That’s 30 percent more than the amount of locally funded teacher positions the system paid for last year.

“The number-one most important tool for a child in education is a classroom teacher,” said Karen Winn, deputy superintendent of Calhoun County Schools . “Finding thirty local units sends the message that we want the class size low enough to get the job done.”

Alexandria High School will get more locally funded teachers than any other school in the system. Six locally funded teachers will be placed there to keep up with increasing enrolment at the school, Winn said.

Saks Elementary gets four of the locally funded teachers, the second-highest number. The remaining locally funded teachers were spread out among schools in the system.

Alexandria High’s principal, Mack Holley, said those six teachers will make a difference.

“They make a very big difference because they make classes smaller,” Holley said.

The teachers allow the school to offer more courses. They also give the school enough personnel for a mentoring program, Holley said.

“If we did not have those extra teachers than we wouldn’t be able to offer those electives,” Holley said. “That’s six more role models students have.”

Overall, the 2013 budget shows that the system expects to take in $79.9 million in revenue and that it plans to spend $80.9 million. The roughly $1 million dollar difference is the money being used to fund local teachers, and its being drawn from the system’s general fund reserve, Poe said.

Small class sizes are touted by educators as a way to provide a better learning environment. Superintendent Joe Dyar said small class sizes give teachers more one-on-one and small-group instruction time.

Dyar said students in small classes make better scores on standardized tests. That’s part of the reason, he said, Calhoun County schools are investing in hiring new teachers.

“You’re going to have to decide, are you going to put it in programs or whether you’re going to put it in teachers. My thoughts are you put it in teachers,” Dyar said.

The majority of Calhoun County's 615 teachers are paid for with funding from the Alabama Department of Education. The state provides local public school systems with funding for a certain number of teachers.

That number depends on enrollment figures from the previous year. This year, Calhoun County received about $43 million for 585 teachers, six fewer than were funded last year, said Lesley Poe, the school system’s chief financial officer.

Some of the locally funded teachers paid for out of this year’s general fund are being funded to replace those missing state-funded positions. But at least three of the positions are new hires.

The system’s administrators and board could have elected to spend that money in other places, but Winn said officials in the Calhoun County school system try to keep classrooms smaller than the state recommends.

“The state makes a recommendation,” Winn said. “Our goal as a system is to stay underneath the cap.”

The Alabama Department of Education asks schools to have not more than 18 students in kindergarten through third-grade classes, not more than 26 students in fourth- through sixth-grade classes and not more than 29 students in seventh- through 12th-grade classes.

Calhoun County tries to keep those numbers lower. Administrators in the system prefer to have 14 students for K-3 classes, and between 18 and 21 students per teacher for all other grades.

Contact staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter@LJohnson_Star.
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