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CCS board discusses need for teachers

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

The Chilton County Board of Education discussed the need for additional teachers during a voting session on Aug. 20.

The discussion began with a request from the English Language Learner department for an additional teacher.

Two options were presented to the board. One would have approved contracting with a retired teacher to offer services for 19 hours a week, like the department did last year. The second option would have hired an additional teacher. Both options would have had to be paid through revenue from local sources.  Both motions failed when put to a vote.

Board member Pam Price expressed concern that there were classrooms in the county with more than 35 students, and teachers have asked that their class size be reduced, which could require using local funds.

CCS Superintendent Jason Griffin said he did not have information on the exact number of classrooms that had 35 students.

“All of our teachers are heavy loaded, and I would rather have smaller classrooms,” Price said.

Board member Angie Sanderson asked for more information about the ELL program.

“My personal opinion here is these are our students, and we need to serve them well,” Sanderson said.

She asked ELL director Pam Bearden which of the two options she would prefer be approved.

Bearden said there has been an increase in the number of students needing ELL services.

“I have 164 students that I see in one week,” Bearden said. “… State department and Feds keep dropping our money (decreasing funding) because they want the local system to start funding it … all of the schools except one have increased.”

There are more than 511 students needing ELL services. (This number is higher than the entire enrollment at Maplesville High as of Aug. 19.)

Not all of these students speak the same first language. According to Bearden, there are at least six languages represented: Spanish, Vietnamese, Gujarati, Chinese, Navajo and Ukrainian. She said there may also be some students that speak Korean.

“We are way understaffed when it comes to ELL,” Griffin said. “Most systems fund that with local dollars. We don’t do that. We use federal. I don’t know how they (CCS ELL teachers) do it … They do a great job.”

Bearden said the department would use whatever it received “to the best of our ability” to meet the needs of students.

Last year, the contract teacher worked mainly with students in Jemison Intermediate and was able to get some of the students to the point that they could test out of the program, Bearden said.

Bearden said Jemison Elementary and Intermediate will have a combined 197 EL students. Clanton Elementary and Intermediate has increased to a combined 113 ELL students.

“I get that there is a need,” Price said.

However, she said classroom teachers have complained because the ELL teachers do not speak the child’s language and cannot help when there is language barrier issue.

“They (ELL teachers) don’t have to,” Bearden said. “My Spanish does not help my Asian students. It is how you teach that helps them learn English. Alabama is not a bilingual state. You cannot legally teach a class in the other language. Everything that they submit to us has to be in English.”

Bearden said resources in another language can be used when available for classes, however, the student’s work for a grade must be completed in English.

Bearden said the state requires students to score high on the speaking and reading and listening portions of the test before they can test out of the program. Bearden said it requires them to be at a higher level than some native speakers.

Bearden said ELL students’ scores on the test given to determine when a child can test out are reviewed at the federal level.

“If we are not making progress, they (feds) will come and take us over,” Bearden said.

The ELL lessons teach more than just basic language skills but include content that can help students in their classes.

“It takes a child 10 years … to become a native English speaker,” Bearden said.

These discussions come just weeks into a school year where the overall enrollment for the school system has increased to 7,819, including preschool classes.

The resignations of Samantha Robinson from Verbena High and Sumer Harrison at Clanton Intermediate were approved during the Aug. 20 meeting.

The Board unanimously approved hiring five teachers to replace teachers who have recently left Maplesville High, Clanton Intermediate and Clanton Middle schools.

Chief School Financial Officer LaVerne Williams also resigned during the meeting. Her last day of work will be Sept. 30, 2019. Williams has accepted a job with Madison City Schools.

Bobby Smith (utility worker), Victor Rodriquez (paraprofessional) and Cole Vines (bookkeeper) also received approval of their resignations.

An employee was also terminated, but their name was not released.

The Board approved 13 leave requests during the meeting. Six of these started Aug. 1. Some are for later in the school year. The Board approved 11 substitutes. Two of which will be long-term positions, which began Aug. 1.

Also during the meeting, the Board:

  • Received a financial report stating there was two months’ worth of operating expenses in reserve and revenue and expenditures had been at the percentages of the budget they should have been in July.
  • Approved the 2019-2020 budget. No changes were made from the initial recommendation.
  • Approved combining accounts for Government Deals that way it would be overseen by the CSFO.
  • Approved a one-time supplement payment to finance personnel for processing refunds paperwork.
  • Approved about $13,000 to replace textbooks at Thorsby High School previously said to be purchased but that could not be located.
  • Approved THS students to take a trip to Washington D.C.
  • Approved some items to be purchased with the additional $2 million the school system received from the state, including website monitoring software for five years and a bus tracking system.
  • Approved an acoustic ceiling for THS.
  • Approved purchasing a truck for the maintenance department.
  • Changed the October meeting date to Oct. 24 at Isabella High.