<CENTER><B>New teacher added<br> in eleventh hour</B></CENTER>

By Lori Ehde

As last-minute enrollment figures fell into place earlier this month, Luverne Elementary School saw its third-grade class swell to the size where a new section and new teacher might be necessary.

Decisions became critical when the number of third- graders passed the 100 mark, and on Monday, Aug. 14, staff members met to determine a course of action.

"We actually called the majority of third-grade parents, and we found out we were going to have more kids in the four sections than we were comfortable with," said Superintendent Vince Schaefer. "There are only five or six new kids in the third grade, but it was just enough to make it unacceptable."

At the Thursday, Aug. 24, School Board meeting, the board approved hiring Pam Christensen, Luverne, to teach a fifth section of third-graders. According to the one-year contract, her base salary is $27,860.

The decision to add the fifth section was arrived at Monday, Aug. 21, and by Thursday Christensen was offered the position. Schaefer said the last-minute hiring process wasn't ideal, but he said the district was in a catch-22 situation.

"I'm sure to the public, we look like a bunch of stumbling bumblers," he said, "but we had to make sure we had hard numbers to work with, and we'd rather do it late in the season than find out our class sizes are too big, or find out that we'd added the fifth section needlessly."

According to Elementary Principal Melody Tenhoff, numbers don't tell the whole story when determining staffing teachers for students.

"You have to play with the personality of the class," she said, explaining that some classes (not necessarily this one) may have a higher number of demanding or special needs students.

"We had been watching Grades 3 and 4 all summer long," she said. "We shifted a teacher from second grade to fourth grade, because that happened to be a smaller class. We'd been hearing that some families were going to move out of the district, but as it turned out we didn't lose that many in third and fourth grade."

As of Friday, elementary school enrollment was 93 in kindergarten, 90 in first grade, 87 in second grade, 99 in third grade, 105 in fourth grade and 95 in fifth grade.

Tenhoff said it's critical to keep class sizes small (about 20 students) in elementary grades - particularly in third grade - because it's a pivotal learning year.

"Third grade has the benchmark tests, not that we run our curriculum around those tests, but they are beginning to do a lot of graduation standards in the third grade, and the curriculum is changing," Tenhoff said.

"You need fewer numbers so teachers can get out to the students more. They need to get a good solid footing with the beginning of graduation standards."

Tenhoff said the tight time frame wasn't comfortable to work in, but she said she's comfortable with the outcome.

"We advertised the position minimally, and word of mouth works very well in a community of this size. If we would have advertised the position and waited a week, workshops would have been done and over with, and that wouldn't have been fair for the new person. We would have liked to have had more time, but sometimes things don't work out that way," she said.

"I'm very pleased we had someone of her [Christensen's] quality waiting for a position. Any of the three we interviewed would have done a fine job, but Pam was a major substitute teacher for the district for two years before she went into day care, and her substitute teaching record was exemplary. She really did a nice job proving her abilities."

In other personnel matters, the board

  • Hired Louise Thorson as half-time special education EBD instructor at $16,934.

  • Hired David Siebenahler as varsity girls' hockey coach at $4,042.

  • Approved Todd Oye as volunteer football coach for varsity and B squad levels.

    In other business Thursday, the board

  • Toured the middle school remodeling project involving the new Independent Living area for special needs instruction.

    "The board was quite pleased, because it gave them a nice sampling of what can be done with remodeling a 1950s building," Schaefer said following the meeting. "When you're in that room you don't feel like you're in an old building."

  • Set the maximum family contribution for activity fees at $150 per family to make extracurricular involvement more affordable for large families with children involved in multiple activities.

  • Scheduled the annual District Capital Outlay Hearing for the Oct. 26 School Board meeting. At the meeting, the public can provide input on spending projects for the 2001-02 school year.

  • Reviewed upcoming meetings and events. School will start Tuesday, Sept. 5, the School Board will meet for an informal work session at 5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 11, and the next regular School Board meeting is at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28.
  • Comment Here