Fund to support five positions at smallest elementaries

The Beaverton School District’s Budget Committee heeded voices from the district’s smallest elementary schools calling to retain technology assistants in classrooms.

The committee decided to dip into reserve funds originally set aside in case of increased enrollment to retain technology assistant positions at Greenway, McKay, Montclair, Cedar Mill and West Tualatin View elementaries for the district’s upcoming 2014-15 budget.

Prompted by concerns expressed by students, teachers and parents on April 21 at the first budget meeting of the season, the committee reshuffled the reserve money and informed the schools of the restored positions last week. The change was clarified at a follow-up budget meeting on Monday night.

“An unintended consequence of the proposed 2014-15 budget was the elimination of technology instructional assistants at five small elementary schools,” read an announcement from the committee. “As music and (physical education) teachers were added, classified staffing was reduced. Unlike larger schools, small schools were unable to absorb these reductions during the staffing process.

“Students at these five schools deserve the same access to technology as students at other schools.”

The district restored the six-hour, 185-day technology assistants to the schools, with the $170,000 cost funded from the fall enrollment growth reserve of approximately 15 teachers.

Claire Hertz, the district’s chief financial officer, said the shift is a direct result of community members making their priorities clear.

“The committee was responding to a community request,” she said on Tuesday afternoon. “Supporting the (proposed $680 million) bond coming up with technology assistants made sense. We have additional resources, with the (reserve) pool set aside, so the committee decided that was an appropriate thing to do.”

While that’s good news for the technology assistants, their students and supporters, those calling for more full-time guidance counselors have less to be excited about in the budget with a proposed $386 million general fund.

Counselors requested an additional 2.5 full-time-equivalent positions for the district’s largest elementary schools to bring half-time positions to full time at Jacob Wismer, Findley, Hiteon, Springville K-8 and Bonny Slope.

While appreciative that 12 counseling positions — an increase from 98.8 to 110.8 FTE positions — were added to the new budget, the elementary school counselors who spoke out said 2.5 positions is too few to adequately cover 32 elementaries.

“There was no proposed change on that,” Hertz said, noting that the additional proposed positions were a direct response to the expressed need for counselors. “We agree the investments in counselors is just a start. It’s not where we want to end up.

“This is just a beginning. We will look to add additional counselors.”

In other areas, budget committee members expressed concern that teaching staff in the English Language Development program has decreased while the program is not fully funded. The committee asked for additional information about the program for the next budget meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, May 13, at 6:30 p.m. in the district’s Administration Center, 16550 S.W. Merlo Road.

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