School district to add tech, teacher support jobs in the fall

Students work on assignments as the teacher makes her way through the crowded classroom.

The Hollister School District is adding new technology and teacher support jobs as a funding plan progresses for next fall.
There will be at least six new positions next school year, including two site-support teachers at Calaveras School and four site-specific technology specialists.
“Those are positions that we’ve never had before,” said Assistant Superintendent Dennis Kurtz in an interview with the Free Lance.
When the new state funding formula went into place this school year, the district received an additional $1.2 million more than they received the previous year under the former model, said Kathy Cunnane, who is the district’s director of fiscal services. For the 2014-2015 school year, they’ll receive an additional $3.78 million more than they received this school year, she said.
The cost of the technology specialists is estimated at $52,500 per employee, including benefits, for a total cost of about $210,000. The site support teachers will cost an estimated $82,000 each, including benefits, for a total cost of $164,000, according to Kurtz.
“We’re putting this one before you tonight as a way of assisting priority schools like Calaveras,” said Kurtz as he spoke about the site-support teaching positions at the regularly scheduled school board meeting May 27.
Officials singled out Calaveras for special attention in the spring after the school came in with a seventh consecutive year of program improvement, a designation for schools continually failing to make adequate yearly progress in math and reading.
Now the district is adding two site-support teacher positions – the first of their kind in the district – with capacity to oversee any of the school’s K-8 classes throughout the day so teachers have more time to collaborate or participate in staff development.
“The concept here is, they’re going to be in the classroom every bit as many minutes as a regular classroom teacher,” Kurtz said.
The site-support teacher positions are “an idea that’s been kicked around for a long time but we could never afford it,” he said.
Part of the impetus behind the hiring comes from increased district funding under the state’s new formula – called the Local Control Funding Formula – which allocates money to districts based on demographic profiles of students, with additional money given for each foster youth, economically disadvantaged youth and English language learner.
Calaveras, in particular, will benefit from the new funding model because the site has the second-highest concentration of English language learners and the highest concentration of economically disadvantaged students in the district. Money is being set aside in the new funding formula to serve these groups.
The district also declared the school a “high priority” site in early April, meaning officials will allow the campus to get additional funding and resources to pull the school up to achieving levels.
“The high-priority school is a designation by the school board that does allow the school to receive, perhaps, additional resources,” Kurtz said. “It’s the neediest school, even though all schools and all principals would be happy to tell you their needs.”
While Calaveras is the only school getting site-support teachers, the district’s tech support is also getting a major boost, with the hopes that having experts at school sites will reduce calls to the district office.
At the moment, three district-level technology support specialists respond to calls for all school sites and the main office. Trustees approved an additional four site-specific technology specialists at the recent meeting, bring the district’s support team to a total of seven employees next year. The newest employees will focus their efforts on just two campuses, instead of all the schools in the district.
“We’re getting to the place were we need site-based specialists,” said Kurtz, adding that many of the schools are buying more Chromebooks, which means there are increasing calls for help with issues such as lost passwords.
Kurtz remembers when he started as a principal in the district about 10 years ago and his entire school shared just 40 computers that were not connected to the Internet. Today, there are wireless classrooms.
“The world keeps changing, and we have to change with it,” he said.

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