, 2014

Lancaster principals
ask for more teachers

by Audrey Thomasson

KILMARNOCK—As school budget planning begins for the 2014 fiscal year, Lancaster’s principals are bracing to hold on to current teaching staff and asking the school board to bring back some of the positions lost through budget cuts over the past few years.

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Last year, the Lancaster board of supervisors asked superintendent Dr. Daniel Lukich not to cut from the instructional side, which includes teachers, but to take cuts out of the administration budget. However, cuts have been mostly realized by not replacing teachers who retired or quit.

District 1 school board member Bob Smart has noted that the top 16 administration positions account for $1 million of the district’s $15 million budget this year.

The school system started the 2013-14 budget process earlier this month with principals submitting their requirements to the school board. The public is invited to participate in a budget discussion at 4 p.m. February 11 in the Lancaster Middle School cafeteria.

Lancaster Primary School

LPS principal Dr. Holly Wargo asked board members to consider reviving a music teacher position and hiring four more teachers, including a special education teacher.

The school has 454 students enrolled in classes ranging from a 3-year-old program through third grade.

With 27 teachers, the schoolwide ratio is nearly 17 students per teacher, including resource teachers such as those in the library, physical education and art departments. Teachers in the 3-year-old and pre-kindergarten programs are primarily funded through sources other than the county.

LPS’s 3-year-old program has 12 students. Four pre-kindergarten classes average 14 students each; five kindergarten classes average 21 students each; four first-grade classes average 19 students each; four second-grade classes average 21 students each; and five third-grade classes average 19 students each.

“Smaller class size is linked to increases in student achievement,” said Wargo. “Learning gains students made in class sizes of 13 to 17 persisted long after the students moved back into average-size classes. Researchers found disadvantaged and African American students appear to reap the greatest learning gains in smaller classes.”

She also cited studies that show students in small classes in their early years have better academic and personal outcomes throughout their education experience and beyond.

Virginia Department of Education’s Standards of Quality recommends no more than 24 students per class at the primary level.

Lancaster Middle School

LMS principal Kim Hammond’s only staffing request is the addition of a reading specialist.

“Without this critical position it may be impossible to close the achievement gap and provide necessary interventions for students who are not performing at grade level and need Tier III interventions and support,” she said.

She said a reading specialist is particularly needed “with the inclusion of children who have various physical, emotional, socio-economic and educational needs.”

LMS has 483 students and 24 teachers. The average schoolwide class size is 20.1 students.

Five fourth-grades classes average 18.8 students each; five fifth-grade classes average 17.8 students each; five sixth-grade classes average 22 students each; four seventh-grade classes average 21.5 students each; and five eighth-grade classes average 21 students each.

Hammond provided material citing state codes that require school boards to produce schoolwide ratios of students to full-time teachers of no more than 21 to 1 in middle and high schools.

Lancaster High School

“The average class size at LHS in the core courses of English, mathematics, history and science is 19 students,” reported principal Dr. Lori Watrous.

The school lost two teaching positions this term, one in English and one in combined history/computer technology.

“The loss of one English teacher resulted in decreased flexibility in scheduling and larger English classes, up to the maximum class size of 24 students permitted under the Standards of Quality,” Watrous noted.

The continual erosion of the teaching staff resulted in fewer schedule options for students and fewer elective courses, she added.

Watrous requested the addition of a mathematics teacher to “...increase opportunities to provide mathematics remediation, decrease class sizes...and provide an opportunity to add higher level mathematics courses to challenge college-bound students.”

The school board and supervisors will begin deliberations on next year’s budget in February.

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