Mehlville board hires counselor, three elementary teachers

By EVAN YOUNG

A Mehlville Board of Education member’s recent request to hire counselors at Mehlville and Oakville high school led administrators to evaluate districtwide staffing needs.

The board voted 6-0 to approve district administrators’ recommendation to hire one full-time high school counselor and three elementary school teachers for the 2009-2010 school year. Micheal Ocello was ab-sent from the July 30 meeting.

The counselor and two of the elementary positions would be district-funded while continuous Title II class-size reduction funds would provide for the third elementary teacher.

Officials hadn’t determined grade or school placement for the elementary teachers; they were waiting for the outcome of the open enrollment period, which began Aug. 3.

At the board’s June 25 meeting, Vice President Venki Palamand requested the administration look into adding one counselor each to Mehlville and Oakville high schools as soon as possible. The counselors would help college-bound students find the right school and apply for financial aid, Palamand said.

The district has a student-to-counselor ratio of 402-1.

At the high schools, it can take up to six weeks for the eight full-time counselors — one per grade level at each school — to meet with every student, and those meetings likely are used to discuss academic progress and graduation requirements, Palamand said.

The new counselor would provide some relief to a fifth, half-time counselor that spends time at both high schools; that person would relocate to one school, Superintendent Terry Noble said.

But the board also asked administrators to weigh the need for new counselors against other staffing needs across the district — and to prioritize them.

“I think if you work in a school district that has only a few needs, that’s a really easy task,” Deputy Superintendent Eric Knost told the board July 30. “But the needs of our district are quite large, so that becomes difficult.”

Knost and other officials examined the district’s elementary class sizes and determined they don’t exceed maximums established by the Missouri School Improvement Program, or MSIP.

“We pay a little more attention to elementary class sizes because of the whole idea of early intervention,” Knost said.

Under MSIP requirements, which can make or break a district’s shot at accreditation, kindergarten through second-grade classrooms cannot exceed 25 pupils; third- and fourth-grade classrooms, 27; and fifth-grade classes, 30. Seven district elementary classrooms currently fall right on those maximums; some, with the addition of such extra staff as a teacher assistant or specialist, can go above them.

But about 16 additional classrooms are above MSIP’s “desirable” standards of 20, 22 and 27 pupils for kindergarten through second grade, third through fourth grade and fifth grade, respectively. Further, an additional 24 classrooms surpass the across-the-board maximum of 18 pupils recommended by the district’s long-term master plan, known as COMPASS — Charting the Mehlville-Oakville Path to Advance Successful Schools.

The district’s average middle and high school class sizes are 24 to 25 students, which means some classes may reach the MSIP maximum of 33 and others could be as low as 15, Knost said. That wide range makes it difficult to add teachers to the middle and high schools solely for the sake of achieving desirable class sizes, he said.

“You don’t want to wipe out a foreign language program to bring the numbers down in one of the other core subjects,” he said. “It’s difficult to make those decisions.”

Officials also addressed the need to hire English language learner teachers, remedial reading teachers, elementary physical education teachers, social workers and librarians — all of which are COMPASS-recommended positions.

Later in closed session, board members voted 5-1 — Palamand was opposed and Erin Weber abstained — to extend $12,000 in stipend contracts for 2009-2010 to the following classified directors:

• Steven Lee, director-information technology, $5,000 for a district sound stipend.

• Keith Henry, executive director of support services, $2,000 for an educational stipend.

• Jordan Krugman, director of school food and nutrition services, $1,000 for an educational stipend.

• Emily McFarland, director of communications, $1,000 for an educational stipend.

• Noel Knobloch, chief financial officer, $1,000 for an educational stipend.

• Robin Anderson, communications coordinator, $1,000 for an educational stipend.

• Lisa Furey, director of accounting, $1,000 for an educational stipend.