Mount Shasta Elementary School District board members decided last Tuesday to hold off on the decision to hire a part time assistant principal for Mount Shasta Elementary and Sisson schools next year.

Superintendent Kathi Emerson’s plan would have hired a person to spend half their time assisting the principal and the other half as a Resource Specialist.

At the April 12 meeting, teachers Cheryl Keiner and Christy Reinig aired their concerns about hiring administrators at this time of budget crisis, while community member Maria Ribera said she supports the idea.

After consideration, board members Paul Schwartz, Chuck Rosecrantz, John Duncan, Jean Nels and Leslie Cole said they’ll discuss the idea further during the May board meeting in order to get more input from teachers, parents and the community before making a decision.

In a phone interview after the meeting, Emerson said she recommends the idea because it would not increase class sizes or impact the budget. She said current principal Sally Gasaway “has been overwhelmed” by the task of being principal at both schools, and wants to come up with a creative solution to help Kale Riccomini when he takes on the job next year.

“I’m coming at this from my point of view, but I realize there are other viewpoints and concerns out there,” Emerson said of the idea.

Superintendent’s plan
“This year, we went from two full time principals, one at each school, to one,” Emerson said. “This was never intended as a long-term solution... we were thinking the budget would get better so we could hire one back, or that we’d be consolidating schools, and then we wouldn’t need another principal. Neither of those things happened, so an assistant principal could address the issue.”

Emerson said if hired, the assistant principal would help with ongoing discipline throughout the day, help with student activities, and assist the principal with intervention meetings.

Nearly every day after school Gasaway attends Individualized Education Program and Student Study Team meetings for individual students, Emerson said.

“She’s also at every game, dance, fundraiser, concert, Open House, PIE meeting and board meeting.”

In an interview Monday afternoon, Gasaway said part of her job includes “building positive relationships along with a positive culture with staff, students, parents, and members of the community.” This year, that has been challenging, she said.

The assistant principal could take some of the pressure off Riccomini next year so he’d have more time to interact with students and staff, Emerson said.

How it would be funded
Emerson said the school’s intervention programs have not been reduced at all during the district’s budget crisis.
Currently, the Resource Specialist and Title I program has four full-time teachers. There are also eight full-time Teacher’s Assistants – four who work with students one-on-one, two in Resource and two in Title I. This intervention team works together to meet the needs of all students who are below their grade level, Emerson explained.

A portion of these programs is funded through dedicated Title I and Resource Specialist funding, however, “they encroach on the general fund on a yearly basis,” Emerson said.

“My idea is to reduce the Intervention program by one half time position and add the half time assistant principal. It’s a trade off, but I?believe it would be worth it.”

Emerson pointed out the district will see a savings of approximately $15,000 when Gasaway retires, and if they had an assistant principal, there would be no need to spend $1,720 next year for a Teacher in Charge.

Therefore, the $5,800 needed to hire the new position would be offset by those savings, Emerson said.

She added that because the budget is still so unsettled, this hire would probably be a “one-time fix,” and, if hired, it’s likely the assistant principal would be laid off after one year.

This topic will be discussed further at the May 10 board meeting, held at the District Office near the Mt. Shasta Library, beginning at 7 p.m.

Other business
In other business, Emerson said the District is still unsure what funding will be available for the 2011-2012 school year and beyond.

Because the legislature didn’t act before the deadline, the state will not be holding a special election in June to ask voters to extend vehicle licensing fees and sales tax hikes which are currently helping pay for education. Therefore, Governor Jerry Brown will need to come up with another plan to fund California schools or enact the extensions without voter approval.

It is within Brown’s power to do this, however, Emerson said it would go against his campaign promise to not increase taxes without voter consent.

“We’re planning for the worst case scenario,” Emerson said. “We expect the Governor will tell us in his May budget revision what the next plan is to fund schools.”

Emerson called the situation “frustrating.”

“Right now, all the news is bad. It’s hard for everyone,” she said. “My hope is that we can all come together to weather this difficult time. We’re all worried and disappointed and frustrated, and being angry only compounds the problem.”

The District will have enough money to meet their obligations for the current school year, and Emerson said she hopes to know more about next year’s projections after the Governor releases his May revised budget.