For the first time in a few years, Saline Area Schools is hiring a significant number of teachers.
The district is hiring nine teachers to help replace staff members who resigned or retired and to help staff all-day kindergarten. It’s a long way off from the 17 layoffs that were projected in a budget passed by school board June 26, before school employee unions agreed to concessions and the state house and senate approved pension reform.
Superintendent Scot Graden said new staff was needed to replace 11 staff members who resigned or retired. In addition, the district needed to hire four teachers to help with the transition from half-day to full-day kindergarten. The district eliminated six positions, Graden said, based on the expectation of lower enrollment.
There are signs that enrolment may not decline as much as expected. In June, the district graduated 463 students. The district projected a 330 new students in kindergarten this year. Earlier this month, there were already 320 students slated to begin their education in Saline. Kindergarten enrolment is expected to rise above 330. Increased Schools of Choice opportunities are also padding the overall enrolment numbers.
Graden said despite reduced enrolment and savings in labor and pension costs, the district is operating on a tight budget, so reducing class size is proving difficult.
“We’re making sure that we’re fiscally sound and being cautious about enrolment. It’s difficult to project at this time of year. Families sometimes move out of the district and we won’t find out about it until school starts,” Graden said.
The district is largely funded by the state on a per-pupil basis.
The new teachers, as well as other new district employees, will take part in staff orientation at Liberty School Aug. 27.
Graden wrote his expectations of the new teachers on his blog.
“In one sense, I want to them to be a sponge…. to soak up the knowledge and expertise of our present staff. We have extremely talented individuals here who will be mentors and provide the new hires with important guidance. At the same time, this new staff will bring fresh thoughts and ideas – we need this to be heard as well. New concepts and approaches can help us all improve as a district. For new staff, finding the balance of listening, learning and sharing is key,” Graden wrote.