Worried about school’s direction

Letters to the editor

Dear editor and fellow Aberdeen School District patrons,

I, together with many other concerned parents and community members are worried about the direction our school district has seemingly taken with regard to attracting new talented teachers and retaining the quality teachers that we already have. In the past few years, teachers have left the district to seek other, similar positions elsewhere. Many of these teachers have not been replaced. One long time district teacher estimates that since Superintendent Ward took over, five teaching positions in the high school and five teaching positions within the middle school have been lost. This teacher was not sure how many positions have been lost within the elementary school, but I know that there has been at least one, in the fifth grade. For the past two years, there have only been two certified teachers working full-time with that grade level. The administration has chosen to shuffle 10-11 year old children each day from classroom to classroom, at times sending some to the middle school, some to classes taught by aides, and spending the remainder of their time with two certified elementary teachers. I believe that each teacher and aide involved did the absolute best job that they could under the circumstances. I’m simply pointing out that those circumstances are far from ideal.

A large group of parents, of which I was a part, attended a school board meeting last May to voice our concerns with the fifth grade structure. We were led to believe that this was a temporary measure and that an effort would be made to hire another qualified teacher for that grade level. Apparently that is not happening. The administration’s opinion is that the fifth grade structure has been a great success. There has reportedly been discussion of adopting a similar structure in the fourth grade. I hope that this is not true.

Our school district has a disproportionate number of administrators to teachers in relation to other school districts. According to the 2016-2017 Idaho State Department of Education Staff Salary Summaries (the most recent numbers available), Marsh Valley School District (a larger district than our own) had $365,580 dedicated to administrator salaries (Superintendent, Principals, Counselors, Directors, Media Directors, Speech Pathologists, etc.) Aberdeen School District had $540,956 dedicated to those same positions. Marsh Valley employed eight people in administrative positions in 2016-2017, Aberdeen employed 12 in that same year. In 2016-2017, Marsh Valley paid 76 teachers $2,949,236. Aberdeen employed only 51 teachers and paid them $1,937,954 in that same year. Marsh Valley employed 30 Instructional Assistants (Aides), Library Assistant, and Computer Technology Assistants, Aberdeen, in contrast, employed 37 such people, both full and part time. My purpose in listing these numbers isn’t to begrudge anyone their salaries or call for anyone to lose their jobs. I’m simply pointing out that, in my opinion, our human resources are mis-allocated. In terms of employees, our district has an abundance of administrators and aides, and a distinct shortage of qualified teachers.

We have wonderful, caring people, on the school board. They need to hear from us. If we don’t care enough to let them know our feelings, positive or negative, how can we expect them to act in our best interests? Our teachers need our support. They’re wonderful people. They are well educated, intelligent, caring individuals. Many of them live in and are an active part of, our community. There simply are not enough of them. When I attended school in Aberdeen, we had teachers for wood working, auto mechanics, home economics, and art. We had an elementary and a secondary music program. We had physical education and music teachers in both the elementary/junior high and in the high school. We had a high school drama program. We had one high school principal and one principal for the elementary/junior high. Both principals lived in our community as did the superintendent. None of these things are true now. Times have changed, and, in my opinion, they have not changed for the better.

Please join us in making your feelings known to the board. Even if you don’t agree with us, stand up and be heard. This community has sacrificed a great deal to build excellent facilities for our children. We’ll soon have a new high school, vo-tech building, auditorium, etc. Our middle school is a modern, beautiful building. These are and will be some of, if not the best, in the state for a district of our size. Let’s not let them go unused. We need to fill them with qualified teachers that care about and strive to give our children the best education possible.

Sincerely,

Ryan Wahlen

 

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