Article Comment 

Starkville School District to cut half of its teacher assistants


Bonnie Coblentz



Officials discussed changes that will occur as the Starkville School District completes bond issue construction and faces the coming year with serious budget cuts. 


The state and nation''s economic troubles have cut deeply into the district''s funding in recent years. Many are concerned with how district staffing will survive the cuts. 


"Nobody lost a job," Superintendent Judy Couey said of certified staff, which means teachers and administrators who hold a state education certification. 


When Couey made this announcement at Tuesday''s board meeting, board member Pickett Wilson added, "and that''s huge." 


However, Couey said after the meeting that teacher assistants, who are non-certified staff, will have to apply for the positions that remain. Close to 50 percent of the positions will be cut because of the budget constraints, and those that remain will be based on highest need. 




Plans for administration 


Couey also announced administrative staffing at the combined schools that house grades three-five and six-eight. Diane Baker and Tim Bourne will remain principals at The Hill, as the Henderson-Ward-Stewart complex is known, and Lynn Shea will move from principal at Overstreet to a dual role with Joseph Stone at Armstrong Middle School. 


"Joe Stone will be the principal, and Shea will serve as academic director. We are keeping the two assistant principals," Couey said. 


The high school and Sudduth Elementary will keep maintain their same administrative structures. 


The Quad County Alternative School will move from rented space in the industrial park to the Overstreet building once some retrofits are complete. Family Centered Programs will remain at Emerson, although the plan at one time was to move these programs to Overstreet. 


When third grade moves to The Hill, they will no longer use the Success For All reading program, but will shift into the reading programs already in place for fourth and fifth grades. Assistant Superintendent Beth Sewell said the reading program is being reviewed and revamped to see that it is effective for all students. 




School structure 


Couey then explained how the district structured its schools for the most advantage under the state''s accountability system. State testing begins in third grade, but schools must show growth from one year to the next. The district structured their schools as grades three-four, five, six-eight and nine-12, making four schools that are used to calculate the district''s accountability rating. 


"Previously, we had just three. If any of these three bobbled, then you definitely could be in trouble with accountability," Couey said. "Many districts are making changes in structure for accountability." 


Assistant Superintendent Walter Gonsoulin has developed a plan for the various building moves. On May 24, Quad will move to Overstreet, and on May 26, Rosa Stewart will move into the Henderson gym. On June 7, Overstreet will move to Rosa Stewart and sixth grade will move to Armstrong on June 22. Ward-Stewart will be occupied on June 28, and the Henderson building should be occupied sometime before the July 31 construction deadline.




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Reader Comments

Article Comment Ditto commented at 4/7/2010 3:42:00 PM:

Everything that "Sad" said above ^. The bottom of this article basically says Starkville School District is keeping every administrator around (despite consolidating the current 6 schools down to 4) so they can play games to make our accountability look better to the state. This certainly makes it seem like they care more about how our district looks on the state level than whether children are actually learning in the classroom.


Article Comment Sally Gray commented at 4/7/2010 9:21:00 PM:

How many assistant teachers would one principal's salary support? How many personal-attention hours of teaching time does that amount to? Think about it. What if our leaders gave the schools the opportunity to actually concentrate on classroom teaching? I know that's too radical an idea for them, but what if? We only need one principal per school. So it appears we have two extra. All this cooking of the books will not work--I predict that given less attention, more and more students will test in the failing area, then no number of principals will suffice to cook the books enough to rescue the jobs of the administrators and the superintendent. So be it.


Article Comment Tom commented at 4/8/2010 5:28:00 AM:

Correcting a statement above. The total reduction in schools is from 6 to 5 not 6 to 4. The only campus that will increase it's enrollment is Armstrong Middle. Previously housing 7th and 8th graders, will now include 6th graders which means roughly an additional 400 students.


Article Comment SSD Parent commented at 4/8/2010 8:09:00 AM:

Tom - I think what Ditto was referring to in the comment "6 to 4" is how the school consolidation was presented originally. Starkville was told that the bond issue and resulting renovations would eliminate Overstreet and Henderson Intermediate School, and that those school populations would be combined with Ward Stewart and Armstrong, effectively. Here's a news article from back in the day where the then Supt. Burchfield explained this.

We were led to believe this bond issue was combining our schools from 6 to 4, eliminating the "one-grade schools". Many concluded that once the schools were combined the administrations would be combined also. Instead, we have a school board and Supt. playing number games, and trying to keep their relatives employed by SSD.


Article Comment True GRIT commented at 4/8/2010 8:28:00 AM:

I must be missing something. Didn't the school district just hire a football coach for over $70,000 a year? And an Athletic Director, too? Are we paying for those salaries by firing teacher aides?? If we are, what are we thinking?


Article Comment SSD Parent commented at 4/8/2010 8:41:00 AM:

True GRIT - no, you aren't missing anything. They hired a football coach for $70K+ and a part time ath. director for $40K. Traditionally in SSD those jobs have been done by ONE person making ONE salary.

It only makes sense to make one job into two positions during a time of unprecedented state budget cuts and economic crisis.


Article Comment magnolia commented at 4/8/2010 3:48:00 PM:

True Grit and SSD Parent - I have the same question. Wonder if anyone will answer it.


Article Comment SHS Teacher commented at 4/8/2010 10:14:00 PM:

True Grit - It is obvious that the statement Couey is making is that football is more important than teachers. All they do in the schools is 'teach the test.' That is the motto of principals now. They tell History teachers to teach English since that is on the state test. It is pathetic.


Article Comment SSD Parent commented at 4/9/2010 8:33:00 AM:

Now I see that they are hiring two more assistant football coaches yet keeping all of the current assistant football coaches at SHS. Is this some kind of joke?


Article Comment Parent commented at 4/9/2010 9:13:00 PM:

SSD Parent, are they adding two additional coaches or replacing coaches who are retiring?


Article Comment zr commented at 4/9/2010 9:55:00 PM:

Ditto- I graduated in 2008.. I can most definitely say they don't care who falls behind in class.. they just want that accountability to get those much needed state funds! I don't know how many of my classmates dropped out.. freshman year we began with 300 some odd students and only about 190 graduated.... what does that tell you?! haha! It's a bad deal at SHS all the way around..


Article Comment SSD Parent commented at 4/10/2010 6:59:00 AM:

Parent - it sounded from the press release like these will be two new coaches in addition to the current staff. It did say one current coach is retiring, which creates one opening. But the statement did not clarify whether one of these two new guys is intended to fill that spot, or if that spot just opens up room for a third new asst coach.

Best case they are only creating one additional assistant coach position, worst case its two additional positions.


Article Comment Parent commented at 4/10/2010 8:11:00 AM:

SSD Parent, The media can be so misleading. I seriously doubt they will be adding 'additional' coaches. If I remember correctly, there will be openings due to retirement or coaches who will be leaving the program.


Article Comment ko commented at 4/10/2010 9:59:00 AM:

From the information in the media (since the administrators did not provide this information at the school board meeting Tuesday night), one coach is retiring which does open one position. Therefore, it appears that one new position will be created and a coach will be hired to fill one open position.


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