HSSD hires 22 teachers to reduce classroom size
From left, Vanessa Moran, HSSD school board member, Matt Spets, assistant superintendent of operations, Mark Smith, assistant superintendent of learning, and Sharon Rentmeester, executive secretary, pay attention at the Monday, July 16 school board meeting. Ben Rodgers Photo
By Ben Rodgers
SUAMICO – Nearly three months after the passage of the referendum, the Howard-Suamico School District has already completed one of the three aspects it promised to address.
“All 22 of the referendum positions, specifically about class size reduction, are filled,” said Mark Smith, assistant superintendent of learning, at the Monday, July 16, board meeting. “This is an exciting process.”
With the new hires, Smith reported that the average class size in grades K-8 has decreased from 24.74 to 22.7.
“At first glance it may not seem that big of an impact, but we’re looking at averages here,” Smith said.
For example, Smith said the fourth-grade classes at Meadowbrook Elementary School last school year had an average of 28 students. This year that number will be down to 22.5.
“You pull that out and that’s something to be real proud of,” he said.
Class size reduction was the biggest piece of the pie of the referendum, using $2.3 million a year out of the $5.85 million total a year for the five years the voters approved.
“We strived to accomplish class size reduction so teachers, parents and students saw a meaningful difference from last year to this year,” Smith said. “But my hope is you’ll get feedback and they’ll talk to you about a meaningful difference from (the) 17-18 to 18-19 (school years).”
Averaged out, each of the 22 new teachers has 5.17 years of experience and an average salary of $45,296.
Smith said the administration budgeted up to $52,000 in salary for each new hire.
“The principals are highly confident in the talent they were able to bring in and interview and ultimately select,” he said.
In with the 22 new hires, the district also added one teacher per the four core areas of study at the high school.
The district plans to cap open enrollment numbers moving forward to limit the number of students coming from outside areas, said Matt Spets, assistant superintendent of operations.
But if families with students move into the area, Spets said the district will be able to keep up with staff to limit classroom size as those students would be considered resident students and bring in more money from the state each year.
“If we have more students, they will have to then be residents, and if that’s the case, we can afford to hire more teachers,” Spets said. “So it’s kind of a win-win scenario we are in.”
Administration said it will likely take about three years to notice the average class size numbers dip, but this is a positive first step.
“In year one this is a pretty dramatic outcome,” said Damian LaCroix, superintendent. “We’re excited about it. You’ll tangibly feel it walking through the building.”
Other updates about the referendum were also given.
In regard to staff compensation, Spets said the district has spent $1.02 million to bring 208 teachers level set to pay similar to peer districts.
On top of that, he said all staff received a raise of 2.89 percent.
With the level set and the raise, the aggregate pay increase average is 4.94 percent, Spets said.
“From our standpoint we’re doing all we can to attract, develop and maintain the best staff possible,” LaCroix said.
On the operations or facilities maintenance front, the district has a three-year, $6-million plan to address building needs, Spets said.
Each year $1 million will come from the referendum with an additional $1 million per-pupil categorical aid/assigned fund balance.
The district will use a facilities study that goes beyond 10 years, a 10-year master plan and then a sub plan that was devised after the referendum to target building needs, Spets said.
The district will also convene a facilities focus group in September for interested parties on the process of selecting what projects are to be completed and when.
“We’re looking at that as informal and some people that have already expressed some interest in that,” Spets said.