HANCOCK COUNTY — Greenfield-Central and Mt. Vernon schools are preparing to add 10 staff members to their roster for the coming school year, a move administrators say reinstates positions that had fallen victim to budget cuts and also accounts for future district growth.
During the past six years, county schools were forced to make staffing cuts as they learned to operate with less funding from the state. When teachers retired or left schools, they often weren’t replaced. Positions were cut. And schools learned to do more with less, said Harold Olin, superintendent of Greenfield-Central schools.
Now schools across the county are preparing to add new positions as corporations’ financial pictures improve.
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Greenfield-Central plans to hire a new dean of students at J.B. Stephens Elementary School, reinstating a position that was eliminated in 2010. There are also plans to create a handful of new teaching positions. At Mt. Vernon, each of the corporation’s three elementary schools will get an assistant principal.
Administrators say a change in the state’s funding formula for schools and a growing number of students has placed the corporations in a unique position to be able to add as many as six new positions next year.
The state began reshaping its school funding policies in 2009, cutting about $300 million of the funding that year, which led to many schools across the state having to cut staff.
Now schools receive more state dollars per student than in recent years, thanks to a change in the state’s school funding formula.
Pair that with a large number of teachers retiring during the past five years and increasing student enrollment at three of the county’s four school corporations, and schools are in a good place financially to be able to add positions next year without burdening their budgets, administrators say.
Greenfield-Central will add six new positions, including four teaching jobs this fall. Superintendent Harold Olin said he expects the additions will cost the corporation about $400,000.
J.B. Stephens Elementary, the largest of the corporation’s four elementaries with 488 K-3 students, will hire a dean of students to help Principal Matt Davis manage day-to-day operations. By comparison, Eden Elementary has 188 students, Harris Elementary has 317 and Weston Elementary has 342.
The larger student body and staff — the school also houses a preschool program serving 87 additional students — gives Davis a larger workload than principals at other schools. Hiring a dean of students to assist Davis will help him focus more on student learning, Olin said.
Mt. Vernon also is eyeing ways to ease the workload for current staff as the corporation grows. In the fall, administrators will add an assistant principal at Fortville, Mt. Comfort and McCordsville elementary schools.
As Mt. Vernon’s student enrollment has increased — this year, about 3,700 students attend one of the corporation’s five schools, compared to about 3,500 in 2013 — the principals’ work loads increase, said Superintendent Shane Robbins.
Fortville Elementary principal Heather Noesges was thrilled to learn she’ll have more help next year.
Having an extra administrator to help handle student discipline and work with staff means she can spend more time in the classroom observing teachers and students to help them improve, said Noesges, who is in her third year as principal.
“There never seems to be enough hours in the day to get everything done I want to accomplish,” she said. “To have that extra body is going to be so helpful.”
Mt. Vernon also will hire a new counselor at the high school, and Robbins anticipates some new hires in special education as the school withdraws from the Hancock Madison Shelby Educational Services cooperative, which currently provides special education services to the corporation.
In addition to a dean of students at J.B. Stephens, Greenfield-Central is preparing to add another math teacher to the junior high’s lineup.
Adding another math teacher will allow the school to overhaul the junior high school schedule to increase the time students spend learning math concepts, said principal Dan Jack.
Right now, seventh-grade students have about 45 minutes of math every day. Administrators want to increase that to 70 minutes in an effort to help students perform better on state assessments, which have become harder in math and language arts.
In order to do that, hiring another teacher is necessary. Without a new math teacher, class sizes would average 30 students, making it difficult to work with students one-on-one, Jack said.
“This is going to be good for students and for the school,” Jack said. “By providing more instructional time, we hope to see test scores improve.”
Other additions at Greenfield-Central include a new business teacher at the high school, a high school alternative education teacher, a math coach for kindergarten through third-grade students and an instrumental music teacher for junior and high school students.
Olin said he hopes by making the additions the school corporation will serve students better.
“We don’t want to be an average school. We want to be a premier school,” he said.
Two school corporations are preparing to make staffing additions next year.
Greenfield-Central will hire for the following new positions:
- Junior high math teacher
- High school business teacher
- High school alternative education teacher
- Kindergarten through third grade math coach
- Junior high and high school music teacher
- Dean of students at J.B. Stephens
Mt. Vernon schools will be hiring three assistant principals for the district’s elementary schools and a counselor at the high school.