Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

July 16, 2013

Large class sizes concern parents

Bill Grimes Daily News
Effingham Daily News

---- — TEUTOPOLIS — While Teutopolis Unit 50 school officials plan to have three first-grade sections of 25 students each, a number of teachers and parents asked the Unit 50 Board of Education Monday whether a fourth section should be added to reduce class sizes.

Superintendent Bill Fritcher said adding a teacher would cost the district anywhere from $35,000 to $45,000, depending on the teacher's level of experience. The board will discuss the issue further at a special meeting set for 5:15 p.m. July 25.

The special meeting was originally set to discuss proposed buildings and grounds improvements within the district, but board President Marty Siemer indicated the class size issue would be revisited as well.

Several parents of incoming first-graders say that grade level is critical to the child's development.

"I would be more comfortable with larger class sizes in second grade," said parent Tracy Dennis. "It's so hard to transition 25 kids. It's hard enough for me to transition my three."

Fritcher admitted having 25 in each class was a "tough call."

Grade school Principal Angie Sheehan said the three teachers would be helped by two aides, one who will work mornings each day of the week, with the other working all day three days each week.

"I'm not saying it's ideal and perfect," Sheehan said. "But we've made as many changes as possible to maximize our support."

Dennis would like to see the school district maintain high standards of excellence.

"I don't want to be just as good as other school districts," she said. "I want to be better."

Parent Chad Hewing praised the board for beginning the class size discussion several months ago.

"A lot of other districts have just dropped the hammer," Hewing said. "You guys are doing a great job of being forthcoming."

Fritcher said a fourth first-grade teacher wouldn't necessarily be a first-year teacher who would cost the district less money.

"We've prided ourselves on finding the best teacher available, not the cheapest," he said. "I'll have a better idea where we stand financially by the July 25 meeting."

The July 25 meeting was originally set up to discuss security improvements at the high school and resurfacing the district's track. Fritcher said the security work would be partially funded by a state maintenance grant, while the track improvement would be solely funded by the district.

Also Monday, Fritcher said the district's tax rate would decrease slightly from last year's 3.86630 per $100 equalized assessed valuation, to 3.85448 per $100. That rate has remained stable the last several years.

The board also made a number of personnel moves Monday, accepting resignations from assistant high school volleyball coach Brittany Robinson and junior high track coach Jessica Schackmann.

The board also accepted the retirement of teacher Karla Schumacher at the end of the 2016-17 school year and agreed to hire Phil Lewis as a three-seventh time German teacher, Andy Fehrenbacher as boys and girls golf coach and Melinda Bloemer as a six-hour cook-custodian at the grade school.

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com.