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Community effort kept teacher cutbacks to just two

There was generally good news stemming from the Enumclaw School Board’s special meeting May 11, when Enumclaw School District Superintendent Mike Nelson announced the district would most likely only be letting two teachers go Friday – but, still, it hits hard.

“It’s still two people,” Nelson said. “We didn’t get to everybody. They’re great people and we hope we can get them back into the system.”

The community can be thanked for saving other jobs.

The Enumclaw School District has finally had time to take stock of the May 3 full-day kindergarten fundraising effort. The community rally around full-day kindergarten and parents’ interest in paying for the program has saved teaching positions.

In March, district leaders announced they would have to trim $2.1 million from the 2009-10 budget and among the programs that would be going were full-day kindergarten, sixth-grade camp and the elementary swim program, as well as a number of staff positions. The district, which implemented a full-day kindergarten program for all students six years ago using state Initiative 728 money, said it would continue the full-day offering, but on a tuition basis. The program would revert to a half-day program districtwide for those who chose not to pay.

More than 300 community members attended a dinner and auction to raise scholarship money for needy students to attend the full-day kindergarten program. Totals from the event have reached nearly $73,000 and money keeps arriving.

Nelson said at the tuition rate of $2,500, which covers the 10-month period, the fundraising effort guarantees 29 scholarships. For planning purposes, he said, the district will be awarding six scholarships to each of its five elementary schools.

“This is incredibly wonderful for these students to have the opportunity to attend full-day kindergarten that they would not be able to afford otherwise,” Nelson said.

There was also another huge outcome from the event, he noted.

During the district’s kindergarten roundup most of the elementary schools were short of being able to house a full-day program. With the six scholarships, the district will be able to have a full-day kindergarten class at each elementary school and two at Sunrise Elementary School. For staffing purposes every two full-day kindergarten session brings back a teacher who was on the reduction list.

“This event saved three teachers from receiving a notice of reduction,” Nelson said. “I am doubly grateful.”

The district is working in collaboration with the Enumclaw Schools Foundation, which will establish the criteria and process for student scholarship selection in the coming weeks. The district will begin notifying students and their families soon after.

Last-minute retirement announcements and a couple of leave replacements who opted not to return also worked to keep current teachers in the classroom.

In other business during the May 11 meeting, the board heard a presentation from Terry Parker, district curriculum director, regarding elementary math.

The K-5 Math Adoption Committee is recommending the board adopt the “Math Expressions” program because it best meets the district’s immediate needs of strengthening fluency skills and lays the foundation for success in algebra. The board was expected to adopt the program at its Monday night meeting.

Materials should arrive during the summer for implementation in the fall.

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