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P-D school board agrees to hire fifth kindergarten teacher

After learning of the growing number of kindergarten students that have enrolled, and will be enrolling in the upcoming new school year, Wednesday the Perham-Dent Board of Education agreed to hire a fifth kindergarten teacher for Heart of the Lakes Elementary School.

School Principal Kari Yates told the board that as of Wednesday's meeting they already had 89 kindergarten students enrolled and expect at least an additional three more enrollments to be filed.

"We could have 92 students with four teachers," said Yates. "That would put the classrooms at about 23 students each which is a high number of kindergarten classes."

"Twenty-three is too many for kindergarten," said board member Cyndy Huber. "We need to lower that number."

Yates said she would prefer kindergarten classes to be in the range of 17, 18 or 19 students.

Board member Arnie Thompson made the motion to hire the additional kindergarten teacher.

During discussion however, some members of the board agreed the classes should be lowered, but asked how the additional teacher could be paid for.

Superintendent Tamara Uselman told the board there is the possibility of additional federal funds that could help pay the cost for the additional teacher.

"The state will have about $166 million available through the state that is designated for one year only," said Uselman. "That money would not be available to pay for the additional teacher after one year."

Uselman said though that the district might not actually receive that money until September or even October.

There was also the suggestion that the district wait until after the start of the school year to see if adding a teacher was really needed, but Yates though that was a bad idea.

"I would really struggle with the idea of moving them (kindergarten students) around after the start of the school year," said Yates. "Those first few days are critical. They are very important days and then to change things around after they start, it would create problems."

Yates said it would be best if the board made the decision that night because it might prove difficult to arrange things and find a qualified teacher after the start of the new school year.

After considerable discussion the board agreed to hire the additional kindergarten teacher. With five teachers the kindergarten classes should average between 18 to 19 students, instead of 23 or more.

Board members were also informed that some high school class sizes have risen to about 38 students. Officials felt that number was also too high, but took no action at Wednesday's meeting on the matter.

In personnel matters, the board:

• Agreed to hire Amanda Michaelson as a health and physical education instructor.

• Agreed to hire Chelsea Marthaler as a half-time elementary instructor.

• Approved new contracts for principals John Rutten at the high school, Scott Bjerke at the middle school and Kari Yates at the elementary school.

• Approved a new contract for Fred Sailor, Activities Director and Area Learning Center Buildings and Grounds Director.

• Approved the hiring of Melissa Graham for a 19-hours per week middle school secretary position.