On Monday, the Williams Unified School District board handed out pink slips to the two credentialed school teachers that provide literacy support to kindergarten students.
The 3-2 decision came as a blow to kindergarten teachers who said the additional help has made a tremendous impact on getting English language learners ready to start the first grade. Teacher Keri Lovelady spent the weekend putting together a chart from data that shows the number of kindergarten students testing proficient increased from 25 to 47 in just six weeks of working with the part-time teachers.
“Imagine the impact they’ll have for the rest of the school year,” Lovelady said.
While district officials don’t deny the benefit of having the two teachers provide support to youngsters just beginning to learn English, the matter comes down to having enough money to make the positions permanent in the future.
“It’s a matter of being realistic,” said Superintendent Edgar Lampkin.
Lampkin said the school board had to look at the resources that are available for that school.
The two part-time teachers cost the district approximately $73,000, with neither receiving benefits.
The amount is far less than the $225,000 the district pays for the two reading specialists who help the older students, and the $75,000 the district pays for one intervention specialist at the high school, teachers said.
Emma Agnew, who teaches transitional kindergarten, said she in not against the district supporting the other schools, but targeting the entire literacy support staff at the kindergarten level was unfair.
“We are simply trying to advocate for an equitable share of our LCAP funds,” she said.
Parents who spoke to the board at the special meeting on Monday said they were impressed with the improvements their children made while receiving the specialized help.
Kindergarten typically has the most English language learners, and parents and teachers agreed the students deserved the extra support.
“Every tenured K-3 teacher signed a letter in support because they understand the impact these support positions have on (the students’) literacy and language skills,” Lovelady said. “This is an investment that will trickle up for these students to be successful in our K-12 school system.”
Trustees Rosa Orozco-Lopez and Yareli Mora also agreed the benefits from the additional teachers justified their cost.
Both voted against their dismissal.
Although the school board eliminated the positions next year, Williams Elementary Principal Melissa Willes said literacy support would not go away.
She said she hoped the kindergarten teachers would be willing to work with her on carving out a new instructional model to provide all students with the best education and intervention possible.
“We are looking at some really positive things,” Willes said. “I’m optimistic.”
Willes said she understands that making a change to a program that is working is unsettling, but that the district is looking at other ways to make up for the loss of the positions. ■