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School board approves hiring of 50 teachers

By Daniel Determan

The West Fargo School Board unanimously approved professional staffing requests for the 2013-2014 school year, which call for the hiring of roughly 50 full-time employees, including 12 elementary-level teachers, to cope with the anticipated growth in enrollment as well as to open Liberty Middle School and an expanded Sheyenne High School.

“We consider that a conservative request,” human resources director Robin Hill said. “We will likely need more.”

Hill expects more staffing requests to be brought to the board once the amount of funding the district gets from the state becomes clear.

Business manager Mark Lemer said the district expects 360 more students to enroll in the fall. However, district expectations for this year were 400 new students, and 570 walked through the halls on the first day.

“That’s more students than in many of the state’s school districts,” superintendent David Flowers said.

According to a memo sent out to the board, the requests brought forward on Monday represent roughly half of the total full-time employees requested for upcoming school year.

The requests also called for six middle school teachers, seven high school teachers and 10 special education instructors.

In total, the projected cost of of these hires will be roughly $2.6 million, not including health and life insurance benefits.

After a great deal of positive feedback from staff at Freedom Elementary School and the Osgood Kindergarten Center, the board also unanimously approved the installation of classroom amplification systems in all kindergarten and elementary buildings throughout the district.

The project as a whole will cost the district $298,800, which is $19,430 less than the budgeted amount.

This agenda item was initially brought forward during the March 11 meeting but was postponed, with board members questioning the cost of the installation – as opposed to saving the funds for future projects – as well as the effectiveness of the system. The board agreed to allow the Planning and Development Committee to conduct more research on the topic before ultimately making their decision.

“I was never opposed to this in terms of what it gives our students,” board member Dave Olson said. “I’m all for it. I was just more concerned with whether we should be using that money for something else.”

The committee’s research found that Aurora’s students showed an average 31.3 percent decrease in negative behaviors, and the system would cost roughly $5 per student over a span of 10 years.

Other studies done in various states have shown up to 15 percent higher scores on state assessment tests from students in classrooms with amplification systems.

The board also approved the recommendations of the Harwood Elementary School enrollment committee, which suggested that the district administration monitor the enrollment numbers this spring and summer, and be prepared to either maintain the current staff and schedule - as long as it does not result in classes that are too large - or be prepared to have a combination classroom if the number of students becomes too large.