District 203 switching focus of support staff

<p>File Photo</p>

File Photo

NAPERVILLE — Naperville District 203 schools will be shifting the way it provides intervention and enrichment in the classroom in elementary schools starting in the 2014-15 school year.

The School Board Monday night authorized the district to dismiss 31 full-time and 40 part-time educational support personnel four categories: LEAP reading intervention, K-LEAP (kindergarten reading intervention), reading assistants and enrichment assistants.

The district is moving to a plan to replace those jobs with the new position of instructional assistant. This job would include working with small groups of students in math and literacy instruction, conducting assessments of students, collaborating with teachers on student progress , and managing student behavior.

The process starts with the teachers who will use a series of assessments throughout the school year to track student achievement in order to create an plan for learning and growth for each student.

Superintendent Dan Bridges told the crowd that filled administration center’s meeting room that District 203 is not abandoning early learning reading intervention or enrichment. Rather, the new plan will give teachers the ability to prepare all students instead of certain populations, he said.

One instructional assistant would be assigned to up to three classrooms at each grade level for kindergarten through second grade. A second assistant would be assigned at schools with four sections at a grade level. The plan does not remove any special education assistants or English language learner staff assigned to individual students or remove enrollment assistants assigned to larger classrooms, but includes those in the collaboration efforts.

School Board member Donna Wandke said a big concern was eliminating the enrichment assistants in grades three to five.

At the last board meeting, ridges said he would explore additional enrichment opportunities. On Monday, he said the district should be able to have instructional assistants in grades 3-5 at a level that is no less than what schools have now, though the administration is still crunching the numbers.

Several school board members wanted reassurances the model has the support need for implement and raised concerned what happens if it’s not working. “I’m never willing to leave a kid behind,” said board member Susan Crotty.

Kitty Ryan, assistant superintendent for elementary education, said the principals have been onboard from the start and their support is unflinching.

She also said the teacher evaluation system that is already in place will help principals monitor the teachers’ performance and give insight into best practices in the classroom to ensure expectations are met.

“Our reputations are on the line,” Ryan said. “We take this very seriously.”

Board Vice President Terry Fielden said commended the administrative team for the extensive work and checks and balances that are built into the system. “We’re not going to accept failure,” Fielden said.

School Board member Mike Jaensch said comments from the public that the plan was haphazard could not be further from the truth. He said components of the plan such as the assessment protocols have. “There is so much thought that went into it,” Jaensch said. “Anything less than this would be a disservice.”

The full-time staff members whose jobs were eliminated Monday will have recall rights for the new 48 full-time instructional assistant positions and will be hired back based on seniority. Those instructional assistants will be trained at a minimum of four times a year and other areas in order to support the learning in the classroom.

Jay Fisher, president of Supporters of Talented and Gifted Education (STAGE), and retired LEAP tutor Winnie Jones were among the half dozen people who urged the board to hold off on the plan.