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Palmerton to add aides

Published July 05. 2019 12:11PM

Rising special education numbers at S.S. Palmer Elementary have Palmerton Area School District posting for two learning support instructional assistants.

During a board workshop Tuesday night, S.S. Palmer Principal Mary Brumbach told the board that the school now has 19 special education students in second grade and 18 in fifth-grade, with the potential for two additional fifth grade students, requiring the additional support staff.

“Our numbers have increased and we wouldn’t be in compliance with the state special education regulations if we kept our current staffing levels,” Brumbach said. “The aides do remediation and intervention with the students.”

The aides would work 29.5 hours per week. While the instructional assistants would get retirement benefits, they would not receive medical benefits from the district.

“For an aide, with salary and Public School Employees Retirement System benefits, I think you’re looking at around $25,000,” Kish told the board of the financial impact of each position.

Acting Superintendent Thomas McLaughlin said he was confident the district could fill the positions before the start of the 2019-20 school year.

Earlier in the workshop, during a curriculum committee report, Director Kathy Fallow told the board she’d like to see technology coaches brought back on board.

At one point, she said, the district had six technology coaches, who were teachers that received an extra stipend to serve in that capacity. The coaches would help other staff as new technology initiatives were integrated into the district.

“We talked in the curriculum meeting about professional development and I think teachers are very proactive about asking for their professional development, but this is one of the things we thought specifically may help,” Fallow said. “We’re going to being implementing the Schoology learning management system. They have received training, but it is a fairly robust system. Some of the feedback I got was that the technology coaches would be helpful, particularly for those teachers who are not as tech savvy.”

The six coaches had each received a $1,791 stipend in the past. After budget cuts, some of the technology coaches kept doing it for free.

“I think it would be helpful to get back to those stipends,” Fallow said. “Just like we give stipends to athletic coaches, I think we can give stipends to teachers for being tech coaches. It really is above and beyond what they normally do. I think it would be $11,000 or $12,000 well spent.”

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