C-L Board Takes Two Votes To Approve Pre-K And Elementary AmeriCorps Hires

STRATTANVILLE, Pa. (EYT) – It took two votes and a strong sales pitch from the district superintendent to make it happen, but after more than 20 minutes of debate, the Clarion-Limestone School Board approved on August 20 a host site agreement with AmeriCorps, who will provide two AmeriCorps workers in the elementary school.

The AmeriCorps workers will each earn a salary of $13,200.00, though one of them will be paid for through federal title funding, with the district to pay for the other.

District elementary principal Kristie Taylor said the original plan was to use state grant funding rather than federal title funding to pay for one of the positions, but the state budget stalemate is responsible for the change.

District superintendent J.J. Johnson said the help is needed to make sure the pre-kindergarten program is successful.

“It could be those grants will be available to us, and then we can move in different directions, but it is based upon eligibility and finances and other criteria,” Johnson said.

Taylor said one of the workers will help with the district’s newly-established pre-kindergarten program, remaining in that classroom for much of the day. The class currently has enrollment of 16 students.

The other worker will be used for various tasks as needed, including tutoring students in reading and math.

Early Objection

Board member Molly Greenawalt offered an early objection to the hiring of two workers.

“If we only have 16 kids, why do we need two AmeriCorps members? If I remember correctly, we originally only had one AmeriCorps member, so why are we at two now with less kids?” Greenawalt asked.

Taylor explained only one worker was designated for the pre-kindergarten program, and while one will remain there for much of the day, both can and will be asked to help in other areas.

“AmeriCorps is a service organization, so they’ll be doing active work and tutoring in our building and won’t just be assigned to one area. Math and reading are the areas we will focus on, but they will also work in the after-school program and help one-on-one with kids during the school day,” Taylor said.

Johnson said board members may be confused because of the state budget’s impact on the pre-kindergarten program.

“We have the money in place, it is budgeted for, and with school started, we were backed against the wall. We’re trying to put a program together, and it is supported, and we hope to expand from that point on, but right now, we have to do something because school is starting,” Johnson said.

Greenawalt remained undeterred, asking if the second worker is necessary.

“I always need remedial help there, especially with test scores and the new common core and everything else that is going on. The extra pair of hands will be used very quickly,” Johnson said. “If we had gotten the grants, we may have expanded even more.”

Johnson added the pre-kindergarten program and the use of AmeriCorps workers will be re-evaluated after one school year.

Voted Down, Johnson Makes His Appeal

Despite her early objections, Greenawalt voted in favor of the motion during the first vote, but it didn’t matter as the motion was voted down by a 4-3 margin, with board members Greenawalt, Mike Ferguson, and Terry Leadbetter in favor and board members Jaime Mahle, Mike Meals, Dave Schirmer, and Ray Theiss against.

Schirmer asked if a new motion could be made to hire just one AmeriCorps worker, but Johnson spoke before that could happen.

“Let me say something very strongly. It is the superintendent’s recommendation that you hire two AmeriCorps workers to fulfill the needs of this program and this new curriculum you’re starting. I highly, specifically, unequivocally, without any reservation in mind whatsoever ask that you hire these two individuals to fulfill the need of the new program,” Johnson said.

Second Vote Approves Hiring Two

Greenawalt said conflicting information may have lead to hesitation to support two hires.

“If we’re going to have the program, we’d better staff it,” she said.

Leadbetter agreed.

“I think we’d better take the recommendation of our superintendent, because what do we know about staffing a pre-kindergarten program,” Leadbetter said.

Schirmer said he had misunderstood the situation.

“I didn’t realize we were using title money to pay for one of those positions, and I’ll plead ignorance on that. I misunderstood the proposal,” Schirmer said.

After Taylor again explained how the positions will be funded – one from federal title funding and one which was budgeted for by the district – the board took a second vote on the matter.

The board approved hiring two AmeriCorps workers by a vote of 5-2, with only Mahle and Meals remaining against.

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