Wednesday, May 9, 2012

School Board Overules Superintent

The Monmouth Roseville School Board voted on a controversial topic last night to keep the presence of RTI aides in the classroom despite the Superintendent’s recommendation to cut the program.

RTI or “Response to Intervention” aides are a recent implementation to the district’s three year old proactive RTI program which focuses on helping below average students before the need arises to place them in a special education program. Despite a year’s worth of data from the program that showed literacy improvement, it was Superintendent Paul Woehlke’s recommended motion to cut the $100,000 program in an effort to make up for the estimated one million dollar budget deficit for the next school year.

Prior to the vote, an informational presentation by Monmouth Roseville High School math teacher and RTI coordinator Sarah Hall was given describing the significant improvement the program has made in the past year. Hall explained that the students are now consistently meeting the 25th percentile which is composed of the average score of students throughout Illinois.  However, while their scores are improving compared to the average, they are not improving as fast as they could be. 

There are seven RTI aides in the district working with 215 students in grades K-6. Hall explained that this equates to be the equivalent of 10 classrooms yet the aides are one third the cost of a first year teacher. The Monmouth Roseville district is not the only district implementing an RTI program but according to Hall it is the only district in the area that uses aides as a significant part of the program itself. Superintendent Woehlke commented on the presentation by saying that this program “is another example of Monmouth as a district needing to walk before it can run.” 

Superintendent Woehlke also expressed that while he is in support of the RTI program he recognizes the controversial burden that the district’s needs to make cuts. Secretary Kevin Killey recognized that the program does appear to be valuable but that only a year’s worth of data is not a sufficient amount to base the program off of, and that ultimately the issue is a “financial decision and not a value decision.”  
Several alternatives to cutting the program were also discussed and included only having one aide per building, or giving the aides a 30 day notice and then hiring them back at a later date once the funds were figured out. 
Ultimately, the board decided that it is not fair to start a program one year and cut it the next.  However, the failure to pass the motion to dismiss the aide program has now introduced a new debate over “where will those cuts take place?” The possibility of increasing classroom sizes seemed a likely choice of the board, yet the concern was issued throughout of whether it is acceptable to keep un-certified teachers or “aides” in place of certified teachers. The board will continue to research where those cuts might occur.