Eight new positions proposed for Janesville public schools

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Frank Schultz
Saturday, July 20, 2013
JANESVILLE—Superintendent Karen Schulte wants to lighten the load on overburdened staff members and better provide for the needs of students.
The cost: more than $500,000 for eight new positions in the coming school year.
Some Janesville School Board members appear unconvinced the spending is needed, however.
Kevin Murray, for example, wondered at a committee meeting this week what he would tell his constituents.
“They're going to say, 'Kevin, all you are doing is creating bigger government and duplicating services,” he said.
Steve Sperry, director of human and administrative resources for the district, responded that the positions would support a comprehensive school system that will attract new people to the community.
Board members discussed the proposal at two committee meetings this week. They seemed supportive, but some raised concerns about how the new spending would look to the public.
Schulte noted the district lost 50 positions to budget cuts in 2011, when state lawmakers pulled the plug on school spending.
State school spending has increased this year for the first time since then, and the district will see savings when union workers begin paying into their pension fund and paying more for of their health-insurance premiums.
Sperry told one committee that the list reflects needs, not wants, and that the cuts in 2011 have led to “shortcomings.”
Some staff members have taken on extra duties to make up for the loss of those positions. Some were paid extra for that work, but they risk burnout, officials indicated.
“I don't know how people can continue to sustain the pace that we've been going at. We need some assistance here,” Sperry said.
Schulte said the proposed positions would work directly with children and parents, although none is a classroom teacher.
The board already has approved a plan for classroom staffing in the coming year, which included a spending increase of $1.4 million, based on enrollment estimates, Schulte said.
The eight positions are the administration's top priorities as it begins a recovery from the job cuts of 2011, according to a memo prepared for the board.  Schulte called them “crucial to the smooth operation of the district.”
The proposal for this year is part of a proposed five-year plan. Officials said the following years' increases are subject to change, but they are calling for 48 additional new positions to be added between 2014 and 2017.
Board member Scott Feldt agreed with Murray that some of the new positions might be seen as duplicating services, especially when the additional positions in later years of the plan are considered.
People will say those positions weren't needed when they were in school, Feldt said.
Board member Kristin Hesselbacher responded to that, saying, “Well yeah, that's nice, but this is a different time.”
The administrations needs to find a way to tell the story of how all these support positions work together to boost student achievement and graduation rates, Feldt said.
Schulte replied that she was calling a meeting of her staff to respond to board members' concerns in time for Tuesday's board meeting.
Murray also questioned administrators about how the district would pay for the new positions.
Keith Pennington, the district's chief financial officer, noted a large number of retirements and resignations at the end of the school year. Most of those people will be replaced by younger, lower-cost hires, he said, and it appears the difference will cover the cost of the eight new positions, estimated to be around $538,000.
This article was revised on July 22, 2013, to reflect the following correction:
Moisson would remain principal
A story about a plan to increase hiring in the Janesville School District on Page 9A on Saturday gave incorrect information about Kristen Moisson.
Moisson, who has served as both principal of Jackson Elementary School and coordinator of preschool for Janesville, would remain as Jackson principal under the administration's proposal, but she would not continue as P4J coordinator.

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