Math competition dropped/staff cuts blamed

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Friday, December 14, 2007
— Budget cuts continue to cut into the extras that Janesville public elementary school students have enjoyed.

Officials say that the district-wide Math 24 competition won’t happen this year, in part because the number of talented-and-gifted resource teachers was cut from four to three.

Math 24 is a game that challenges competitors to take four numbers and to arrive at a solution of 24 by using addition, subtraction, multiplication and/or division.

Teachers have raved about the game’s ability to get children to think about numbers and sharpen their skills. Ruth Robinson, the coordinator of talented-and-gifted programs, said Math 24 still will be used in classrooms, but the tournament is gone, at least for this year.

The tournament included school-level competitions leading to 36 finalists who competed at one location.

The school board already approved a one-year moratorium on the All City Sing for fourth-and fifth-graders. The move was prompted by a loss of two elementary music teachers in this year’s budget.

District officials also dropped Battle of the Books, a reaction to the loss of elementary librarians. The Hedberg Public Library took over the reading competition, but it’s unclear whether public schools will participate in the numbers they have in the past.

And elementary music teachers have been telling the school board recently that they can’t offer as many clubs and performance opportunities as they used to because their numbers were cut.

Two teachers—Jean Schollmeier and Jennifer Fanning—were the prime organizers of the Math 24 tournament. Schollmeier retired last spring, and Fanning said she didn’t think she could handle it on her own.

So, Fanning said she turned it over to the district’s talented-and-gifted program, because most of the competitors have been from that program.

“Jennifer didn’t feel she had the time to commit to it any longer, and my TAG resource staff has dwindled again … and didn’t think they could take on another task this year until they had a chance to adjust to the new situation,” Robinson said.

Fanning said she’s upset about the loss, and if she had known it would be dropped, she would have tried to organize it on her own.

The elementary principals made the final decision to drop the competition this year, although it’s possible it could be revived next year, Robinson said.

“We’re to the point where we’re making judgments about time and effort spent and the number of children served,” Robinson said, noting that only 36 students competed in the tournament.

And competitions aren’t always the best way to learn, Robinson said.

“There’s obviously more to learning than just winning something all the time,” she added.

Officials have warned that things aren’t going to get easier anytime soon. They expect to cut about $2 million from next year’s budget because dwindling enrollment is holding down district income.

Those cuts are likely to include cuts in staffing.

Last updated: 11:06 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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