DeKalb – Citing the desire to meet more district needs for the coming 2021-2022 school year, the DeKalb School Board on Tuesday mulled over hiring an additional $1 million worth of staff, which would be paid for with a government grant.
The positions will be paid for using Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund, according to district documents. The board will vote on the measure at the upcoming meeting July 15, during which Superintendent-election Minerva Garcia Sanchez, who begins her new role July 1, is expected to participate virtually.
The proposed new hires would include positions for food service, school mental health clinicians, instructional assistants, a school nurse, and counselors, social workers and school psychologist.
Teacher support and mental health resources for those in the district were also part of a survey conducted recently and discussed at the Strategic Planning Community Focus Group held May 20, officials said Tuesday.
Parents, staff and community members listed and voted upon weaknesses and opportunities in five categories: student learning, programs and services, facilities, district finances and district-community relations.
Some of the most voted upon opportunities included: that class sizes are too big and schools are too small; a lack of support for teachers who connect with diverse learning needs; making the school day more productive for all students with different interests, abilities, needs, and long-term goals; more mental health support; more resources for working families; facilities should open up for youth in the community to have activities in evenings and weekends; and the volunteer requirement for graduation.
The most voted upon topic, with 23 votes, was “no one knows how the schools are funded.” The focus group asked for district finance information to be shared with community members.
Board member Samantha McDavid said that she thought the interest in knowing more about school finances was “encouraging.”
“It shows us that it’s not just taxes, taxes, taxes,” she said. “It shows that the community really does want to learn.”
The two food service staff members would be part of a plan to reopen Malta Elementary School’s kitchen, with total annual estimated salary and benefit costs for both a full-time and a part-time cook at $55,000.
According to the meeting’s agenda, reopening the kitchen will “increase the quality of food not only at Malta, but also at Founders, Tyler and Lincoln” elementary schools.” By reopening the kitchen, all food will be cooked and transported to each elementary school, which will greatly reduce the time food is held in warmers.
The reopening of the school’s kitchen will be voted upon during the June 15 board meeting.
If approved by the board, four school-based mental health clinicians, such as counselors, social workers and psychologists, will assist in working to reduce the number of students who are chronically absent from school. The positions will cost an estimated $312,000.
One additional school nurse’s estimated cost is $78,000.
If approved, hiring 18 additional instructional assistants will allow each school building to have at least one extra assistant that can serve as a building and district substitute, assist with student supervision, ensure compliance with IEP services and other duties. Their total estimated cost is $635,940.