Math teacher hiring sparks debate at Dallas School Board meeting

By Eileen Godin - | August 9th, 2016 4:42 pm

DALLAS TWP. — The hiring of a new math teacher for the 2016-17 school year was debated by Dallas School Board members Monday, Aug. 8.

School board members just finished one of the most financially challenging school years due to the state’s legislative impasse that held up funding for public schools for the 2015-16 year.

With the financial struggle still fresh in their minds the vote to hire Amy Rome as a high school math teacher, at a salary of $41,667, passed by an 8-1 vote. Colleen Slocum, the school board president, voted no.

“My no has nothing to do with the candidate. Ms. Rome is an outstanding teacher,” Slocum said. “I am voting no because I have serious concerns on how we will address future budget deficits at Dallas School District and the limited options for balancing the budget going forward.”

Slocum said she joined the school board in 2011 and, every year since, the board faced a challenging budget process.

Significant increases in pension contributions, wages and healthcare and contracts have exceeded the district’s ability to raise taxes the last few years, she said.

“We have been fortunate to be able to make cuts in areas that did not affect students, ” Slocum said. “We need to do more with less.”

School board members Charles Preece and James Gattuso Jr. saw hiring Rome as an investment in students’ futures.

“I taught for 15 years at Penn State,” Preece said. “The one subject all students had trouble with was basic math. It was very difficult for those kids, but not our Dallas kids. They were not in those (introduction math) classes.”

The reason for that is the strong math department at the Dallas School District, he said.

“I feel it is very important to fill education jobs,” Gattuso Jr. said.

School board member Jeff Thomas noted the expenses of healthcare and pensions are not going away and will affect his future hiring decisions.

“I caution everybody that these (hiring) decisions will be less popular,” Thomas said. “I will vote yes, but this will probably be the last vote that I cast to fill a position that we couldn’t possibly fill by other means.”

In other news, students will face new safety precautions on the first day of school Aug. 31.

Some new safety measures include a requirement that middle and high school students use clear or mesh backpacks; surveillance cameras on campus and buses will now record audio as well as video and an enhanced “One Call Now” notification system.

The previous One Call Now system would notify parents of weather delays and dismissals via an automatic phone call.

The new system, which will roll out next week, will communicate with parents and caregivers by text, which will be faster, Superintendent Thomas Duffy said.

“We are putting the finishing touches on it,” Duffy said.

Also, to ease the first day of school jitters, the district released the following orientation and “Meet The Teacher” dates:

Dallas Elementary School

• morning kindergarten, check-in at 4:30 p.m., Aug. 22, in the library;

• afternoon kindergarten, check-in 6 p.m., Aug. 22, in the library;

• first grade, 6 p.m., Aug. 23, in the cafeteria;

• second and third grades, 6 p.m., Aug. 24, in the cafeteria; and

• fourth and fifth grades, 6 p.m., Aug. 25, in the cafeteria;

Wycallis Elementary School

• morning kindergarten, check-in at 4:30 p.m., Aug. 22, in the gym;

• afternoon kindergarten, check-in at 6 p.m., Aug. 22, in the gym;

• first grade, 6 p.m., Aug. 29, in the gym;

• second grade, 6:30 p.m., Aug. 22, in the gym;

• third grade, 6 p.m., Aug. 23, in the gym;

• fourth grade, 6 p.m., Aug. 29, in the gym; and

• fifth grade, 6 p.m., Aug. 23, in the gym.

Dallas Middle School

• sixth-grade orientation, 6-7:30 p.m., Aug. 17; and

• Meet The Teachers Night, 6-7:30 p.m., Aug. 25.

Dallas High School

• freshman and new student orientation, 3-6:30 p.m., Aug. 24; and

• all student and family meeting, 6:30-8 p.m., Aug. 24.

The next Dallas School Board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 19 in the administration building.

By Eileen Godin

Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews.