Board seeks funding for position

GLADSTONE – Parents and teachers voiced their concerns during Monday night’s Gladstone school board meeting about the risks of reducing the number of teachers instructing next year’s third grade class.

Currently the district is not hiring a replacement for retiring third grade teacher Robin Custance. However, the board noted the choice not to hire is logistical and, hopefully, temporary.

“Our hope is to not at the start of the school year have one less third grade teacher. Our hope is to address that need by repurposed federal money,” said Superintendent Jay Kulbertis.

By budgeting for only three third grade teachers, the board hopes to receive federal funding, which can be used to hire a fourth third grade teacher without cutting funding from other grade levels or programs.

“The situation that your (Custance’s) retirement creates, creates a unique opportunity to get that federal money that not only saves a third grade section, but it doesn’t pull money from a high school position or a middle school position to be able to make that whole,” said Board President Steve O’Driscoll. “If we can pull off the funding source through the federal means it just helps us keep our staff more whole throughout the whole district while also keeping the four sections that the kids deserve in third grade.”

Concerns were raised by both parents and Custance about the number of students who are expected to be in the incoming third grade class. Ninety-six students are expected to be in the class with roughly ten of those students requiring special education.

“No one asked the third grade teachers what they thought. No one looked into this to any degree. We were very shocked. First there was a posting for a third grade position, and the next thing we know we hear that they’re eliminating a third grade position, and the thought of having three third grade teachers with a number of 96 children is heartbreaking to me as an educator,” said Custance.

Parents expressed their concerns, both about the possible loss of a teaching position and about the timeline for finding a new third grade teacher should the funding become available.

“There are several interested third grade parents that have already emailed me, and if you could shoot me an email saying, ‘hey put me in the group and keep us in the loop,’ we’ll do it that way, just so … nobody feels like something’s being done without public accountability and public knowledge,” said Kulbertis.

The email for Kulbertis and each member of the school board is available on the district’s website at www.gladstoneschools.com.