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Board implements Open Court,' cuts 25 classified positions


March 14, 2001|By LAURA MACKENZIE, Staff Writer

Twenty-five classified employees of the El Centro Elementary School District learned Tuesday they will not have jobs next year.

Calling it a "tough decision," the El Centro Elementary School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously to implement the "Open Court" reading program next year, which requires certified resource teachers.

"Open Court" is a comprehensive reading program that includes phonics, vocabulary, and comprehension components.

"The resource teacher acts as a support to the teacher," said district Assistant Superintendent Alicia Armenta.

"The success of the program is directly linked to the support of the reading resource teacher," Armenta said.

Plans call for each school to have a resource teacher.

To come up with the funds for the program, the district is eliminating some of the classified positions.

The decision came after much debate involving the necessity of the classified employees, most of whom are instructional aides.

Wearing black to symbolize their "mourning the loss of instructional aides," teachers came to support the aides.


Patty Young, a teacher at Wilson Junior High School, said, "I have been a lucky person to have had aides."

She added by eliminating the aides, the district loses 25 "mentors, role models, second mothers or fathers."

Young urged the board to seek a different solution to the funding problem. It was a sentiment echoed by others.

Glenice Waters, California Teachers Association representative for Imperial County, suggested the board look at an option to not hire as many resource teachers to keep the instructional aide positions.

However, the board stressed the importance of improving reading scores and abilities of the students.

"Reading is not our strength in our district," said Superintendent Michael Klentschy.

Trustees agreed the decision was a tough one, but they spoke in support of the "Open Court" reading program.

Describing it as a "bold step" to "leap forward to improve," Trustee John Edney spoke in support of the "Open Court" program.

Edney said, "This seems to be our opportunity to move into a new realm of our school."

Trustees stressed the schools have decided to implement the "Open Court" program, adding the decision was left to individual schools on whether to hire a full-time or part-time resource teacher based on the funds available.

Trustee Ron Hull added the school sites gave "us the recommendation of what they want us to do and with what moneys they have available."

The action left some employees frustrated.

"There is a low morale at the schools due to the contracts and the classified layoffs," said Geneva Davidson, a teacher at Sunflower Elementary.

But the "Open Court" program also got praise from a teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, where it was implemented this year.

"We are very happy with the program," said Sherry Kolset, literacy coach at King.

She mentioned the consistency of the program across grade levels as being the most important component.

Staff Writer Laura MacKenzie can be reached at 337-3442.

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