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Education: Principals ask for more teachers next year

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Principals at the Waccamaw Neck schools want to add 13 full- and part-time positions next year to expand course offerings and reduce student-teacher ratios. The requests to the school board mark a significant change from a year ago, when a chorus of principals from across the district asked only to keep their existing staff.

The district is still compiling costs for the staff requests from principals. It is due to review staff levels based on enrollment when student numbers are updated in the next few weeks, Superintendent Randy Dozier said.

Waccamaw Elementary is among the district schools that want to expand their pre-kindergarten classes to a full day. The school has two morning and two afternoon pre-K classes, principal Vervatine Reid said.

A full-day program will increase opportunities for students and cut down on latch-key children, she said.

“I’m thrilled that elementary principals are asking for full-day pre-K,” Board Member Teresa Bennani said. She chairs the board’s early-childhood education committee and tried to get additional funds for pre-K classes last year.

“I hope we can find creative ways to fund it,” she said.

Board Chairman Jim Dumm pointed out that other schools are asking for additional teachers to help with reading. A proposed middle school schedule change will allow double periods for reading and math.

“It is a concern that so many high schools need reading specialists,” he said. “We still struggle with that.”

Waccamaw Elementary also wants a “focus group teacher.” The school has a part-time teacher who works individually with students who have trouble with reading and math, Reid said. She would like to expand that effort.

Reid also wants to make a part-time position for a curriculum coach into a full-time position. “We are in dire need of more time,” she said. The school will implement a new Core Curriculum next year for grades one through three. It started this year in kindergarten.

The school also needs another full-time guidance counselor and a part-time gym teacher. With only one gym teacher, students only have one 45-minute physical education class every sixth day, Reid said.

Growth and the schedule change are driving the request for new English and math teachers at Waccamaw Middle. The school also wants to add part-time gym and band teachers.

Waccamaw High principal David Hammel wants to add a science teacher to expand Advance Placement courses to include physics and chemistry. That position will also help lower the student-teacher ratio, he said.

Hammel also wants to add a part-time guidance counselor. The counselors now have about 400 students each, the highest number in the district, he said.

“The senior college application rate is 85 percent. The majority apply to three or more colleges,” Hammel said.

Waccamaw High and the other district high schools want to add part-time supervisors for in-school suspension programs. It’s a way to keep students “in school and engaged,” Hammel said.

“They used to have that position before times went south,” Dozier said. “It was very successful.”

Waccamaw Intermediate has a more modest request. Principal Tim Carhahan wants a part-time technology coach. The school got iPads this year, added to its supply of interactive white boards and offers technology instruction to sixth graders. The coach would help teachers improve the way they use technology, Carnahan said. Although he isn’t asking for much this year, Carnahan also has a long-range plan.

He would like to make the tech coach full-time one day. He also sees adding another part-time band teacher to extend band from the sixth to the fifth grade; a foreign language teacher; and a dance teacher.

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