Teacher morale main topic during last week’s meeting

Appearing before the Oneonta City Board of Education at last week’s meeting, high school teacher Jim Kilgore said “teachers have been burdened with many things this year with little training.”

Kilgore went on to say the increase in duties had resulted in many teachers struggling with morale. Extra responsibilities this school year include additional students in classes, reduced class time, more testing, and implementation of a teacher advisor program, among others.

Supt. Scott Coefield says many of the issues presented were brought about by the state Legislature.

“We only employee the number of teachers we are allowed, and we make assignments the best we can,” he said. “In the past, with the old accreditation, a teacher could only have 150 students per day. That has been done away with now.”

Board president Don Maples thanked Kilgore for approaching the board with his statements.

“I appreciate you coming to the board and expressing your concerns,” Maples said. “We know it is difficult. We hear you, and there will be more discussion because there has to be an open line of communication.”

One of the issues presented pertained to reduced class time. This year, Oneonta High School has implemented an eight-period day with the extra eighth-period acting as intervention or students who need extra help. Coefield does say he is willing to re-evaluate the schedule and consider other options, but nothing is being considered at this time.

The additional testing, according to Coefield, is Oneonta trying to stay ahead of the game. Currently, the state requires two end-of-course tests – English 10 and Algebra I. But Coefield and the board decided to get a jump start and chose to have tests for those two as well as English 9 and 11, Geometry, Algebra II, Biology I, Chemistry, and U.S. History.

“We give these tests to measure growth,” Coefield said. “These are ACT-based tests and if our high school kids take the ACT, we want to measure where they are academically as they progress through school.”

Another concern was the newly-implemented teacher advisor program or TAP. Instead of one guidance counselor handling every student, TAP also assigns a handful of students with their teacher advisor, which is something Coefield says many schools are doing now.

“It is something new that will require an added responsibility, but I don’t think anyone can argue we shouldn’t be doing that,” he said.

The bottom line, Coefield says, is helping the students.

“We’ve made changes this year, we’ve implemented a few things, and teacher morale is very important and when that is brought up we have to pay attention to it. I’m not dismissing that, and the board is certainly interested in the input. But there are changes we have to make because it is making it better for our students.”

Coefield says he has communicated with the teachers and staff and addressed their concerns.

The board also congratulated student Delaney Humphrey for being named a National Merit Scholar Semifinalist.

In other business, the board approved:

•a contract with Tallassee Board of Education (through Fairbanks LLC) to administer the Medicaid reimbursement claim program.

•approved non-resident students for the high school and elementary school.

•non-paid volunteer coaching assistants Steven Nuss for baseball and Katie Veal Wallace for track.

•fifth grade trip to Chattanooga.

•a bid price of $157,500 from Clements Dean Building Company to complete Area #2 (rear bus drive).

•facility use agreement for music and drama club for Oct. 20, and Dec. 1.

Present at the Sept. 30 meeting were Coefield, Maples, board members Kitty Cheek, Geoff Smith, Ricky Hicks, and Jimmy Stewart, Kilgore, and several students and guests.