Hayden teacher's job on the line

Low funds force job cut consideration

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Struggling with a tight budget because of low student enrollment, the Hayden School Board on Wednesday discussed cutting a teacher position.

"Elementary numbers are down, so that's the logical place to have a reduction," Hayden School District Superintendent Scott Mader said.

After several hours in executive session that went beyond midnight, the board was unable to reach a decision and decided to table it for a special meeting at 5 p.m. May 3 in the School Board's meeting room at the District Administration Offices.

The board is considering cutting the position of Hayden Valley Elementary School physical education teacher and Hayden High School assistant football coach Mike Powell. The cut would mean Powell would not return for the next school year. Other teachers would take over his duties, Mader said.

Several Hayden High School staff members and parents implored the board to look at other alternatives, citing the importance of physical education.

Longtime physical education teacher Sally Brach Morton cited the growing problem of obesity and related childhood diabetes reaching epidemic levels in the United States.

"Physical education exposes children to habits they will carry on the rest of their lives, and they must be exposed to that at a young age," she said.

Science teacher Mari Mahanna echoed Morton's words, saying that it is vital to support active lifestyles for children.

"I think you are doing a grave disservice by essentially cutting in half elementary physical education by adding another sedentary program," Mahanna said. "I'm not judging which is better, art or P.E., but studies show physical education helps studying and reading and all aspects of school work."

Ann Willingham, a parent of a student in the district, said she was shocked the School Board was considering firing a physical education teacher. She reminded the board that there are other funding resources besides student enrollment, such as grants designed for situations such as this.

Social studies teacher Kipp Rillos said he was told that high school faculty would have the opportunity to discuss such alternatives but that he has not yet received that opportunity.

"From our perspective, I feel like we could have come up with some alternatives that would meet our budget constraints and not impact our kids in the way I feel this move would," Rillos said.

In other business:

Hayden Valley Elementary School Principal Mike Luppes announced the estimated cost of an all-day kindergarten program. Such a program would cost parents $6 to $8 per day per child, he said, equaling $996 to $1,328 annually. If the district implemented two full-day classes, it would cost the district an additional $20,000 or so to partially fund an additional teacher. If one full-day class was implemented, while another was kept at half-day, there probably would be no additional cost, Luppes said. "I recommend we investigate this further, but it tears me in half that we can only provide all-day kindergarten to the kids who can afford it and not to the kids who probably need it most," Luppes said.

High school seniors Melissa Bowden and Millie Hellyer asked the board whether they could tie-dye their graduation caps and gowns. They said their teachers, who said tie-dye would be "embarrassing," told them to ask the permission of the School Board, who in turn told them they would need to discuss it.

-- To reach Nick Foster call 871-4204

or e-mail nfoster@steamboatpilot.com

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