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Teaching positions could be reinstated

| Monday, July 22, 2002

Some or all of five high school teaching positions eliminated by the Penn Hills School District could be reinstated, depending on how the district fares without them, the superintendent said.

"We made a decision in this year's budget to try it with five fewer teachers at the high school," Superintendent Samuel DePaul said. "And we'll know real quick if we need all five of them back or some of them back or any of them back."

A districtwide meeting was conducted last week for parents at the high school. DePaul was asked if $274,000 in additional state subsidies awarded to the district would allow it to reinstate the five positions. The board will meet July 30 to discuss how to spend the additional state subsidies.

The district eliminated five teaching posts through attrition, a trend expected to continue with the district's early retirement buyout program.

DePaul said the district hired 42 new teachers last summer and expects to hire 121 more over the next three years. There are now more than 457 teachers, not including special education instructors.

Teachers in regular subjects dipped to 79 from 84 full-time and one part-time art instructor last year.

Critics have contended that under the new schedule, teachers will be saddled with increased class sizes.

Penn Hills Business Manager Gary Koser pointed out that in the 1996-97 school year, there were only 432 teachers in the district, 70 of them teaching regular and vocational education classes at the high school.

"For teachers, we're still way above the figures from five or six years ago, while the enrollment has remained flat," Koser said.

Scheduling conflicts developed when the district went from seven to eight periods.

"With seven periods, teachers generally taught five classes, with one 'duty' period consisting of lunchroom or hall monitoring and one teachers' preparation period," Koser said. "But with eight periods, the length of the school day remained the same, but the class time was cut down. Teachers now have an extra class to teach. By adhering to the contract, class size won't increase."

Still, DePaul admitted, the district might have eliminated too many teaching posts.

"But I would much rather add teachers after Sept. 1 than find out that we could have done this with two fewer teachers," DePaul said.

Although there are now two assistant superintendents, rather than one, central office administration essentially has been reduced from five positions to four. Patricia Gennari was elevated from director of professional growth and development to assistant superintendent.

"When she was promoted, we didn't replace her — she basically assumed those duties, as well as oversight of elementary education," DePaul said.

The other assistant superintendent, Daniel Matsook, will focus on secondary education, particularly at the high school, until a successor to retiring Principal Richard Napolitan is named.

"We had chosen a principal after we'd advertised and interviewed the first round of candidates," DePaul said. "But the board tabled that appointment and readvertised the position."

The district has expanded its search, advertising in a national publication.

"Certainly, anyone who applied originally has the right to reapply," DePaul said. "But we have a few more applicants now than before, just based on the geographic distribution."

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