Staffing At Alternative School Leads To Debate

Board approves extra part-time classroom aide for Center for Success

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Teacher Linda Gibson not only manages 60 students, she juggles multiple lessons and subjects — simultaneously and all in one classroom.

As one of three full-time staffers at Payson’s Center for Success, she said she needs help. So last week she asked the Payson Unified School District Board for permission to hire a part-time aide.

Gibson said the aide would help juggle the center’s 57 students, who all study at their own pace. The center is designed for students who don’t want to study in a traditional classroom for whatever reason.

Located just north of Payson High School, the students work on computers, but often need the help of a teacher or tutor.

So Gibson and the other staffers jump from student to student, juggling a variety of topics, including physics, chemistry and English.

Moreover, unlike a traditional classroom where all 30 students work off the same chapter of the text, at PCS every student’s on a different page and likely in a different book.

“It is very, very difficult to jump from one student to the next and when they need something they need something right then,” she said.

This task is especially difficult when the morning and afternoon sessions overlap.

That is where Gibson hopes an aide can help.

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“Our role is to make policy, not to run the school district. That is why we have Ron [Hitchcock]” Matt Van Camp Payson school board

The aide would work 10 hours a week at a yearly salary of $4,000.

The center would pay for the position out of its coffers, but still needs the board’s approval to create the position.

School board member Rory Huff balked at the idea, the school already gets a lot of money.

The schools 57 students have three full-time staffers looking after them, a much higher teacher-student ratio than at the high school.

Huff said it isn’t fair to the district’s 2,400 other students to spend so much on the PCS students.

Gibson said she understood that the school’s enrollment numbers weren’t as high, “but the need is there.”

School board member Matt Van Camp said he disagreed with Huff — you can’t compare a traditional classroom to PCS.

“I do understand and see that trying to teach 50 students 13 different subjects where a (traditional) teacher is trying to teach the same subject matter and same lesson to 32 students (is not fair),” he said.

School board member Kim Pound agreed.

“I think when you are in a classroom and you have several different subjects being taught and you don’t have enough people trying to help each individual student, I think we are robbing the student and for $3,000 to $4,000 I think that is a big gamble to take,” he said.

So far this year, PCS has a waiting list of nine students.

School board president Barbara Underwood asked if the school could take on more students with the extra help.

Not likely, said Gibson.

She said the alternative school has actually kept students from dropping out of the district, which would have meant a drop in state funding.

In the end, the school board unanimously approved the position.

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