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May 12, 2021

RSS teacher shuffle leaves some parents frustrated

By Sarah Nagem
snagem@salisburypost.com
Capri Brixey says her 5-year-old son Mason had just started to get used to his kindergarten teacher at Koontz Elementary.
But Rowan-Salisbury School System officials transferred the teacher to Knollwood to help ease higher-than-expected enrollment there.
Brixey and some other Koontz parents aren’t happy about the situation.
School leaders shuffle teachers near the start of every school year. In the spring, officials estimate expected enrollment at each of the system’s 34 schools for the following school year.
Usually, their estimates are close. But when schools have fewer or more students than they anticipated, teachers get moved around.
That explanation doesn’t do much to ease Brixey’s concerns for her son and his classmates.
“I’m really disappointed by what’s happened,” Brixey said.
Officials had expected Koontz to have 573 students this year. The highest number at the school during the first 10 days was 550.
The result of the lower number was the transfer of a kindergarten teacher to Knollwood, which has about 30 more students than officials had anticipated.
When some parents of Koontz students learned what happened, they contacted school officials to voice their concerns.
Brixey says losing a Koontz teacher is upsetting because it disrupts the balance of the classroom, even though the school year has just begun. Some kindergarten students will be transferred into other classes, making those classes bigger.
Koontz is one of the poorer elementary schools in the Rowan-Salisbury system. About 82 percent of Koontz students received free or discounted lunch last school year. That’s the highest percentage among the elementary schools.
“For many kids, this is the most stable person they have in their lives,” Brixey said of teachers.
Koontz isn’t the only school that has had staffing changes this year.
China Grove Elementary lost two teachers, and North Elementary lost one. Knox Middle and North Rowan High School each lost a teaching position that had been vacant.
One school’s loss is another school’s gain.
Knollwood and Overton elementary schools each got two additional teachers. Corriher-Lipe gained the position Knox had lost, and Carson High School got that unfilled position from North.
The Rowan-Salisbury School System did not add any teaching positions this school year, said Delores Morris, assistant superintendent of human resources.
Brixey said her son is adjusting to the changes in his kindergarten class.
“He’s probably less traumatized than I am,” she said.
But some Koontz parents say they are worried about the number of students who transfer out of the school. And they question whether all the transfers are for valid reasons.
This school year, 23 students transferred out of Koontz, said Dr. Walter Hart, assistant superintendent of administration.
That number is higher than the transfers from the system’s other elementary schools. Knollwood Elementary follows with 18 transfers, Hart said.
Families must provide school officials with a valid reason for transfers. At Koontz, the No. 1 reason was child-care issues, Hart said.
Families of about a dozen Koontz students said they needed to switch schools because of child care, he said. Grandparents might have to pick up the children from school, for example.
Another five of the transfers were school employees’ kids, Hart said.
“All of our transfers out met the stipulations of the school policy,” he said.
He said transfers from Koontz have declined since last year, when 44 students left.
Brixey admits that she and her husband had considered asking school officials if they could send Mason elsewhere. They even thought about private school. In the end, they decided to stick with Koontz.
Student transfers lead to lower enrollments at some schools, which means fewer teachers are needed.
That means students like Mason start to get to know a teacher, then are put in another class.
But school officials do their best when they estimate enrollments before the school year begins, Hart said.
“It truly becomes an educated guess when you’re making your teacher allotments,” he said.
This year, the school system’s projection was off by 38, a seemingly small number considering the system has about 21,000 students.
Hart said he understands parents’ concerns about teachers being sent to other schools. But he said things quickly return to normal.
“The shock to the system is very temporary,” Hart said. “Ultimately, the kids are going to adjust very, very nicely.”

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