2017-09-13 / News

North Branch hires more staff to keep up with growth in district

810-452-2601 • npugliese@mihomepaper.com

The latest addition to the North Branch Area Schools family, Melanie Halleck along with North Branch Elementary Principal Greg Matheson. 
Photo byNicholas Pugliese The latest addition to the North Branch Area Schools family, Melanie Halleck along with North Branch Elementary Principal Greg Matheson. Photo byNicholas Pugliese NORTH BRANCH — The North Branch Area Schools (NBAS) family is growing, and that growth is reflected in the student body — and after Monday evening’s Board of Education meeting, that growth is now seen in staff size as well.

During Monday’s regular meeting, the NBAS Board of Education voted unanimously to create positions for a new first-grade teacher and four elementary-level aides, and hired on Melanie Halleck to fill the new first-grade teacher position as well as hired Tina Miles in the role of Little Learners Teacher Aide.

According to NBAS Superintendent Jim Fish, the creation of a new first-grade teaching position was one of necessity after receiving practical counts of this year’s first grade cohort.

“First-grade class sizes were above the contract maximum so we are recommending we add a first-grade position, and it’s a new position based on enrollment,” he said. Factoring in Halleck among current first-grade teachers at North Branch Elementary, the average class size will be reduced to 22.7 — well below the average of 25 students among Michigan elementary classrooms as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics. Halleck’s contract will be for one year, but according to Fish, it’s a role the district will need beyond this school year. “We really feel that we’re going to need this position moving forward, but we also have to protect the district as well.”

The hope is that Halleck will begin as soon as possible, and due to her familiarity with North Branch Elementary, it’s possible she’ll begin instruction as early as next week. Halleck, a graduate of the University of Phoenix in 2015, has direct experience with North Branch Elementary. According to Principal Greg Matheson, Halleck served at least three long-term substitution positions in the building at kindergarten, first grade and fourth-grade levels. “She did a phenomenal job subbing for us,” said Matheson. “Her demeanor with the students and parents is outstanding.”

According to Matheson, the need for an added instructor at the first-grade level was pressing because of class size, but also the desire to implement this change as early as possible in the school year to minimize disruption for students who will move to Halleck’s newly-created classroom. “As we discussed this and made this decision, it was critical that we move on this quick,” he said. “If anyone knows me they know I’m pretty methodical and like to take time with decisions, but we didn’t have that kind of time.”

Fish said the challenge will be making the transition for students who will be swapping teachers to be as smooth as possible. “Kids are already beginning to be rooted with current teachers, but Melanie’s class will be a good fit for parents and students.”

Due to a technicality, Monday’s meeting also saw the resignation of Tina Miles from her current position as an elementary-level aide before moments later seeing her hiring as Little Learners Teacher Aide approved by the Board of Education. Miles will focus her talents at a preschool level and according to North Branch Elementary Assistant Principal Dane Terauds, Miles will be an excellent fit in her new position.

“Tina has been a great employee as an elementary aide,” said Terauds. “There’s been a sub in (the Little Learners) program and we are very confident that (Miles) will do a great job in that position.”

North Branch Elementary was also the beneficiary of a quartet of new recess/lunch aide positions. The addition of these positions, according to Fish, will free up other aides currently handling duties during lunch and recess to assist teachers directly in classrooms.

“We’ll be hiring some aides to handle the recess and lunch times,” said Fish. “I think the teachers will appreciate the support of the additional aides.” These recess/lunch aide positions are currently open and NBAS is accepting applications. “The time that (the current aides) will save for that lunch supervision time will go exclusively for third-grade classroom instruction,” said Matheson. Applicants can find more details on the district’s website or by calling North Branch Elementary at (810) 688-3042.

The Board of Education approved each measure to hire additional support with enthusiasm, pointing to the growing class sizes as a good problem to have. “We’re adding new positions but we’re also projected to be higher than we expected with enrollment,” said Board Vice President Dan Deshetsky. “I’m more than comfortable making the investment to ensure good instruction in our classrooms.” Board president Cory Mabery agreed, saying the Board is “ecstatic to be hiring teachers, because it means our student group is going up.”

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