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School board mulls resurrecting associate principal at MMS
MONROE - One year after cutting the associate principal position at the middle school, the Monroe School Board will weigh options for bringing back an administrative position after a dean of students position has been swamped with multiple job duties.

After a four-year, $8 million non-recurring referendum failed in 2011, the district pledged to the community to cut the middle school associate principal position before this school year. The board agreed to use a school psychologist also in a role as a dean of students this year. The primary duties for the dean of students include dealing with student discipline and truancy.

The district is on their third plan and fourth person in the dean of students position. Monroe School District Superintendent Cory Hirsbrunner updated the board on the revolving dean of students post Monday. MMS psychologist Rikki Kazda served in the dean of students and school psychologist until the beginning of November. The middle school then named two staff members to take on the dean of students position. At the end of November, the middle school appointed Terri Montgomery as the dean of students for the remainder of the year. Montgomery also serves as a reading specialist and in an instructional facilitator role.

"We found that those additional duties were impacting her school psych duties," Hirsbrunner said. "She wasn't able to do her school psych duties. It was having a negative impact on the students, families and staff.

"This has nothing to do with one person in this role; it has everything to do with not having the administrative support I feel we need at Monroe Middle School. We are just getting by."

Hirsbrunner said her recommendation would be to hire back an associate principal. The average salary for an associate principal in Badger Conference schools is $79,000.

Monroe Middle School Principal Lynne Wheeler said about 90 percent of Montgomery's time is being spent in her role as a dean of students.

Another area of concern is associate principals and principals handle teacher evaluations with increased demands coming on the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which will be the new state online test that will replace the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination. Board member Les Bieneman urged the board to investigate other options before hiring an associate principal for next year. Bieneman said one option the board could consider would be hiring an independent person or company to complete the teacher evaluations.

"That way we can avoid having to hire another administrator," Bieneman said. "I will have to be convinced those other options are not better before I vote for hiring another administrator."

Dan Keyser, the district's director of curriculum and instruction, said that having a reading specialist is required by law and he supports keeping local administrators in the classroom to evaluate teachers.

"My main concern if we contract someone to evaluate teachers is where is the feedback from the administrators," Keyser said. "They still have to be in the classroom and be the instructional leader because that is what we hired them for."

A new teacher evaluation, Educator Effectiveness System, will require an enormous amount of time, Hirsbrunner said. According to the Effectiveness Project, an evaluation system for a continuing teacher will take an average of 8.5 to 9.5 hours per teacher. The evaluation based on the same study indicated it would take 9.5 to 10.5 hours for the evaluation of each new teacher and it would take an average of 11.5 to 12.5 hours in the evaluation of a teacher who needs improvement.

Every other Badger Conference school other than Portage has a principal and associate principal. Portage has a similar structure to Monroe with one principal and an associate principal, which is full-time and doesn't have any other job duties. DeForest has a principal and two associate principals.

Teachers in the district are evaluated at least twice a year during their first through third years and every other year in the fourth year and beyond unless there is a need to evaluate more.

Another administrative need is at principal. Wheeler announced in December that she would retire at the end of this school year. Wheeler has been an educator in Monroe for 36 years including nine years as middle school principal and 27 years as a special education teacher at Monroe High School.

"I have been contacted by some people who have applied and not applied for the principal position at the middle school and some of them are not applying because they are concerned about being at a building of that size with just one administrator," Hirsbrunner said of the middle school.