Elementary principal axed in North Warren's reorganization plan

CHESTERTOWN North Warren Central School officials are continuing to execute a reorganization plan that eliminates several positions including the elementary principal post by the end of the 2008-2009 school year. Abolishing the elementary principal post, a decision school officials said this week was made to save on personnel expenses, is not without controversy, however. The post has been held for six years by Susan Bulmer, who has been praised for her performance by parents and teachers alike. This is very upsetting, Margaret Terry of Friends Lake said Monday. Susan Bulmer is phenomenal, and shes always taken care of various problems immediately as they have occurred. Terry has two children enrolled in North Warren. North Warren faculty members will be meeting Nov. 24 with Superintendent Joseph Murphy, and on the agenda is planning how to redistribute Bulmers responsibilities among other administrators. Murphy said Monday about how that might occur. Current Junior-Senior High School Principal Theresa Andrew would take over day-to-day operations of the elementary school as well as the high school, and take care of the discipline duties, Murphy said. Murphy would take over the annual teacher performance reviews and classroom observations, he said. Murphy along with Michele French, director of student services, would take over supervision of curriculum, he said. Were reorganizing so everything is covered, Murphy said. Also eliminated in the cost-saving downsizing will be one of two business teacher positions. Losing her job will be the business teacher with the least tenure, Mary Hilliard, who has taught in North Warren for four years. Also to be eliminated is one of five reading teachers. Losing her position will be Nicole Rushlow, who is in her third year of teaching at North Warren High. The elimination of the teaching positions will not decrease class offerings, Murphy said. Murphy said the school board and administration made the downsizing decisions based on sinking enrollment. The number of students enrolled in North Warren Central has declined from about 670 in 1995 to about 600 this year, school records indicate. Elimination of the elementary principal post will save the school district more than $100,000 in pay and benefits, according to school officials, who said Bulmers base pay is somewhat more than $80,000. Abolishing the two teaching positions will save the district about $120,000 annually, according to school records. The three positions will be eliminated as of June 30. The school reorganization includes grouping teachers into four teams of primary grades, level three through five, middle school grades, and high school level, to better coordinate curriculum transition and teaching methodology, Murphy said. But although the faculty teamwork might be a good idea, the elimination of Bulmers post would likely hinder progress at the school, Terry said. With the prevailing discipline issues, North Warren needs someone close to the elementary level to take care of problems effectively, Terry said. Its too much for one principal to handle 600 students in all the grades at once. But Murphy disagreed. He said that eliminating the principal post wouldnt diminish administrative effectiveness. Its a matter of adjusting to the financial times theres no question we can do the job thats needed, he said. Were ready to defend the actions were taking. Terry said that few parents in the district know of the elimination of the school positions, as there has been no publicity on the issue, and few parents are attending school board meetings. This has been kept under wraps, she said. No one has written about this, and I was at the last school board meeting, and there were only two parents there Im outraged. For 2008, North Warren Central was ranked high academically in Capital District Business Reviews annual school survey No. 22 of 85 schools in the Capital Region. Terry said shed moved up to Chestertown six years ago from the highly ranked Bethlehem Central School District because of the small class sizes and the individualized attention her children would likely receive at North Warren. She said she was concerned that North Warrens program might suffer with the downsizing actions. There were 13 students per classroom when we first moved here, but North Warren is now consolidating classes. Murphy countered that regardless of several class consolidations, classes were ranging from 12 to 20 pupils, with an average size of about 17, a small size when compared to other school systems across the state. But Terry said she was concerned that continued reductions in the budget and personnel would be detrimental to the students education. North Warren seems to be chipping away at the programs a little at a time, she said. Enough is enough.

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