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Community experts rule to be signed by governor

The governor could sign off — as early as today — on allowing community experts to temporarily fill vacant teaching positions.

The state Education Standards and Practices Board on Thursday approved an amended emergency administrative rule, which Gov. Jack Dalrymple plans to sign.

The changes, recommended by the governor, include tightening some of the standards.

Dalrymple was expected to sign it as soon as today, said his spokesman, Jeff Zent. 

“It gives the Education Standards and Practice Board more flexibility to work with school districts challenged by a lack of teacher applicants,” Zent said. “We view it as a pilot project.”

Janet Welk, executive director of the Education Standards and Practices Board, said the changes were approved by a 5-3 vote.

“It was all the changes plus one,” Welk said.

Under the proposed rule, it would allow community members to teach in their areas of expertise for up to one year in non-core areas, including health and physical education classes. Music and art classes were struck from the language.

“The music and art are considered core areas by No Child Left Behind,” Welk said.

<h3>Other changes 

• Salaries for community experts must be comparable to a first-year teacher’s salary.

• Community experts aren’t eligible for pensions.

• Experts must meet regularly with a school district-employed mentor.

• After the 2016 school year, the board will prepare a report on the program with recommendations from state education groups.

Nick Archuleta, president of North Dakota United, said the organization, which represents thousands of teachers across the state, maintains its opposition to the rule.

“The language that is in the final product is exponentially better language than when it started,” he said. “(But) a teacher needs to have more than content knowledge.”

The rule doesn’t address the long-term problem of teacher shortages, Archuleta said.

“North Dakota United remains absolutely steadfast in developing a long-term solution on the teacher-shortage issue,” said Archuleta, pointing out that a long-term solution must be based on data gathered from across the state.

Earlier this month, North Dakota Department of Public Instruction gathered data that revealed 129 of the state’s 179 school districts show a combined shortage of 72 elementary positions and 102 middle school and high school positions.

Aimee Copas, executive director of the North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders, said that number probably hasn’t changed much. The group did a 24-hour survey of administrators statewide last week, receiving responses from 54 percent of districts.

“As of Aug. 18, with 99 of 183 districts reporting, our survey shows 88 openings. Most of the districts who reported numbers at the beginning of the month have not shown improvement," said Copas, who added that she expects the actual number to be higher.

Copas said the difference between this year and last year is there was a pool of applicants to choose from before the school year started. She said that’s not the case this year.

“It’s really a challenging situation this year,” Copas said. “Even 88 is unacceptable. This is not good for the kiddos.”

(Reach Nick Smith at 701-250-8255 or 701-223-8482 or at nick.smith@bismarcktribune.com.)

“It gives the Education Standards and Practice Board more flexibility to work with school districts challenged by a lack of teacher applicants. We view it as a pilot project.”

-- Jeff Zent, spokesman for Gov. Jack Dalrymple

Jeff Zent

“It’s really a challenging situation this year. Even 88 (unfilled positions) is unacceptable. This is not good for the kiddos.”

-- Aimee Copas, executive director of the North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders

Aimee Copas
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