Questions
1)  Why are your administrative costs so high?
2)  Why not have all the teachers paid by incentive so if their students get better grades on tests they would be paid more?
3)  Have you considered requiring teachers who get paid salaries equal to or higher than other professionals to work 12 months out of the year?
4)  Why don’t you eliminate “teacher work days” to increase the number of days students are in school?
5)  How much are teachers paid?
6)  Why does the district keep putting more and more into administration?
7)  What are vocational teachers? Where do these teachers teach? What classes?
8)  What is “staff development” and what does it mean to kids in the classroom?
9)  Why do we need principals, assistant principals and so much miscellaneous administrative staffing at each school?
10)  Why doesn't the district use volunteers to coach and to help out in the schools?
11)  Could parent volunteers supplement the need for paraprofessionals?
12)  Why did you add 1,500 new employees between 2002 and 2005?
13)  Why did the district have over 300 more teachers in 2005 than it did in 2002 when the district had fewer students in 2005 than it did in 2002?
14)  According to your figures, the district hired more than the 100 new teachers funded by the 2002 levy. Who gave the district authority to do that?
15)  What are teachers on special assignment (TOSAs) and why does the district use them? Why aren’t they assigned to classrooms?
16)  How much are TOSAs paid?
17)  How are instructional coaches funded and why aren’t they used to reduce class sizes?
18)  I've heard that staff will be laid off if the levy does not pass. The rumor was if you have 18 years or less, you will be pink slipped. Is that true?
19)  Can administrators come in and teach or do other tasks to save costs?
 
Answers
1)  Q Why are your administrative costs so high?
A
The district's administrative costs per student are among the lowest in the entire state. Administrative expenditures in our district represent approximately three percent of the total budget. The district is the second-largest employer in Anoka County. It is necessary to have a certain level of administrative management and supervision in the schools and for central services provided to schools.
2)  Q Why not have all the teachers paid by incentive so if their students get better grades on tests they would be paid more?
A
The district has studied alternative pay systems that include teacher performance, including the state's QComp program. QComp is a negotiated pay system with the teachers' union. To date, an agreement between the teachers' union and the school district has not been reached. Relying on test scores alone would not be a valid test of teacher performance because many factors could have an impact on scores. For example, the composition of teachers' classes varies greatly. Some classes have many more students than others; and others may have several students with particular needs that may impact their test scores and grades. The variety of students and their needs makes it difficult to quantify a measurement system that would be fair to all teachers.
3)  Q Have you considered requiring teachers who get paid salaries equal to or higher than other professionals to work 12 months out of the year?
A
Direct salary comparisons with professionals who have comparable responsibilities, educational attainment and years of service are difficult to make. Currently, teachers' pay is based on 187 duty days, which include regular school days as well as days for parent-teacher conferences, grading, planning and staff development. At this time the district is not considering a year-round schedule. In the early 1990's the district studied the possibility of a year-round schedule and found that the vast majority of parents did not want it.
4)  Q Why don’t you eliminate “teacher work days” to increase the number of days students are in school?
A
Teachers are required to work 187 days, 174 of those days are "student contact days." This is a negotiated part of the teacher's contract. Days that teachers are not with students are reserved for staff development and staff planning. Days off after the quarter (planning days) are used to prepare grades and to get ready for the next quarter. Teachers spend nearly all of their time during the school day teaching, which leaves little time for this kind of preparation. (Many teachers would say that in addition to staff planning days, they do a lot of their lesson planning, correcting and grading at home on their own time.) Staff development is required by state law. The district must spend a portion of its state aid on staff development activities. In addition, the demands on teachers have increased dramatically with No Child Left Behind and with new state academic standards. District staff development days are needed to ensure teachers and other employees are prepared to address student needs and to focus on specific curriculum issues. In addition, the district provides a two-week voluntary summer learning program so teachers can get additional training outside the school year.
5)  Q How much are teachers paid?
A
A beginning teacher with a bachelor degree is paid $35,962. The top salary for a teacher with a Masters' degree plus 60 additional credits and at least 23 years of experience is $74,984.
6)  Q Why does the district keep putting more and more into administration?
A
The percentage of general fund dollars spent on school level and central administration is decreasing rather than increasing. The following figures on administrative spending are provided by the district's auditors:
  • 1996-97: 4.68 percent
  • 1997-98: 4.45 percent
  • 1998-99: 4.17 percent
  • 1999-00: 3.87 percent
  • 2000-01: 3.84 percent
  • 2001-02: 3.21 percent
  • 2002-03: 3.65 percent
  • 2003-04: 3.55 percent
  • 2004-05: 3.53 percent
  • 2005-06: 3.49 percent
Anoka-Hennepin spends less on administration than the average school district in Minnesota and most districts in the metro area.

7)  Q What are vocational teachers? Where do these teachers teach? What classes?
A
Vocational teachers teach at the high school level in a variety of courses that focus on college and career development. These courses include accounting, business law, computer applications, marketing/management, sales/advertising, child development/parenting, clothing, foods and nutrition, medical careers, horticulture, advanced automotive, construction trades, child care occupations, food service occupations, and more. Some of these courses would be eliminated if some vocational teacher positions were cut. Students would have to choose other courses.
8)  Q What is “staff development” and what does it mean to kids in the classroom?
A
Staff development is primarily teacher training. Teachers receive ongoing training in a variety of areas. Here are a few:
  • to learn how to use technology and new software effectively
  • to learn new techniques for teaching reading, mathematics, science and other areas
  • to learn new curriculum more effectively
  • to learn how to work more effectively with students who have specific kinds of special educational needs
Current state law requires school districts to spend two percent of their basic aid dollars on staff development. In Anoka-Hennepin this is approximately $5 million.

9)  Q Why do we need principals, assistant principals and so much miscellaneous administrative staffing at each school?
A
Most Anoka-Hennepin schools have considerably larger enrollments than schools in other districts. Three of our five high schools, for example, have more than 3,000 students each. With more students comes the need for more staff to deal with disciplinary issues and other student needs that require the attention of an administrator. Scheduling, budgeting, staffing and other tasks are also more complex in larger schools, thus requiring more assistants to complete the work. There is no "miscellaneous" administrative staffing; every school administrator has specific responsibilities. In high schools, each assistant principal is responsible for a specific group of students. They also have responsibilities such as serving as liaisons with student groups and managing day-to-day student and staff concerns.
10)  Q Why doesn't the district use volunteers to coach and to help out in the schools?
A
The district makes extensive use of volunteers and is always recruiting more volunteers. Our schools have part-time volunteer service coordinators who recruit volunteers and match them with volunteer assignments. We currently have more than 9,383 active volunteers. Last year our schools logged 176,418 hours of volunteer time. It is likely additional hours were served but not recorded. The value of volunteer time last year is estimated at $3,184,354. Volunteers help with clerical tasks, assist with Talent Development activities, coach sports and academic competitions such as Destination Imagination, chaperone students on field trips and much more. Persons interested in volunteering may contact Sue Archbold, 763-506-1585.
11)  Q Could parent volunteers supplement the need for paraprofessionals?
A
The Anoka-Hennepin School District currently has more than 9,000 parents and other citizens who volunteer on a regular basis. While we would like to see this number go up, with so many parents in the workforce, it is difficult to see that we could expand that number significantly. Paraprofessionals are needed to perform their jobs every day. We cannot rely on volunteers to be available every day.
12)  Q Why did you add 1,500 new employees between 2002 and 2005?
A
A comparison between 2002 and 2005 shows an increase of 412 total employees districtwide, including the Community Education Department. The majority of these employees are teachers and paraprofessionals. One hundred teaching positions were added to reinstate positions cut prior 2002. In November 2002, citizens approved two referendum levy questions, including one that specifically funded reinstatement of 100 teaching positions. These positions were used for priorities identified by the School Board after public input: reducing class size at the middle school level, reducing the number of large elementary classes, increasing the number of talent development teachers to provide additional challenge for elementary students, and increasing the number of advanced courses at the high school level.
13)  Q Why did the district have over 300 more teachers in 2005 than it did in 2002 when the district had fewer students in 2005 than it did in 2002?
A
Student enrollment was larger in 2005 than it was in 2002, not smaller. The Pre K-12 enrollment total Oct. 1, 2002 was 41,509; and on Oct. 1, 2005 it was 41,741. If preschool special education is excluded, the K-12 enrollment was 39,836 in 2002 and 40,104 in 2005 (excluding high school students who take evening classes). When more students enroll, the district needs more teachers. In addition, the percentage of students with a variety of special needs is increasing and more teachers are needed to provide specialized education for them.
14)  Q According to your figures, the district hired more than the 100 new teachers funded by the 2002 levy. Who gave the district authority to do that?
A
If the district has revenue to hire additional teachers it may do so without voter approval. The district hires additional teachers to meet the changing needs of the student population. The number of students requiring special education services increased between 2002 and 2005. The count for 2003 was 4,281, and for 2005 it was 4,911. The percentage of students who qualify for free/reduced cost meals, the indicator of poverty used by schools in the United States, increased from 17.45 percent in 2002 to 20.37 percent in 2005. In addition, the percentage of students who are English language learners increased from 4.04 percent in 2002 to 6.11 percent in 2005. In all of these cases, more teachers are required to meet the needs of the students. The district receives some additional revenue from the state to pay for these additional teachers.
15)  Q What are teachers on special assignment (TOSAs) and why does the district use them? Why aren’t they assigned to classrooms?
A

The district had 155 full- and part-time teachers (130 full-time equivalent) working on special assignment in the 2006-07 school year. This represents approximately four percent of the total teacher group. TOSAs are licensed teaching positions included in the teacher's bargaining unit.

TOSA is a common staffing model in many school districts to utilize in-house experts instead of consultants or additional district-level administration. These assignments allow the district to provide educational support to students and teachers in the areas of curriculum, assessment and instruction. They provide flexibility to complete needed tasks in a cost effective manner.

Most TOSAs work in the following areas:

  • Special Education (13 TOSAs) - Student needs vary widely in Special Education. These TOSAs work directly with students and with teachers. A sampling of their assignments includes: specialists in behavior intervention, autism and assistive technology.
  • Talent Development Teachers (10.5 TOSAs) - These teachers meet the needs of high-achieving students by working directly with elementary and middle school students to provide on-going challenge and rigor.
  • Teaching and Learning Specialists (TALS) (19 TOSAs) - These teachers are the district's curriculum experts. They guide the curriculum study process and the materials adoption process. They work with teachers to write, research and revise curriculum. They organize and lead districtwide staff development programs and provide direct support to classroom teachers. In a district with more than 2,500 teachers, there is a need to have central leadership on curriculum. TALS are concentrated in math, language arts and science. The teachers' union has requested on behalf of its membership, a full-time TALS position for the district's secondary social studies curriculum. This position was not approved for the 2007-08 budget. TOSAs who work as Teaching and Learning Specialists are assigned as follows:
  • Elementary Curriculum: 4.5 TOSAs
  • Secondary Curriculum: 5 TOSAs
  • Student Services, English as a Second Language: 2 TOSAs
  • Student Services, Achievement Gap: 2.67 TOSAs (These teachers identify best practices for working with at-risk students and ensure that a full range of resources and strategies are used to address the needs of these students.)
  • Special Education: 2 TOSAs
  • Supplemental Services: 3 TOSAs (These teachers manage programs and train staff in initiatives funded through state and federal law such as Title I.)
  • Instructional Coaches (11.5 TOSAs in elementary, 9 TOSAs in secondary) - These teachers provide staff development by supporting classroom teachers on specific skills or in specific areas of the curriculum. Anoka-Hennepin's coaching model is based on nationally recognized staff development programs and uses federal funds for staff development. The benefit of this staff development program is that coaches are flexible to the needs of each teacher or school, and they can accommodate teachers' schedules. Working with a coach does not take a teacher out of the classroom for a day. These dollars cannot be used to pay for regular classroom teaching positions to lower class size.  The funds must be used to improve the quality of instruction delivered by staff.  The purpose of the funding for the coaching positions is to support efforts for the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) initiative and to assist schools in making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).
  • Analysts (9 TOSAs) - These teachers focus on analyzing and interpreting student achievement data to identify gaps in student performance and provide information to teachers to impact instruction.
  • Technology Coordinators (20 TOSAs) - Technology Coordinators are based in schools and work directly with students and with teachers to integrate technology with learning. They also provide general support for information technology in their schools.
  • Technology Facilitators (5 TOSAs) -Technology Facilitators manage broad technology issues for a group of schools and support technology coordinators. They also act as liaisons among their schools and the district office on matters of technology.
  • Administrative Interns (10 TOSAs) - Teachers who are gaining experience in school-level administration.

There are various other positions in the Teacher on Special Assignment category such as the district's lead nurse, lead media specialist, youth service coordinators (who work in a high school to match students with service opportunities), teachers who mentor new teachers, and curriculum integrators who manage curriculum in the district's specialty schools.

Funding for a number of these positions comes from special sources including: magnet program grant, integration aid, basic skills grant, crime levy, federal Title funds, Reading First grant, career and technical education levy, vocational handicap funds, and staff development. In some cases, these funds cannot be used for regular classroom teachers. Cost of salary and benefits for all TOSA positions is approximately $8.5 million. TOSA salaries are included with all teacher salaries in the budget.

16)  Q How much are TOSAs paid?
A
Teachers on special assignment are teachers and paid according to the teachers' salary schedule; they earn increases in their salaries based on years of service and education. Their salaries vary depending on these two factors. The teachers' contract is available in the Employee Services section of the district Web site (from the home page, click on District Departments).
17)  Q How are instructional coaches funded and why aren’t they used to reduce class sizes?
A
Anoka-Hennepin's instructional coaching model is based on nationally recognized staff development programs and uses federal funds for staff development. These dollars cannot be used to pay for regular classroom teaching positions to lower class size. The funds must be used to improve the quality of instruction delivered by staff. The purpose of the funding for the coaching positions is to support efforts for the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) initiative and to assist schools in making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).
18)  Q I've heard that staff will be laid off if the levy does not pass. The rumor was if you have 18 years or less, you will be pink slipped. Is that true?
A
Many positions will be cut if levy questions one and two are not approved. At this time it appears that just over 500 teaching positions and 300 other positions will be eliminated. Many factors will have to be considered in determining which positions will be cut. The rumor that staff with 18 years or less experience is just that - a rumor. If these cuts become necessary, the district will follow contract language and state statute regarding reduction in force. Decisions will be made first about which specific programs and services will be maintained and which will be reduced or eliminated. Then, decisions about which teachers will be retained will be based on seniority and licensure. Staff will be kept informed about the process.
19)  Q Can administrators come in and teach or do other tasks to save costs?
A
Administrators occasionally do cover teaching assignments when other staff are unavailable, however, administrators have many, many duties as well. In addition, the quality of education and student safety relies on consistency in instruction, supervision and coordination of programming. Teachers and administrators support students in different, but essential ways.