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APS shifting specialists to classrooms

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As part of a continuing effort to cut costs, Albuquerque Public Schools is reorganizing two programs and sending a number of curriculum specialists back into the classroom.

Antonio Gonzales, interim associate superintendent for human resources, told the Journal he does not anticipate layoffs, and the programs – computer technician services and home hospital instructional services – should continue to operate at the same level.

The changes will save at least $2.5 million, Gonzales said, though administrators will have a better idea of the amount once enrollment numbers and staffing needs are finalized during the next school year.

In total, 28 resource teachers will be moved, part of a larger reassignment of 249 school employees, including a variety of teachers and counselors.

Gonzales said it is not unusual to reassign this number of staff – the district’s needs shift as people retire or take new jobs – but it is notable to place resource teachers back in the classroom.

Resource teachers offer curriculum support, rather than typical classroom instruction, so their role will change.

The moves will save money, because APS will be able to reduce its total workforce through attrition.

Home hospital instruction

Four of the reassigned teachers currently work for home hospital instruction services, which provides tutoring for kids who must leave school for an extended period for medical reasons.

Under the new plan, one coordinator will manage the program, and students will be able to connect to their classrooms through Skype, reducing the need for direct tutoring, Gonzales said.

“We are enhancing technology,” he said. “They actually see the instruction that the teacher is delivering live, so they are able to really, from their home, from the hospital, from their treatment center, able to … get that direct instruction and then get follow-up using email.”

During the current school year, roughly 90 students were enrolled in home hospital instruction services, which is available for up to eight weeks.

Computer technician services

Under the restructuring, computer techs will rotate through several schools, rather than serving one school.

At the end of April, 32 techs were given pink slips but invited to apply for 40 positions in the reorganized program.

Techs who don’t receive one of those jobs could become educational assistants, who have the same pay grade.

“We are very hopeful that all of them will be placed in a position, and we have already begun to place some of these 32 individuals,” Gonzales said.

Thirty-one schools will continue to have a tech on-site to help maintain equipment, such as computers, printers, copiers and interactive whiteboards.

“In addition to the district support that is going to be rolled out in this reorganization of technology, the 31 schools chose to keep their (tech) based on their ability to fund that position for an additional year,” Gonzales said.

APS administrators are working to develop a budget that cuts at least $13 million – losses from a combination of enrollment drops and higher expenses.

Spokeswoman Johanna King confirmed that the Board of Education will vote on the budget May 22 – two days before lawmakers return for a special session.

APS administrators have speculated that K-12 education might be cut again during the session, but King said the board doesn’t have time to wait.

The APS budget must be submitted to the New Mexico Public Education Department in early June.