As the school year winds down, Talkeetna Elementary School is preparing to bid two long-time teachers farewell. Karen Mannix has been with the school district for about twenty-five years and teaches physical education. Jeanne Ickes (ICK-iss) has been with the district for twenty years and received a BP Teachers of Excellence award in 2006. Both are retiring, and Principal Carol Wadman says they will be greatly missed by students and staff.
Principal Wadman says that, until recently, there was concern that the school district would not be able to fully fund the positions that are being vacated.
“For awhile, it looked like we were going to have to share a teacher with P.E. [and] music, and it meant that we’d have a part-time teacher in a classroom, or do more combining of classrooms.”
After a school district staffing meeting on Thursday, however, Principal Wadman says that the situation has changed, and the teaching positions will stay as they currently are.
“We will have our [half-time] P.E. teacher and our [half-time] music teacher back again next year…that is what we’ve had this last year, so that is great…We’ll also be replacing one teacher retiring this year–replace that classroom position–with a full-time teacher.”
The reason for the earlier uncertainty was that the state legislature was still wrangling over what to do with education funding. Both the Senate and House drafted plans to increase education funding, but used different methods. The debate caused the legislative session to run long, meaning that districts had to wait to find out how much funding is on the way. Eventually, though, Principal Wadman says that they came up with a solution that will help. It still requires continued buy-in from the borough, however.
“The legislature, at the end, came through. We always have to wait until the very end, but they’ve done some forward funding, so I think next year we won’t have so much tribulation there before the end of the year–that they’ll be able to set the budget at the school district sooner, so people can be re-hired. Hopefully, then, if the borough keeps up with their 3% [funding increase]…we’ll be in good shape.”
Not all of the funding is permanent, but Principal Wadman says it does allow for a few years of stability. For now, she says that Talkeetna Elementary’s organizational structure will remain the same, with combined third and fourth and fifth and sixth grade classes.