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Test coordinators will be new members of the faculty in the Pulaski County Special School District in the upcoming 2019-20 school year.

The school board for the 12,000-student district voted Tuesday night to establish the five test coordinator positions -- at least partly in response to Act 190 of 2019 that is intended to reduce administrative duties commonly assigned to school counselors.

The five test coordinators are among 11 new positions approved by the Pulaski Special board. The other positions included a new assistant principal for the rapidly growing Sylvan Hills Middle School, as well as a new English as a Second Language teacher, a behavior interventionist and three early childhood education teachers.

The new positions come at a time when the district is eliminating other state-licensed positions in the district -- including teaching positions-- because of declines in student enrollment and budget reductions.

Superintendent Charles McNulty said after the meeting that the district's employee numbers will be fewer in the coming year than this year's number -- despite the newly approved jobs.

"Testing has become a year-round task," La Juana Green, the district's director of counseling services, wrote to district leaders in requesting the test coordinator positions. "Effective testing requires careful planning and collaboration. Counselors spend an enormous amount of time completing data entry, coordinating test schedules and monitoring testing," she wrote.

Green also said that testing duties tend to overtake other duties for school counselors, such as advising students on course selections and graduation preparations.

The School Counseling Improvement Act of 2019 calls for school counselors to spend at least 90 percent of their working hours on student contact days providing direct and indirect services to students. That is up from 75 percent of requirement in a 1991 law.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson was an advocate earlier this year for requiring more face-to-face time between students and counselors as a way to begin to help students who need attention because of abuse, neglect and other mental health concerns.

The governor's School Safety Commission, appointed in 2018 to explore and make comprehensive recommendations for reducing the potential for violence in schools, had proposed more direct counselor services to students.

Shawn Burgess, who will become the Pulaski Special district's assistant superintendent for human resources on July 1, told the School Board that the district has most recently hired temporary employees on an as-needed basis to help with the testing duties.

Burgess, now director of certified staffing, will replace Paul Brewer, who is the interim executive director of human resources. Brewer is retiring after 48 years in education.

Besides the annual state-required ACT Aspire exams in the spring of each year, students in the Pulaski Special district and in many other districts also take interim tests three or four times a year to determine their readiness for the Aspire exams. Additionally high school students take Advanced Placement and college entrance exams that require planning by high school staff members.

Act 190 was sponsored by Sen. Breanne Davis, R-Russellville, and Rep. DeAnn Vaught, R-Horatio.

After acting on the allocations of state licensed staff at Tuesday's meeting, School Board members will consider changes in non-licensed support staff job assignments -- including possible new or reconfigured positions -- at its June meeting, McNulty said.

Metro on 05/15/2019

Print Headline: Test coordinators to join county district's faculty

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