Responding to a request for help from principals, Burbank Unified officials agreed to fund full-time curriculum specialists at three elementary schools during the next school year.

Before the district weathered significant cuts, curriculum specialists assisted principals, provided instructional support to teachers and oversaw English language learners.

At the start of this current school year, Burbank Unified only had six such positions, and only one — at Jefferson Elementary — was full time.

With an expected increase in state funding, school board members and district administrators sought input on how to spend state dollars. That resulted in a request from principals at Bret Harte Elementary, Roosevelt Elementary and Joaquin Miller Elementary for the full-time specialists.

The three principals, who each have a part-time specialist but no assistant principal, work at some of the largest elementary schools in the district.

According to state data from 2012-13, Joaquin Miller reported about 725 students followed by Bret Harte’s 640 and Roosevelt’s 580.

With approval by the school board last week, the three schools will gain a second half-time specialist for the remainder of this school year. Next school year, the schools will each employ a single, full-time specialist next year at a total cost of $135,000 per year, a figure that includes salary and benefits.

“This is a demonstrated need position that needs to be addressed,” said school board member Roberta Reynolds.

Joaquin Miller Principal Judy Hession said the role will be even more critical next year as the district fully implements the new Common Core State Standards.

“My hope is that we’ll be able to get curriculum specialists at every school,” she said. “That is the goal down the line.”

Bret Harte Principal Sheari Taylor, who took the helm of the school in 2008, said the school has done its best to remain successful with less help than needed.

“I’m very grateful to have a board and superintendent who would see the needs,” she said.

“With a half-time person, it’s been a little challenging to do the monitoring and follow through to determine…which interventions are working the best,” she said.

Roosevelt Principal Jennifer Meglemre said the specialist would be available to step-in whenever she was off campus.

Although school officials will address creating full-time positions at the seven remaining elementary school sites at a later date, school board member Larry Applebaum questioned providing initial help to schools with greater populations when smaller schools have pressing needs as well.

He used Providencia Elementary as an example, which has fewer students — about 400 — but with 29% of the population made up of English learners, according to state data.

“We have [English language learners] and populations that need help in even our smallest schools, and that’s why this is, for me, an issue,” he said. Applebaum was the sole no vote against the proposal.

Of Joaquin Miller’s 725 students, 44% were English learners in 2012-13 while 14% of Bret Harte’s 640 students were and 9% of Roosevelt’s 580 students were also learning English.

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Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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