Bethlehem Press

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PRESS PHOTO BY DOUGLAS GRAVES PRESS PHOTO BY DOUGLAS GRAVES "We have kept our commitment to people we furloughed," says BASD Human Resources Director Russell Giordano.

Some district furloughed staff will soon be rehired

Wednesday, August 22, 2012 by DOUGLAS GRAVES Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

"We're back in the hiring business – to some degree," said Bethlehem Area School District Human Resources Director Russell Giordano, speaking at the school board's Human Resources Committee meeting Aug. 6.

Giordano was describing how the district is bringing back some of the teachers that it fired or "furloughed" after last year's budget cuts.

"We have kept our commitment to people we furloughed," said Giordano. He said four or five teacher assistants "may be coming back." He said the current budget provides funding for all the teachers and staff that the district plans to hire.

The district also is bringing in some new hires due to retirements and other reasons.

Assistant Superintendent for Education and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Jack Silva announced the finalization of a long-planned joint BASD and Lehigh University (LU) program called Project Ramp Up, that will be completely funded by Lehigh.

"Ramp-Up is an intense reading skills program for kids to help them catch up," Silva explained.

He said Dr. Mary Beth Calhoon, an associate professor of special education at Lehigh University, heads the study, part of regional effort to improve reading ability for students with reading disabilities. Calhoon will direct the study or program in 10 middle schools across four urban and suburban school districts in northeastern Pennsylvania.

BASD staff will recommend sixth-grade students based on their fifth-grade Pa. State System of Assessment scores. Students scoring below the 20th percentile or Below Basic and previously identified with reading disability will be candidates for participation in the study.

According to Silva, the program will affect 40 to 50 sixth-graders in North East MS, Broughal MS and possibly Nitschmann MS.

Calhoon, writing on the Lehigh University website, said, "Eligible participants will represent a range of racial, ethnic, gender and socioeconomic backgrounds."

The program, according to Silva, speaking to the Curriculum Committee back in January, will help middle school special education students with phonetics, spelling and comprehension.

The program pairs a Lehigh teacher with a BASD teacher in the classroom. Silva said the grant can fund the program for four years.