Teacher asks city for help with reading tutoring program

........................................................................................................................................................................................

A local teacher requested the city’s support for a new reading tutor program during the Oct. 7 regular Socorro City Council meeting.

Kim Schaffer, who has been teaching in Socorro about 18 years — the past six at Cottonwood Elementary School, was this year appointed as a reading specialist for students from kindergarten through third grade. She explained her job entails helping students in those grades who struggle with reading.

Schaffer said in looking for ideas to help struggling readers, she was inspired by a project called Albuquerque Reads sponsored by the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce. She explained Albuquerque business people volunteer half an hour to an hour a week to help students learning to read, reading with them or doing a tutoring program.

Schaffer said she thought it a good idea to try the program in Socorro with city employees, giving them half an hour or an hour a week to tutor or just listen to students read. If that works well, she said the program could expand to the business community. She said if it works really well, she would like to see it expand to the other schools in the district also.

Schaffer said Cottonwood already has some retired teachers and other community members coming in to help with about 19 students kindergarten through third, but some fourth- and fifth-graders need help also.

City Clerk Pat Salome said the idea sounds good, as long as the time devoted to tutoring is kept within prescribed limits — the city doesn’t want to pay its employees to be teachers rather than to do their regular jobs.

Schaffer said the retired teachers and other volunteers have been coming in for six weeks to help the at-risk students. She said testing has shown that all of the students in the program have made some gains over the six weeks.

Mayor Ravi Bhasker said the city should develop a request sheet and put it in with employees’ checks.

Salome suggested Schaffer come in and explain the program to employees. She agreed, adding there is also some training required, plus a background check. Socorro Police Department Chief George Van Winkle said SPD can complete the background checks.

In other business, the Socorro City Council:

• Held the second reading of the ordinance to sell 7.8 acres to Durkin Diesel Specialty LLC, but no audience members offered public comment. Salome said the city sold a portion of the Cal West property to Durkin a few months ago. The city had originally purchased the property to build a transfer station and still owns 30 acres.

• Approved Housing and Urban Development requirements for Community Development Block Grant eligibility, including the citizen participation plan, Section 3 plan, fair housing plan and residential anti-displacement and relocation assistance plan. Salome said the CDBG requirements should be approved by the council annually, although the last were approved in August 2012.

• Approved a budget adjustment for the city’s fiber optic department of $37,673 for the information technology director’s salary and benefits.

• Approved a budget adjustment to allow for a $40,000 community transformation grant award.