May 21, 2001 11:00 pm

By Gary Fletcher

Observer Staff Writer

ENTERPRISE Three elementary teachers will not be hired back in the Joseph School District next year, primarily because of declining enrollment, Superintendent Kenneth Lehman said. Only 25 certified positions will be filled in the district.

The positions cut were one of the teaching positions in the Imnaha School, which has grades kindergarten through eight, and two positions in Joseph Elementary School, which has grades K-4, Lehman said.

A Title I reading and math enhancement position was eliminated, as was a position in grades K-2. This year there were 3.5 teachers for those three grades. Next year there will be 2.5 teachers.

The cuts were based on seniority. The three teachers have been


In 1997, when Lehman came to Joseph, there were 420 students in the district. Enrollment since then has declined to 301 students, he said.

The district was able to avoid laying off teachers until now, because of the retirement of three teachers in the past two years.

Four teachers are eligible for retirement, but Lehman has had no indication that any of them plan to retire.

Lehman is retiring June 1, about a month before he turns 67.

He has been around schools since he started first grade in 1940, he said.

He admits to being a little nervous about the loss of structure and the upcoming change. However, he and his wife, Patricia, a retired teacher, are looking into a new challenge.

The Lehmans are considering entering the Rotary International volunteer program this fall. Two projects in which they may become involved are creating a university in northern Thailand or building houses for the needy in Fiji. The Lehmans plan to keep their home in Joseph.

Lehman will be succeeded as superintendent July 1 by Richard Graham of Electric City, Wash.

Graham will inherit a $2,531,700 district spending plan approved earlier this month by the budget committee. That is $81,000 less than the 2000-01 budget.

Grahams predecessor, though, sees some good news for next year.

While this years kindergarten class was 11 students, 19 turned out for the recent Kindergarten Round-Up.