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Additional special education program to be added at CCS PDF Print E-mail

Administrators uncertain

on number of elementary

teachers needed next year

By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican

    A new high needs program will be implemented for K-12 special education students next year.
    Chase County school board members approved the additional program on an 8-0 vote at their May 12 meeting.
    While the board took action on that item this month, they are taking additional time to decide elementary teacher numbers for the 2009-2010 school year.  
    Those were just two items at a lengthy, three-hour meeting last week, which also included further discussion on grade 7-12 teacher schedules.
High needs program
    At an estimated cost of about $50,000 to put it in place, board members voted to add a K-12 high needs program next year.
    Most of the cost would be for staffing, said Supt. Matt Fisher, but since it is a special education (SPED) program, the federal government, funneled through the state, would reimburse CCS for 65% of the costs.
    Fisher said the administrators have visited with Carol Vetter of Imperial, who is a special needs teacher with ESU #15, and she is interested in directing CCS’s new high needs program.
    She will remain an ESU employee, continuing to work with special needs preschoolers in the ESU area, as well. CCS would just contract for more of her time, Fisher said.
    The new program is needed, Fisher said, because as special needs students get older, there is an increased need for programs outside of the regular classroom.
    While the effort is made to keep the special needs students in the classroom as much as possible, less and less of the curriculum serves their needs as they get older, Fisher said. The high needs program would emphasize life skills training, along with other learning.
    Administrators expect about eight to nine students to utilize this program next year.
    While there was some discussion last month about adding a room onto the school for the new program, that wasn’t discussed at last month’s meeting.
    Administrators felt confident a room could be found in the building now with some shuffling of classrooms. 
Elementary teachers
    CCS administrators have been interviewing applicants for elementary teaching positions being vacated by retirements and resignations.
    The board may decide at their June meeting whether to hire another elementary teacher for the 2009-2010 year, one more than the current staffing.
    Part of the board’s dilemma right now is the incoming kindergarten class, and whether three sections will be needed next year. There are three kindergarten classes this year, but 2009-2010 numbers are uncertain now.
    Elementary Principal Nathan Vitosh said that 33 kindergartners this fall are certain, with another 12 as “strong possibles.” There will be four retentions in this year’s kindergarten class, and possibly six, which puts the kindergarten class close to 50 if all “possibles” decide to attend.
    If those numbers don’t materialize, one of the three kindergarten teachers could be moved and fill the need in the upper grades, without having to hire the additional teacher.
    It is the plan for this year’s third grade class, now in three sections, to remain in three sections as fourth graders, Vitosh said. There are just two fourth grade classrooms this year.
    Supt. Fisher said the state is now encouraging smaller classes, providing additional state aid to schools if its K-3 classes have between 10 and 20 students.
Teacher schedules
    Last week, the board approved the resignation from longtime industrial arts teacher Ed Fisher, who is retiring.
    Supt. Fisher informed the board that fellow industrial arts teacher Lynn Rinehart will be assuming Fisher’s building construction and drafting classes next year, so a new teacher won’t be hired to replace Fisher.   
    Noting the absorption of the industrial arts classes without losing class offerings to students, Board President Sheila Stromberger asked why that couldn’t be done with the school’s vocal music program.
    The board discussed vocal music, at length, at the April meeting and the possibility of assigning some of Dr. J. Gordon Christensen’s elementary vocal music classes, possibly grades 5-6, to Randy Hayes, who now teaches 7-12 vocal music and is a full-time staff member.   
    A contingency of parents was at the April meeting in support of replacing Dr. Christensen with another full-time teacher.
    This year, Hayes has three periods in which he is scheduled for music classes. His high school and junior high choir classes meet every day, and his third class period for high school show choir meets Mondays, Wednesdays and every other Friday.
    The rest of Hayes’ schedule shows two study halls, a planning period and two class periods where nothing is scheduled.
    Principal Sorensen said, for next year, they have included a junior high music appreciation class and a high school general music/theory class to Hayes’ schedule.
    With those additions, he would also have two study halls, Sorensen said.
    “The music appreciation and music theory classes have always been offered, haven’t they?” asked Stromberger.
    “Yes, they have,” said Sorensen, but not enough students have signed up for them.
    Sorensen said he suggested to Guidance Counselor Marcie Yaw not to put a minimum number requirement on the music theory class for next year.   
     Stromberger said it appears they were able to take two teachers (Ed Fisher and Rinehart) with a lot of study halls and combine them into one without cutting opportunities for students.
    “It appears we could have done the same thing and utilize our high school vocal music teacher fully” and hire a part-time lower elementary music teacher, she said.
    It would be more economical, Stromberger added, to move the fifth and sixth grade vocal music classes, and possibly fourth grade, to Hayes’ schedule and hire a part-time instructor for the rest of the elementary music classes.
    Board member Dirk Haarberg said he also felt the grade 5-6 music classes would be “better served” as part of Hayes’ schedule.
    Board member Todd Burpo asked what would they be cutting by adding those classes to Hayes’ schedule, adding Hayes would be the right person for it, as those students prepare for choir later on.
    Charley Colton, another board member, believes there was a misunderstanding last month that the board was going to cut the vocal music program.
    “We’re not cutting anything,” Colton said, by proposing a part-time K-4 music teacher and a full-time 5-12 vocal teacher.
    Supt. Fisher said the direction he had been given last month was to advertise for a K-6 music teacher. 
    As of last week’s meeting, the  school had five applicants for the K-6 position. Fisher said he thought one of them would be interested in part-time.
    Miranda Kahle encouraged the board not to dictate what Hayes will teach next year but discuss it more with him.
    While board member Haarberg said they try to do that with all such staffing situations, Kim Wilson, grade 7-12 science teacher, disagreed.
    She said she didn’t find out she was teaching a junior high science class last year until students were registering.   
    “We do get our schedules changed and we do get new assignments,” Wilson said.
     She said she sees no difference in her situation from what the board has been discussing with regard to the music program.
    Mrs. Kahle said she wasn’t against adding grades 5-6 to Hayes schedule, but reiterated that she felt he should be part of the discussion.
    Hayes was directing a concert that evening and was unable to attend the meeting.
Other school board business
  • Junior high wrestling will move to a fall season starting in the 2009-2010 school year. Activities Director Mark Bottom said that program, which has been in between the basketball and track seasons, will move to a late October to early December schedule.  The first game of the junior high boys’ basketball season will be affected by the new schedule and may have to be dropped. All junior highs in the SPVA are moving to the new wrestling schedule this fall.
  • Principal Mike Sorensen reviewed three proposed policy changes for the grade 7-12 student handbook next year. They deal with use of cell phones at school, changes in the percentages that determine letter grades and grievance procedures. The board will be reviewing them until the next meeting, when a vote will be taken on the changes.
  • A resignation from Monte Burrell as head junior high boys’ basketball coach was approved. As with other coaching positions from which staff have resigned, it was indicated by Supt. Fisher that if the position is not filled by another staff member or newly-hired teacher, those coaching positions may be reassigned.
  • The Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) has been approached about taking over sponsorship of junior high athletics, which are now governed loosely by the state Department of Education. Schools are being asked to express their opinions on it, said Activities Director Bottom. 

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