With a minor onslaught of retirements in the lately, officials have found themselves in a unique position of being able to fill voids and advance educational goals with new hires.
The move is also allowing them to work well within the new budget’s parameters.
“We’re in the process of trying to fill open positions right now,” . “There are a couple open: director of Personnel and director of curriculum for Language Arts. We have interviewed candidates.”
Two new supervisory staffers have been added: Dr. Jill Takacs is the new assistant superintendent for Curriculum, and Robert Dunn has been hired as the new director of Special Services.
There are also a couple of teaching positions that are in the process of being filled, he added, noting that these hires, administrative and teaching staff, are replacing those who recently retired. Their pay will coincide with status quo scale of teacher salaries.
Then there’s what is dubbed a social behavior support specialist, which, George said, had been questioned. His answer: Introducing such a position in the district would have a significant positive impact in allowing child study team members and special education staff to concentrate more completely on their work.
When paraprofessional staff and counselors, who handled conflict resolution situations in the schools, were eliminated with cuts, child study team members were used to perform those roles.
“This was a role of positive, immediate impact and reason before the budget cuts,” he explained. “When the void was created, the child study team members were performing that role. At end of day, there’s only so much time. They are managing IEPs, communicating with parents and dealing with situations in the classroom, such as conflict and social/emotional needs out of the (school) building (as well as in). They had to spread themselves thin and were afforded less ability to focus on their own important work."
Especially in light of the state’s Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB) legislation, having a point person in the buildings to handle social behavior issues, George said, is critical to supporting a downward trend in incidents that has been shown in the district’s Violence and Vandalism reports from September through the end of this year. (Middletown Patch will feature a story in the near future on this report)
George also pointed out that specialist positions are being filled to maintain and boost student proficiency in math and language arts especially. “We already have reading specialists and literary coaches,” he said. “We’re coordinating professional development to focus test scores as they relate to student needs and taking them from proficient to advanced levels.”
With language arts, for instance, setting up a “sustained professional development” plan with its new director of curriculum will “allow us, with 12 elementary and three middle schools, more consistent implementation of our system in those 15 schools,” George said.
With math programs, it means that, in addition, there will now be six math specialists in the 12 elementary schools — each will work in two schools.
As for George in his new role, he said he’s had a great near two months on the job and plans to continue to boost communication with parents and students via his coffee klatch meetings and maintaining a presence in the district’s 17 schools.