Sidney BOE hears staffing needs for 2022-23

By Melanie Speicher - [email protected]

SIDNEY — Staffing for the 2022-23 school year was the main topic of conversation during the Sidney City Schools Board of Education meeting Monday night.

Superintendent Bob Humble reviewed — building by building — where staffing needs currently exist and proposed solutions to the problems.

Staffing needs include:

• Preschool teacher to meet the growing waiting list for the preschool program. The addition of a teacher will allow the district to serve more preschool students. The expansion of the preschool program will require the Latchkey Program to more to the former Parkwood/Alternative School building.

• K-12 interventionists to meet the increase of students with low incident disabilities such as autism, traumatic brain injury and intellectual disabilities, and will require additional classrooms. The program would be staffed to meet the students’ needs and IS caseloads which will allow for increased enrollment.

• Two third-grade teachers to meet the increased enrollment in the incoming third-grade class. There are currently 10 second-grade teachers for 230 students and this will be needed in third grade for the 2022-23 school year. Class sizes will be kept closer to 23 students with the additional two teachers.

• Currently, Northwood and Sidney Middle School share music and STEM teachers. It’s proposed that a music teacher and STEM teacher be hired for Northwood School with the current teachers going to the middle school full time. Two specials all day at Northwood will increase opportunities for students and support the building’s master schedule. Two full time unified arts teachers at the middle school will also increase opportunities for students and better support the building’s master schedule with a reduction in study hall numbers and class sizes.

• An additional art teacher at the middle school will increase the number of unified arts options for the students. It will also reduce study hall numbers and class sizes.
• An additional art teacher at Sidney High School will help with the overcrowded fine arts classes. Students have to earn one fine arts credit to graduate. The additional teacher will reduce class sizes, increase elective options in fine arts including graphic design, video production and the yearbook.
• An additional school psychologist is needed for the increased numbers of students with IEPs, expanded expectations to serve as resources for students struggling academically and behaviorally. The psychologist will have more time in the classrooms and increased time they are available to teachers.
• A speech language pathologist is needed for the increased number of student needs for speech and language services. The additional staff member will increase services to the students and help relieve the current speech language pathologists of high caseloads.
• Paraprofessionals for kindergarten and first-grade students are needed to handle the increase in students with disabilities and an increase in student behaviors requiring additional classroom support. The additional staff will provide increased classroom support for teachers and increased instructional time.
• A student services coordinator will provide additional support needed for students, staff and families; normalize IEPs in the district; and standardize practices as they relate to serving students with disabilities and their families. The coordinator will also provide increased support for interventionists; increase consistency with delivery of special education services; and improve processes and procedures as they relate to special education services and meeting requirements.

“We were forced to make some tough decisions in the past because of our financial situation,” said Brooke Gessler, curriculum director. “With this request, we’re not asking for more. We want to learn from the past. We have a lot of small class sizes. Our kindergarten class has 280 students. But we have a lot that are not large.”

Humble said the location of new staff will depend on the needs of the students at each building. The district is using the Midwest Regional Educational Service Center’s pay sale for paraprofessionals and is paying employees $2 more an hour than the ESC pays.

“The ESC has positions they need filled for paraprofessionals,” said Gessler. “We are in competition with our neighboring schools (for employees).”

The board also received a letter signed by all the middle school teachers outlining their needs for the building. The letter shared that prior to last school year, there were eight core teachers — math, ELA, social studies and science — per grade. The decision was made to cut middle school academic teachers from 32 to 28.5 for the 2021-22 school year.

“With these cuts, fifth-grade teachers may teach sixth-graders, seventh-grade teachers may teach sixth-grades and so on,” the teachers wrote in the letter. “Since teachers do not move rooms, a large number of students must travel from one grade level wing to another. This chaos has resulted in a tremendous increase in hallway and classroom behavior issues.

“Permanent reduced staffing also creates inconsistencies in teaching assignments,” the letter continued. “With this structure, teaching assignments are based on class sizes. As larger and smaller classes move through the building, teaching assignments change from one year to the next. Just like any profession, experience matters. Constantly reassigning positions creates perpetual inexperience. Replenishing the cut positions eliminates this issue, as each grade level can sustain larger and smaller class sizes without reassignments.”

The teachers’ concerns have been taken to the administrator in a Building Leadership Team meeting and to the union in a Sidney Education Association meeting.

Humble said enrollment at the middle school has decreased by 16% from 885 students this year to a projected enrollment of 838 in 2022-23. He added high school enrollment is down 9% and Northwood enrollment is up 5%.

Board President Zack Bosslet said he had heard from many teachers and parents over the past 48 hours concerning the middle school staffing situation.

No decisions were made on additional staff for the 2022-23 school year.

By Melanie Speicher

[email protected]

Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.