Orion may add special ed teacher

by Mindy Carls correspondent

C.R. Hanna Elementary School needs a third special education teacher, Principal R.C. Lowe told the Orion school board on Wednesday, Dec. 16.

Lowe said his special ed teachers are so overworked that he wakes up at night afraid they are going to leave.

Currently each Orion school has two special ed teachers, he said. C.R. Hanna has 56 special ed students in six grade levels, Orion Middle School has 22 in three grades and Orion High School has 38 in four grades.

Board member Kim Nightingale said special ed teachers usually have 20 to 22 students each. She was a school social worker in the East Moline district before retiring.

Superintendent Joe Blessman said he would like to recommend a third special ed teacher at the grade school.

All of the district’s special ed teachers have been conducting in-person five days a week since August, the superintendent said. The teachers have a lot of documentation to prepare.

“They need relief as soon as possible,” Blessman said.

“I see the need, but we have potential relief in the district we can use before we hire anyone,” board member Karl Kane said.

Schedule differences make it difficult to bring OMS teachers over to C.R. Hanna.

Paraprofessionals can assist but not replace special ed teachers, Blessman said. Aides can’t determine goals for students or write individualized plans.

Blessman said it’s easier to find a classroom teacher than a special education teacher.

Nightingale suggested Blessman contact the Regional Office of Education and ask if they know of any special ed teachers looking for jobs.

Lowe said the district could put out a vacancy notice in hopes of finding someone for the rest of the year, which would give the district time to figure out how to spread the burden among teachers the district has now.

In other business

• The board adopted a tax levy of $6,775,100 based on an estimated EAV of $160 million. Blessman said the tax rate will remain $4.66.

• OMS Principal Laura Nelson said that with the current COVID-19 restrictions in place, volleyball and boys basketball will not resume on Jan. 11. OHS Principal Nathan DeBaillie said the IHSA would like to meet with the Illinois Department of Public Health at the end of December to discuss a timeline for returning to sports.

• A survey showed OMS sixth graders are benefiting from a new program to develop mindfulness and inner strength, according to counselor Stacey Burgert and RtI data coordinator Suzi Ferry. The program will be expanded to seventh grade in January, and to eighth grade if it fits in the schedule.

• Dan Diamond, representing a grassroots committee, said its members would be attending school board meetings until the election in April, in order to get information about what the board does and about its members.

The board’s firing of Diamond as varsity wrestling coach was controversial last summer and sparked interest among some of his supporters in running for the board.