Parents, teachers ask district to undo staffing changes

Mindy Carls
Superintendent's office, Orion Community Unit School District 223

Undo some of the staffing changes made in the spring, several among the baker’s dozen in the audience urged the Orion school board on Wednesday, July 21.

Some of the comments referred to using savings from leaving the dean/athletic director position open at Orion High School. For these comments, see the story on the hiring of Nathan DeBaillie to replace principal Ron Harris.

Orion PTA?president Natalie Farwell said there was a rumor that OHS and Orion Middle School staff were having trouble firming up class schedules.

If the rumor is true, students will have a lot of trouble knowing where to go in the first two weeks of school, Farwell said.

Also, there may be a lot of students in one class and not many in another, she said.

Deets said he had not heard about the OMS schedule. At OHS, the resignation of counselor Cindy Willard affected the preparation of the master schedule.

Also, students did not choose electives as early in the year as they usually do, Deets said.

The new OHS?counselor, Brandy Nolan, and OMS counselor Stacy Burgert worked on the high school schedule and finally put all the pieces together by mid-July, Deets said.

Some students always change their schedules once school begins, and students with Individualized Education Programs often have changes, he said.

One person who spoke was Becky Nightingale, who taught physical education at OHS?until she was reassigned to C.R. Hanna Elementary School for 2010-11.

She said she was told Willard would cover girls’ PE?classes at OHS on a part-time basis. Willard has a teaching certificate in PE.

But Willard resigned, and the board hired Nolan as the counselor full-time,  Nightingale said.

OHS will not have a woman as a PE?teacher this fall, she pointed out.

Farwell asked who would be covering PE at the high school.

“Scheduling is an ongoing process to most efficiently use the staff,” board president Doug Nelson told Farwell. “The best available option will be presented.”

Farwell pointed out that C.R. Hanna gym classes could have 35 students this fall, and PE?teacher Dan Diamond said OMS classes could have 40 students.

Aides will be assigned to PE?classes, Deets said.

Farwell said C.R. Hanna does not enough equipment for 35 students in PE.

“Will 20 students sit?” she asked.

C.R. Hanna principal R.C. Lowe was aware of all the proposed changes, the superintendent said.

“If he thought it wouldn’t work, we wouldn’t have done this,” Deets said.

“Safety is of utmost importance,” he said. “But if we don’t efficiently allocate our resources, we will be faced with drastic changes in the next two or three years that will make this year look like a picnic.”

Tracy Hepner, whose children attend Orion schools, asked if band and choir classes could be on the schedule every day, instead of every other day.

She pointed out some seniors, and perhaps even some juniors, may have been counting on a full credit in music to meet graduation requirements.

C.R. Hanna music teacher Barb Schwarzentraub said she wanted to acknowledge that not every board member voted in favor of every staffing change.

Teachers often are asked why they became teachers, Schwarzentraub said. She asked board members to think about why they became board members.

Was it to keep taxes from going up, or to see children get a quality education? she asked.

Schwarzentraub said she hoped the district would put the best people in the best places to help children.

While considering possible staff changes, the administrators and board members had access to confidential evaluations not available to the public, Deets said.

After the meeting, Farwell invited the board members to visit schools to see what classrooms are like when the staffing changes have been implemented.

Nelson said he would be in the schools.

Administrators’ contracts

Diamond wanted clarification about how administrators’ raises are determined.

Teachers’ raises are calculated on base pay, $32,500, while administrators’ raises are calculated on their salary, Deets said.

A 2 percent raise on an administrator’s $80,000 salary is $1,600, more than twice the 2 percent raise on a teacher’s base pay, Diamond said.

Teachers receive additional pay for experience and additional education, but administrators do not.

Later in the meeting, the board approved a 3-year contract for Lowe. He will not receive a raise in the first year, but he will get a 3 percent raise in the second year and another 3 percent raise in the third year.

There has not been time to negotiate a contract with DeBaillie, Nelson said.