East Buchanan to add special services director
During the October meeting of the East Buchanan Board of Education, Dr. John Newell asked the board to approve advertising for a new position for the district.
“As you know, we will not be participating in the (special services) co-op for the 2021-2022 school year. Our contract costs the district about $70,000 annually, and there are a limited number of schools continuing to belong,” Dr. Newell told the board. “I am asking the board to approve starting the process to advertise for a special services director for the new school year.”
Dr. Newell estimated that adding a director would cost the district between $100,000 and $110,000 annually, but he added that he feels the district will get much more from having its own director. He said the district will need to pay for salary, benefits and testing supplies.
Some board members asked about the current services and what the newly hired position would bring to the district. Newell informed them that currently the co-op would visit the district sporadically to ensure the district is in compliance with DESE, schedule for testing, and sometimes attend IEP meetings, as available.
Newell said he wanted to start the process now to be at the front end of the teacher recruitment process for the upcoming school year. The board approved this position and a companion item approving a salary schedule for this new position.
The board also approved a new salary schedule for the district bookkeeper for the upcoming year. Newell also told the board that he planned to bring other new salary schedules as he determined the need and timing.
The new adjusted staff leave policy coincides with the federal law, Family First Leave Policy. It is temporary and will last only until the end of June 2021.
“I believe this will allow the staff to have less anxiety about having to take time off if quarantined due to the COVID virus, and this only adds 10 additional days,” he said. “I want the board to understand this will only apply if a staff member is quarantined due to contact at school. If they are quarantined due to a family member or child, this new temporary policy will not apply. It would not apply if they would be able to do their job from home. This will help to protect our staff.”
The board approved this policy, as well as a policy that allows staff members to work from home if possible. This would not apply to those positions that cannot be achieved in a remote environment.
In other action, the board approved a request from the superintendent to put out for bids for repairs to the south and north drives at the middle school in Easton. There was discussion regarding the specs for this work, as well as if the district should look into asphalting one or both drives. Dr. Newell informed the board that he had specs from a business that looked at these drives last year and would add asphalting the drives to these specs prior to letting the bids out.
During the superintendents’s update, Newell informed the board that the district would be receiving additional funding for the lunch program and students would be able to receive both breakfast and lunches free through the end of the school year.
He continued reminding the board that the budget passed in June was a projection and he is still confident that he had been conservative on his projections. Also, he said that there are additional monies coming to the district from the CARES Act from the state to the tune of $48,000. That income from Prop C looks better than anticipated. He did tell the board that he had not heard back after inquiries from the Clinton County Commissioners regarding CARES Act dollars. He said, as he understands it, Clinton County has the ability to provide the district with up to $500 per student but he doesn’t know what their plans are. He said they have received an additional $93,000 from Buchanan County in CARES Act funding.
Newell is projecting an influx of about $228,000 to the district’s budget, but overall, if all things stay the same, the district will be deficit spending to the tune of about $40,000.
He informed the board that the state would supply the district with COVID antigen tests, but that he personally felt that testing for students should not be undertaken by the district.
“I feel tests for kids should be left up to the parents and not undertaken by the school. There are too many pitfalls and issues in my opinion that I don’t feel comfortable having the district undertake this issue,” he said. “However, I feel we should get about 320 of these test so we can test staff if they feel ill. This test is not an invasive test, just a simple swab around the nostrils and results are available in about 15 minutes.” This was confirmed by the school nurse, Katie Anderson, who was present at the board meeting.
Related to the first quarter of school, Newell felt that although there have been some pitfalls for virtual learning, overall, he felt the teachers and staff were doing the best they can for all the students.
“Our teachers and staff want all the students to do the best they can and the teachers are knocking themselves out – and need additional support. The system we are using is not perfect by any means, but it does seem to be working.”
He told the board that the district had received $12,000 from a 50/50 grant and will use that money to make internet access available on district busses used for daily transportation to and from school, as well as for students to use on trips to school activities.
He informed the board that currently there are two students, one high school and one elementary, in quarantine.
He also told the board that Performance Services would be coming to the district to test the air quality in the district buildings. With winter approaching, the teachers will not be able to open windows and take students outside as much.
Last, he told the board that the district expected a 5.9-percent increase in insurance premiums, and he would be meeting with CTA and any other staff interested in seeking better options for the district and staff.
The next East Buchanan Board of Education monthly meeting will be November 16 at 7 p.m.