During a workshop session Sept. 9, the ISD 318 School Board was presented information regarding the hiring of a school psychologist, program design for the district’s elementary schools and potential changes in administrative structures.
Special Education Director Anna Lloyd spoke to the board regarding the district’s difficulty in hiring a new school psychologist. The position was opened in June and since then, there have been no applicants for the job. Lloyd recommended retitling the position as “Educational Evaluator,” due to the fact that the position would primarily be covering the task of evaluations which does not require a psychologist degree. The remaining tasks that do require a psychologist degree would be restructured between the two existing school psychologists, Jane McCartnet and Tina Jorgenson.
The position of, “Educational Evaluator,” would be considered a long-term substitute position and will be listed clearly as temporary. At the same time, the position for a school psychologist will remain open until filled.
Lloyd added that her department has looked into contracting a psychologist, but found that much of the burden of the position would fall onto the special education teachers in that situation. They also contacted universities in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Montana for referrals or interns.
“For this school year, given the short notice we got on the resignation, it just didn’t give us a ton of time,” Lloyd said. “A lot of those interns were already placed. … Most people already had other jobs because it’s such a shortage area. There was just nowhere left to go.”
The board requested more information on the change in writing, as well as impact reports regarding budget. The request for approval to change the title of the position will be on the consent agenda of the ISD 318 School Board regular meeting Monday, Sept. 16.
Elementary Program Design
Interim Superintendent Sean Martinson presented findings from the elementary programming committees to the school board. The programming committee included focus teams for each of the areas—art, media, physical education, music, world languages and STEM/STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math).
“There will be no decisions being asked to be made. This is more of an FYI before it goes out to administration,” Martinson said. “I’ll give you a general recap of what the programming committee has done. Then that information will go to administration.”
An Elementary Program survey was sent to parents and teaching staff of K-5 students with 428 responses. Results from that survey showed the following rankings in order of highest priority:
Each focus team researched state and federal educational requirements, the survey of staff and parents that was conducted, programs in other districts similar to ISD 318 and further research in their specific area.
Martinson then discussed the individual findings and research from each focus team. The programming committee recommended the removal of Media/Library from the list of special programming. They also recommended the inclusion of physical education, STEM/STEAM, music, art and world languages.
The next steps for elementary program design will be to bring the findings to the school’s administrative team. They will formulate scheduling options taking into consideration all of the information gathered and approved recommendations. Superintendent Martinson, will then bring their final recommendations back to the school board for approval.
“Starting with the end in mind, to offer what we haven't offered before, we will have to do things differently than we have done before,” Martinson noted.
Conversation following Martinson’s presentation included the importance of inclusion of Cohasset and Bigfork elementary schools. School Board treasurer Malissa Bahr noted these discussions must also consider implementing the new programming in these elementary schools too.
“This should be in those schools, as well. Because if we’re going to offer it to K-12 we cannot not offer it to all K-12, because all taxpayers should have their children at least experiencing the same curriculum,” Bahr said.
The suggestion was also made to perhaps open the research back up for input from teachers and parents. Rochelle VanDenHeuvel, assistant superintendent, reminded that a great deal of work has already been done to compile these findings.
“I really want to honor the work that this program design committee did and I feel like if we go back out, I feel like we’re starting all over again,” VanDenHeuvel said. “They dove into those standards, they did the research on their topic area, they worked hard to come back with these recommendations.”
VanDenHeuvel did note the importance of sharing the findings and recommendations of the program design committee with the public.
Regarding the timeline for final recommendations, Martinson said, “I would envision February or March only in the sense that if it impacts staffing we need to be ready by March and April.”
Last on the agenda was the topic of Assistant Superintendent Rochelle VanDenHeuvel’s upcoming request for a five-year extended unpaid leave of absence which will be presented to the school board on Sept. 16. Martinson discussed the need to reevaluate the position as they look to hire a replacement due to the position’s long list of responsibilities.
“I believe we need to do our due diligence, though, to really script out what the duties of that position are,” Martinson said.
Martinson noted that the current position was previously broken up into three positions. They are looking to put a team together to determine the best course of action.
Southwest Elementary School Principal Clayton Lloyd said, “I have never seen an assistant superintendent have that many duties.”
A recommendation will be brought to the school board for how to proceed with the hiring process.