10/07/13 — District makes second shift in staffing

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District makes second shift in staffing

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 7, 2013 1:46 PM

Adjustments are still being made to the Exceptional Children's program in Wayne County Public Schools, with more than a half-dozen teachers recently reassigned to accommodate the enrollment numbers at several schools.

This is not the first shift in the special education program staffing, and possibly not the last, officials said.

Prior to the start of school, the district learned of $1 million in state and federal budget cuts to the EC program, which could have resulted in layoffs for 22 teachers. Instead, those teachers were reassigned to EC classes in other schools and in some cases, to a regular classroom depending on their credentials.

The latest change is a direct response to the 10-day numbers, enrollment figures used by school districts to determine where adjustments might be needed.

"It's absolutely the numbers," said Michelle Hamm, director of the EC program. "Everything that we're doing is based on student numbers and that policy that determines what the caseload of a teacher could be.

"We're certainly hoping that there's not any big holes (left at the vacated schools). We have tried our best looking at the 10-day count. We have looked very closely at what the teachers submitted to us in order to try to figure out where someone was needed and where we could pull from based on what we were sent by the teachers."

The following changes are the latest made by the district:

* A teacher position shared half-time at Northeast Elementary and Norwayne Middle became a full-time position at Northeast Elementary. The half-time slot at Norwayne Middle will not be replaced.

* A teacher position shared half-time between School Street Elementary and Carver Heights Elementary became a full-time position at School Street. The Carver Heights position will be not replaced.

* Rosewood Elementary added a full-time position, which was filled by a full-time teacher from Spring Creek Elementary. The SCE position will be not filled.

* Charles B. Aycock High added a full-time position, filled by a full-time teacher from Southern Wayne High. The SW slot will not be replaced.

* Grantham School added a full-time position.

* Positions that had come open this fall were filled at Brogden Middle, Eastern Wayne Elementary and Eastern Wayne high schools.

The local EC program serves approximately 2,800 students who meet eligibility criteria set up by the Department of Public Instruction and federal guidelines. There are currently 158 EC teachers in what has been reported as one of the highest EC populations in the region.

"According to my regional director, we're the second largest in our region and our region covers counties, we're one of the furtherest west, the other counties in our region are coastal," Mrs. Hamm said.

The way the program is set up, every EC student will have a fully certified EC teacher in a class, with instructional assistants added based on the total number of children and the severity of needs. There are also "extra support personnel" assigned in extreme cases such as behavior concerns and therapies like hearing or speech.

Mrs. Hamm, who stepped into the role July 8 following the retirement of her predecessor, Jane Walston, said the recent round of reassignments are to be expected, and might even lead to more in the future.

"Everybody's going to have to go through an adjustment. And it's just that, it's an adjustment," she said. "Our population changes and those changes occur in order to make sure the needs of our children are met. It's a moving target."

The program director said she and her staff are doing everything possible to be a good steward of the district's resources, especially during a budgetary blight.

"I think other counties have had big hits in previous years. This was Wayne County's big hit," she said. "But I do believe the counties around us are dealing with similar situations in that we're trying to do more with less. It's truly across the state that we're trying to get a job done with limited financial resources.

"I'm not sure how many years we're going to have to tighten our belts. We're going to have to cut back a little bit more and a little bit more. If they keep cutting back, my concern is that the children's needs are still a priority. We still have to make sure that those needs are met."