As student needs change, so do the District’s staffing needs.
That was the message Wednesday evening during Decorah Community School Board Interim Board meeting, where several District administrators addressed the Board.
The interim School Board, which will be in place until the Decorah and North Winneshiek School Districts fully consolidate before the 2019-2020 school year, is made up of four Decorah School Board members and one North Winneshiek Board Member.
Decorah High School Principal Kim Sheppard said her school has three areas of need, including an additional special education teacher, social studies teacher and online classroom teacher.
“A few years ago, we saw a lower number of students with IEPs (individualized education programs). When those numbers dropped, we did not refill one (special ed teacher) position,” said Sheppard.
Sheppard said with a projected increase from 40 students requiring special assistance this year to 46 next year, the staff will be stretched. In addition, she said there is new legislation regarding IEPs that require students to take additional credits in English, math, science and social studies in order to earn their diplomas.
“We also will have nine students next year who will need specific job training,” she said.

Online classes
In addition, Sheppard said the school’s E2020 program, or online classroom, continues to evolve to meet a number of student needs.
In some cases, students take the online courses to assist with credit recovery (to catch up on required credits). In other cases, students have scheduling conflicts or too many classes and may utilize a blended schedule where some courses are done online and some are done in the classroom.
“Of the students who are completing blended schedules or who are fulltime in the online classroom, we are seeing an increase in students with mental health issues or anxiety,” said Sheppard.
“We’re seeing more kids of poverty and more kids living on their own, who need more support. If they don’t get that support, they might drop out and they won’t get their diploma. We’re asking for another staff person to assist and manage the online classroom program.”
Finally, Sheppard said new legislative guidelines are requiring all students to graduate with a ½ unit in financial literacy, which falls under the school’s social studies curriculum.
“This includes savings, investments, wealth-building, college planning, credit and debit, insurance, buying, selling and renting and more,” said Sheppard.
“This year we added two periods of social studies. I’m predicting we ‘ll need to add 1-2 more periods.”

Coaching needs
Associate Principal and Activities Director Adam Riley added the school is definitely in need of more individuals who are willing to coach.
“We have 126 paid teaching staff and 47 of them have a co-curricular contract. Fourteen of them have more than one. So there’s some need there,” said Riley.
Board Chair Ron Fadness said the District has “gotten lucky” as several people who have retired from teaching have chosen to stay active in coaching.
“That has allowed us to ignore this problem,” said Fadness.

Middle School needs
At the middle school level, Principal Justin Albers said there are 62 students with IEPs.
He said while utilizing para professionals and team teaching is helping, a bigger sixth grade class next year will require some shuffling of staff.
“We could use some help for special ed and maybe a generalist, so we could maintain our exploratory program,” said Albers.
In addition, Albers said the middle school could use some help with its orchestra program.
“We have students who may not excel in math or science, but they can really play the violin or string bass, etc.,” he said.

Elementary
Carrie Lee Elementary Principal Sarah Tobiason and John Cline Elementary Principal Rick Varney said there is need for an additional guidance counselor.
“Right now we share a guidance counselor and there is a large amount of need … we’re seeing more things out of our hands,” said Tobiason.
She said with regard to mental health, some parents are able to get their students additional help outside of school, but sometimes parents lack the resources to be able to do that.
“It’s one big ball … it affects their school, affects their work and affects their friendships,” said Tobiason.
Superintendent Mike Haluska said this concern carries itself over to the discussion about needing another nurse in the District.
“With the medical needs we’re seeing with kids … there are kids on anti-anxiety or depression meds in the lower elementary. We currently have one school nurse for 1700 kids,” he said.
In addition, Tobiason said there has been a recent “eruption” in the ELL (English Language Learner) population.
“In the last month and a half, we have enrolled five kids who have zero capacity in English,” she said.
Tobiason added while elementary teacher Hannah Hemesath has been helping ELL teacher Julia Benson, she is not ELL certified.

Technology
Kurt DeVore, director of information, systems and instructional technology, told the Board the District could use a technology integration specialist and a technician.
He said the District had a technology integration specialist who retired and that position has not been filled.
“In 2004, we had 400 devices in the District. That was one tech per 200 devices. Today we have 8,160 devices to manage and maintain, which puts us as one tech per 4,080 devices,” said DeVore.
DeVore added in 2018, the District’s technology encompasses everything from data to fire protection, security and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning).
“Today, everything touches the network. We now have enough cable in the District to stretch from Decorah to Milwaukee. We have 42 servers, 426 televisions, and 3,180 computers and iPads. Those numbers just grow every single day,” he said.
In addition, DeVore said there are people who come into the schools for a variety of reasons who frequently ask for tech assistance in accessing the school’s network with their own personal devices.
The District also supports Crossroads Academy and St. Benedict School’s technological programs.
“The corporate standard is to have a technician for every 50 laptops. Ideally, I’d just like to reinstate the integrationist position and hire another technician,” he said.

Para-educators
In a related matter, the District approved an alternative salary schedule for para-educators, following a request by District Special Education Facilitator Sarah Elsbernd.
She explained para-educators used to be able to advance from Level 1 to Level 2, contingent on taking classes through Keystone AEA.
Because the AEA no longer offers those enrichment opportunities, she asked the District to develop a new framework for associates to achieve credits to maintain and/or earn additional pay for their positions.
“The paras have been frustrated. With the elimination of the AEA classes, they have no opportunity to go up on the pay schedule. We need to support them and give them incentives to take extra classes … We want to have quality paras. It is an advantage for us,” she said.
Board members in attendance unanimously approved the schedule.