Board approves another sped teacher

by nathan oster

Big Horn County School District No. 3 will add another full-time, certified special education teacher for the 2014-15 school year as it tries to keep up with the increasing demands of its student population.

Director of Special Service Lee Clucas made the request during a special meeting of the school board Monday night, saying he had evaluated all of the district’s in-house options, including moving paraprofessionals.

In the end, it simply came down to needing another certified position.

One reason is because the number of students requiring special services continues to grow.

Two additional high needs students moved into the district recently. Both are at the 6-12 level.

“Since I’ve been the director, and this is my third year, numbers have steadily climbed,” said Clucas. Fifty percent of the district’s Life Skills students have moved into the district within the past three years, he said.

The type of student receiving special services also varies greatly, he said, noting that there are middle school students who are diploma bound, middle school students who are not, and high school students who are diploma bound, and high school students who are not.

“We have kids going in all different directions,” he said.

In summing up the issue, Clucas said “the need has grown beyond what you can do with one certified staff member.” Right now that person is Dawn Thur.

The plan is to separate students with behavior problems from those in the Life Skills program, he said. Right now they are together — and in some cases, it’s led to Life Skills kicks picking up the poor behavior they see from the students with behavior issues. Clucas said he hopes the person hired to fill the new position will take those students, which will allow Thur to focus on the Life Skills students.

When asked how long the position will be needed, school officials indicated that they don’t foresee much change in demand. It was noted that the third-grade class would be one to watch for several years to come, as it has a diverse group of students with differing needs.

Clucas said the number of autistic students, in particular, has skyrocketed — and not just in the Greybull district. It’s a statewide and national trend, he said.

In other business Monday night:

• The school board made several hires, including selecting Brett Hanlin to step in for the retiring Ted Menke as the English teacher at GHS.

Several coaching vacancies were also filled, as the board chose Jeremy Brandl to become the head coach of the Greybull-Cloud Peak wrestling team and Christine Farmer to serve as an assistant volleyball coach for the GMS program.

At the high school level, Tammy Wright was hired to be the assistant girls basketball coach and Michaela Williams was hired to be the assistant volleyball coach.

• With the new middle school going out to bid this week, the school board positioned itself to make two enhancements to the building that are above and beyond what will be approved by the School Facilities Commission.

The board voted to authorize the chairman and the superintendent to sign an “enhancement” form that would ask bidders to include air conditioning for the GMS Gym and a new electronic sign for the front of the building.

By taking the action it did, the board didn’t approve the AC or the sign, but positioned themselves to have both included in the bids that they hope to consider as part of their June 10 monthly meeting.

The estimated cost of the new cooling coils for the GMS Gym is $14,000, while the difference in the cost of upgrading the sign from the one called for by the SFC ($17,000) to an electronic version like the one now at the high school ($40,000) would be around $23,000.

When bids are considered, the board will have the option of including the two “enhancements” with the understanding that it will need to use district funds, not funds from the SFC, for those projects.