Creston School District is rearranging school principals and rebalancing administrative responsibilities.
Creston School Board approved current Elementary Principal Brad Baker to replace Larry Otten as Creston Middle School principal, current Dean of Students Scott Driskell to replace Baker as Creston Elementary School principal overseeing third through fifth grades and current Early Childhood Center Principal Callie Anderson as elementary school principal of pre-kindergarten to second grade. Otten is retiring at the end of this school year.
“We looked at what would be best for the district. ...We looked at how to support students without creating much of a turnover,” said Baker. “I was very excited about it because a lot of principals get into the work to be around kids and work with parents and teachers, and some of that information and paperwork starts to bog down. ... It will give principals freedom to get in the classrooms more.”
“With the resignation of Mr. Otten, due to retirement, at the end of this year, the principals and I have been looking at a variety of ways to staff the district administratively,” said Chuck Scott, interim superintendent.
Two options were given to staff the administration: the first was to leave staffing as is and replace Otten and the second was to rearrange the principalships and take away the extra responsibilities that come with the positions.
“We want principals in the classroom more,” said Scott. “Not ‘snooper-vision,’ but to be instructional leaders and support teachers with constructive feedback on a more regular basis.”
Boardmember Rich Flynn motioned to pass the recommendation of the rearrangement. Boardmember Galen Zumbach seconded, and the motion was passed unanimously.
This option will also include hiring a fourth administrator to cover the responsibilities the principals will no longer have: curriculum and school improvement, Title I and special education.
The curriculum and school improvement job consists of coordinating instruction, assessment and professional development system-wide. Title I is a federal program to help students struggling in math and reading. Creston School District hires specialized teachers with the money received through the federal program.
“I am excited to embrace the additional responsibilities of increased students and staff,” said Anderson. “While I will miss the opportunities that curriculum and school improvement offer, our administration team works closely with the school improvement coordinator as we continue to move the district forward.”
“Do the administrators that we have right now want this proposed change? The answer is yes,” said Scott. “It’s not being forced upon them. It’s something that they have consented to. Then, the next part is, if we bring in another person, what kinds of duties will that other person have?”
The main job description of the new administrator is to improve student achievement and the school as a whole.
“If we bring in a fourth administrator, they will oversee school improvement in our district,” Scott said. “They won’t have a building assignment. We would want this person to have an office in this building (Creston Elementary School) so that they are closest to staff and closest to students.”
Scott spoke to Steve McDermott, future Creston superintendent. McDermott was supportive of the new principal assignments and will be responsible for finding a school improvement specialist for Creston School District.
“The district will advertise for a person to oversee special education, school improvement, curriculum, I’m assuming Title I, and I don’t know how many other jobs,” said Flynn. “I don’t think one person can do that. I think you’re talking at least two, if not three people.”
Anderson oversees school improvement and curriculum, Baker oversees Title I and Otten oversees special education.
Flynn was not the only one with a concern whether a person existed that is an expert in school curriculum and special education. Boardmembers Rick Fyock and Ron Dunphy also voiced concern about how many responsibilities that one person had. However, Boardmember Sharon Snodgrass said she had spoken with McDermott, and was told there are people who are qualified for the position.
“One advantage would be one person can concentrate on (the jobs) all day. You’re not going to have the kid come and change your day, you’re not going to have the parent come and change your day, which is what you have (now),” said Baker. “I think that’s what’s refreshing about this position, is you shouldn’t have those outside forces changing your day.”
One issue with the option of adding a fourth administrator was how to compensate the rearranged principles.
Currently, the principles are being paid on a 260-day contract.
“We’re taking responsibilities away from all three of these people, maybe adding to one of them, but we’re not changing their compensation,” said Flynn.
Flynn said he was unsure if the district would be able to afford to keep the principals at their current pay for 260 days, rather than reducing it to 240 days with the reduction of responsibilities.
“Right now, what we want to have your blessing (for) is, this will be the administrative assignments for next year,” said Scott. “When it comes to compensation hours and days and pay, I need to bring that back to your attention for a further conversation.”
In other school board news:
• The board approved all recommendations made by the school improvement advisory committee, including continuing to reduce bullying and harassing incidents, raising bullying awareness and continuing to improve technology to assist students in the learning process.
• The board renewed the shared contract of Eric Ehlen, elementary physical education instructor, with Mount Ayr Community Schools on a 4-1 vote. Flynn voted not to renew the contract.
• Administrative team fringe benefits, policy 3.16, passed with a 4-1 vote. Flynn voted no. Board policies 1.5, 4.1, 5.63, 5.63 A, 5.63 B, 5.63 C, 6.1, 6.17, 6.49 and 6.50 were also passed.
• The board passed the 2013-2014 school calendar.
• Discussion on ABLE meeting was tabled until next month’s meeting. ABLE is a training program to help school boards set and reach educational expectations for students.
• Student achievement in math and social studies increased from spring semester of 2011-2012 school year to fall semester of 2012-13 school year, based on data from tests taken during those periods.
• Hot lunch prices are increasing from $1.85 to $1.90. Driver education instructor pay increased 5 percent, from $20 per hour to $21 per hour.
• Donald Ray, Creston High School Spanish teacher, Larry Beaman, paraprofessional, freshman baseball and seventh-grade track coach, and Kelly Bradford, kindergarten teacher, resigned from their positions.