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Riley questions hiring, pay raises for relatives of administrators PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 26 September 2017 11:26

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ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times



Education is a field that demands the highest quality candidates, and Monday evening, the USD 480 school board and administration was questioned regarding some hires and other ethical queries. 

“First, I would like to thank the entire board for their time and dedication to our community. It’s a thankless position that takes valuable time away from your personal lives,” Liberal citizen David Riley began. “A few weeks back, I came to the board with concerns about the procedures in which my child’s placement was handled. As I explored and researched any information that was obtainable, I came across several disturbing matters which I believe to be unethical. In that past board meeting, the superintendent said she felt her integrity was being questioned, but I believe the integrity of the entire USD 480 administration should be questioned. When it comes to my family, I will provide for and protect them the same way I hope you would, and I would not use my position for personal gain.”

The letter Riley presented to the board members (see Wednesday’s opinion page to see the full letter) raised several questions regarding administrators’ family members being hired in positions throughout the district, administrators’ family members being hired for certain projects, and policies regarding students’ expulsion, among many other questions. 

“I have no problem with multiple family members working together, and I don’t believe one should have control of their salaries,” Riley said. “I think they should be qualified for the position and job description, I think they should receive the same pay as equal positions, but I definitely don’t think we should create positions for family. I also don’t think we should pay for their training/education to qualify them for a position, and I don’t think the community would appreciate their dollars benefitting such a small percent of the population. I feel it would be interesting to survey the employees of USD 480 to find out if they are happy with the administration. How many are fearful they would be terminated if they spoke their mind?”

In conclusion, Riley said, he has no vendetta against any USD 480 administrator. 

“Prior to a few weeks ago, I had never attended a school board, county or city commission, and I don’t plan on attending any more,” Riley said. “I have no personal vendetta against any administrator and prior to this, I didn’t know 90 percent of their names. As board members, it is not your duty to investigate or micromanage the administration, and it should be a privilege to have an administration that works for you and the community to make it successful.”

Several potential positions were also discussed during Monday evening’s meeting., including a handful of paraprofessionals, the grounds and maintenance crew and security and sustainability. This was only an information item, with none of the positions being officially approved by the board. This will come up again before the board at a  future meeting. 

“As you guys know, we have a high number of kindergarten students this year and with the addition of all-day kindergarten, we’ve felt some stress coming from our teachers in talking with them,” Sunflower Elementary School Principal Jon Schneider began. “We’ve been kind of used to having some para support and with the size of the buildings and the number of students, we just haven’t had that type of support they’re used to. We’re all kind of feeling that, so that’s why we’re here this evening.”

The group of teachers present for the evening gave a short presentation to the board regarding the need for the help. 

“The impact kindergarten teachers have on students can follow adults well into their 30s,” MacArthur Elementary School Assistant Principal Jamie Downs began. “We have 391 students this year alone, and that’s the same number it would take to staff every position from doctors to cafeteria workers at Southwest Medical Center, just to give you an idea of the numbers. It’s also the same number Meadowlark has, so it’s the same numbers as at Meadowlark. We want to make this their best year ever, but we do need some help. The national average student to teacher ratio in kindergarten is 15:1, and our ratio is 21:1 on average, so having a para dedicated solely to the kindergarten classrooms in each building would lower that average to approximately 16:1.”

This year, Downs continued, with the large enrollment, there were some positions that had to be switched around.

“The majority of those has less than four years’ experience at the kindergarten level, and this is an especially important role because young developing minds need consistent encouragement and sensory stimulation to capture their attention,” Downs said. “Learning centers are new to most students and many of them need the guidance of an adult to learn, share, play games, stay on task and work independently.”

“In addition to the kindergarten paras, the two largest elementary buildings, which are Cottonwood and Prairie View, we have more than 515 students enrolled in 25 classrooms at Cottonwood and 24 classrooms at Prairie View in comparison to MacArthur and Meadowlark, which have 19 and about 400 students,” Prairie View Elementary School Principal Kendra Haskell said. “Sunflower has 21 classrooms and less than 450 students. At the beginning of the year, each building was provided with nine paras to support the students and staff, and Cottonwood and Prairie View would like to request an additional building para to help provide equity for the students’ support.”  

Discussion continued between the group of teachers and the board for several more minutes, with several questions being asked including how paraprofessional training works, where funding would come from and how many paras would be requested in the future. The principals were praised for the work being done for the students this year so far and were thanked for making their presentation to the board. 

In other business, the board approved money for the purchase of several vehicles for the district, the purchase of touchscreen ChromeBooks for students, laptops and carts for teachers and staff, and the application of window film to windows at the three new elementary schools. The board also approved a 3.7 percent pay raise for administrators for the 2017-18 school year, which is the same percent by which the teacher base increased. 

 

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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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