Friday July 12, 2013

ZEKE WRIGHT

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- The administrative structure of the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union is changing as officials look to fill top openings for fall with a sense of urgency.

The supervisory union's director of special education has been one empty slot filled on an interim, part-time basis since the administrative leave and later retirement of previous director Kathleen Buck earlier this year.

With Assistant Superintendent Donna Leep transitioning into the position of director of curriculum instruction and assessment -- she's currently wearing both hats through early August -- the supervisory union also has a current posting seeking candidates for the second-in-command position. There's also a human resources director scheduled to start January 2014 and positions to fill a still-undecided new structure with either a second assistant superintendent or an alternative two director model that would work with head teachers in each building or school district.

Two part-time coordinator positions in the current organizational chart remained vacant through the most recent school year.

Acknowledging an understaffed central office, Superintendent Catherine McClure said she was researching different models and looking at similarly sized supervisory unions elsewhere in the state.

"Everything is urgent," McClure said Thursday, speaking to the change in structure, which is partially being informed by last month's Focused Monitoring Report released by the Vermont Agency of Education.

Although a revised chain of command is still undecided -- a personnel committee initially accepted the new assistant superintendent for student services position, which was then subsequently tabled by the full supervisory union board in a show of lack of support -- McClure said the timing for moving forward would first involve a replacement special education director.

"Because regardless (of other changes) we know that position will be there," McClure said. An announcement for the position recently closed and the superintendent said she would be making a recommendation for that position, either on an interim or permanent basis, at a special SVSU meeting to be scheduled for later this month.

Speaking at that board's most recent meeting last month, speech-language pathologist Julie Haupt stressed the need for additional people. "I'm just here to stress and plead with you that we need two administrators running the special education department. It's not a job that can be done by one person," Haupt told board members June 26. With two upper administrators in the role previously, "even then they were stressed beyond imagination to do the work they did," she said. "I will tell you that it's not a job that can be done by one person."

"We really need these people to support us so we can do a good job (in the school buildings)."

Teams for the new year will be meeting next week before the special education director position can be approved, while the deadline for applications for the assistant superintendent position close July 17.

There will be additional hires afterward.

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