Saturday June 1, 2013

ZEKE WRIGHT

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union board members are expressing concern with a planned new top-level administrator in charge of special education.

The board was only asked to amend the job description for the proposed position, which has already been posted as an anticipated vacancy, but the topic was tabled Wednesday amid questions of cost and efficiency.

The assistant superintendent for student services would report to the superintendent and oversee all staff involved in student services beyond regular education at the SVSU, including the special education director as well as school psychologists, guidance counselors, and other special education staff.

North Bennington representative Ray Mullineaux said he didn’t feel the position addressed issues with special education at the supervisory union. Based on parents’ feedback at past meetings, "where the problem seems to be more located (is) at the service end of things, where students receive services."

"I don’t really believe that this is going to solve the issue," he continued. And by adding at the top, Mullineaux said the expense was distributed to all member districts "and I don’t think that’s appropriate," given the unresolved Bennington School District budget and staff in jeopardy there.

Bennington representative George Sleeman said he "pleaded" with the supervisory union not to post the job.


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"My position is right now, in view of the situation Bennington is in, I don’t think we should be posting or hiring anyone at that salary."

The discussion follows a second failed budget attempt for the BSD.

The assistant superintendent pay range would be between $100,000 and $115,000 and is included in the current SVSU budget, funded by previous coordinator positions in two departments. Experience requirements include a master’s degree or higher, at least five years in special education teaching and administration, and experience in district-wide (kindergarten through 12th grade) curriculum development.

Mount Anthony Union representative and SVSU board Chairwoman Sean-Marie Oller noted Wednesday the action on the table was only to amend the anticipated position’s job description.

"I don’t even want to approve a job description," said Francis Kinney, representing Shaftsbury. "I don’t want to do that. ... I want to help Bennington -- they’re in a pickle."

Superintendent Catherine McClure said the new role would create a better authority. With increasing special education responsibilities within the supervisory union, "to have one person, at the director level, to supervise all of that is insufficient." She said the assistant superintendent would result in greater oversight of support services.

Oller said she didn’t debate issues with services on the ground, "but we need someone accountable for what happens on the ground."

"(I) think we need oversight, someone accountable for what’s going on in direct services."

Kinney said he’d like to go on record as wanting the position to "go away."

"The board doesn’t even know what the hell they’re voting on."

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