Keystone may look at administrative help
by Dennis Sharkey
Spring time has meant cuts to the education budget and cuts in staff for the last three years but Keystone Learning Services may reverse the trend this year.
“We’re just now feeling like we’re coming out of the cellar after the storm and trying to pick the pieces up,” Keystone Director Dr. Tim Marshall said to the Keystone board last month. “It’s kind of an exciting time in education.”
When the board meets this month Marshall is expected to present a preliminary sketch of what an additional administrator would look like.
Marshall said the current staff is stretched too thin and another administrator could go a long way.
“Some of it is… we need more people out there,” Marshall told the board at their March meeting. “It really comes down to what we want to do.
“There are lots of places we can put money in to do that,” Marshall added with an additional administrator being an option.
The seven school districts in the Keystone Cooperative are also doing with fewer administrators. Ron Langston, Jefferson County North USD 339 representative, said he would vote for an additional administrator for his district if the district could afford to do so. Currently JCN has a superintendent and two principals for the district.
“Our school ran better and our kids learned better when we had four,” Langston said. “If we had the money I would vote for another administrator in a heartbeat.”
Marshall gave the board a real example of the problem. Last month an administrator had to cancel an important meeting at the last minute to take care of an emergency at a school with a student.
“I don’t know that a classroom teacher who wasn’t expecting something to happen that day really cares what (Keystone administrators) were doing because they are pretty involved with those kids,” Marshall told the board. “It’s really frustrating taking care of what’s urgent when you’re trying to get to what’s important.”
Last year was even more of a challenge for Keystone. Marshall was only a part-time director, the cooperative was in the middle of a move, and they were still doing more with less.
Marshall said last year his staff was stretched too thin and accounted for the majority of negative comments that were made by staff in a recent survey.
Ed Courtney, representing McLouth USD 342, said he believes that most of the issues with staff will improve. However, he did say that the cooperative has an issue with turnover.
“It may not be as bad as it’s wrote up in many ways,” Courtney said about the survey. “People were frustrated with what happened.”
Courtney expressed some reservations about hiring another administrator. He said if the economy turns south the board could be forced to make cuts again. He said the last three years his school board has made tough decisions.
“It wasn’t easy to deal with,” Courtney said.
Marshall said if an additional administrator was hired they would have a purpose. The administrator would have tasks for improving learning. Marshall called the position a “school improvement specialist.”
“I want to be careful about just throwing money at anything,” Marshall said. “There has to be a payoff for the districts.”
Marshall said the administrator could also help coordinate more training for paraprofessionals and teachers. He said Keystone is just beginning to scratch the surface in paraprofessional training and a lot more can be done.
“They are doing some of the most important work with those kids and they just don’t have the training,” Marshall said
Marshall, using some preliminary numbers, said the investment into an administrator could be as little as $5,000 this year.
Keystone has pursued more grants and other areas could be restructured to offset the costs.
If the board decides to move forward with a plan they will have to move fast. Marshall said the search for a candidate should be happening now. He said May would be the very latest they could begin a search.
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