Urbana City Schools board members sparred over hiring a junior high assistant principal Wednesday, with some members objecting to the expense and the message it sends to the community.
Other board members and school administrators said the hire is needed, as the addition of sixth graders to the junior high a couple years ago has strained the administrative staff, who also had to contend with additional employee evaluations and new testing requirements from the state.
The decisions were made at a special board meeting Wednesday.
The board approved hiring Assistant Junior High Principal Jason Shultz in a 3-2 vote; board members Jack Beard and Tim Lacy voted against the hire. Shultz’s salary will be $57,000 on a two-year contract.
Shultz is a former sixth grade math teacher at Mechanicsburg Exempted Village Schools. He has experience as a varsity assistant football coach and head varsity baseball coach. He received his bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from West Liberty University in West Liberty, W.Va., and his master’s degree in Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment from Marygrove College in Detroit, Michigan.
Beard and Lacy said their objections were not personal; they questioned the added expense at a time when the district is seeking a renewal levy in November and building new school buildings.
“This is not about the individual (being hired), but money-wise, budget-wise, eventually we are going to have to go back to taxpayers. We can’t just keep adding positions,” said Lacy. “I know (Junior High Principal Joanne) Petty does a great job. We have to work at what kind of message we are sending to the people out there.”
Beard agreed: “I feel it’s a bad time to add an administrator when we are asking for a renewal levy and building new schools. I can see part of the need, but we haven’t had (an assistant principal at the junior high) for two years … We did it for two years and I don’t understand why we can’t do that now.”
Large sixth grade class expected
Administrators said the additional staff is needed in part because Petty has had a tough time managing the additional grade added to the junior high after the school reorganized when Urbana Local Intermediate closed, Superintendent Charles Thiel said. East Elementary Principal Jill Weimer added the incoming sixth grade class has had a large number of discipline referrals. There were over 800 referrals last school year, with 60 percent related to the soon-to-be sixth graders.
Approximately 170 students are in the incoming sixth grade class, Petty told the board, and an estimated 470 students are in the junior high. Petty has been getting by without the additional assistant principal through help with paperwork from teachers with downtime. That will not be possible now because those staff members will have full classrooms and little downtime with the next school year and influx of students.
High School Principal Kristin Mays said additional state requirements for teacher evaluations and student testing have added to the burden.
The last assistant junior high school principal was Tom Topolewski, Thiel said. His position was retained, but he was not-renewed from the reorganization. He later filled in at another school in the district until retiring, Thiel said.
Board Vice President Jan Engle said while he sympathizes with Beard and Lacy’s positions, he thinks the additional administrator is needed.
“I don’t want to spend more money, but I think in this case we have to do it,” he said.
Board member Warren Stevens added the district did save some money by closing Local Intermediate, which also involved reducing staff.
“We did save money from an administrator not being there (at Local),” he said. “But with the extra kids coming in, that’s a lot to add to a position.”
The board hired a new South Elementary principal to replace Linda Locke, who resigned at the end of last school year to pursue other opportunities. The board approved hiring Cheryl Carter on a two-year contract; her salary will be $72,000, Treasurer Mandy Hildebrand said. Locke’s salary was $86,801.72 when she left the district.
Carter was previously the middle school assistant principal at Springfield City Schools. She is also a past language arts teacher and literacy specialist at Xenia Community Schools. She received her bachelor’s degree in Education from Hiram College and her master’s degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Dayton.
The board approved hiring Lucas Pozenel on a two-year contract as the new Special Education Director for the district. The board approved up to 10 additional contract days for Pozenel to be used as necessary prior to Aug. 1, to be paid at his per diem rate. Pozenel replaces Mary Mitchell, who resigned to become the Mac-A-Cheek Learning Center principal. Pozenel’s salary will be $73,500; Mitchell’s salary when she resigned was $80,115.07.
Pozenel most recently worked as the special education supervisor at the Midwest Regional Educational Service Center/Indian Lake Local Schools. He is a former school psychologist for the Midwest Regional ESC. He received a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University and a master’s degree from Ball State University, both with a focus in psychology. He received his specialist in education degree from Ball State University with a major in psychology.
The board approved hiring Larry Nickels as Community School Director for the 2015-16 school year, effective Aug. 1, for 126 days.
Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.