While awaiting a vote from the Geauga County Educational Service Center on a potential territory transfer of the Newbury Local Schools into the district, the West Geauga Local School District is moving forward with preparations of various tasks that will need to be accomplished in the year before the transfer could be made official.

At Monday’s regular meeting, the West Geauga Board of Education approved a job description to create a new position that would focus on successfully integrating Newbury’s students with special needs into West G with the appropriate programs and services in place for all students.

Superintendent Richard Markwardt explained the new Supervisor of Educational Programming and Specialized Services position would be partially funded by Newbury for the 2019-20 school year and include the staff member going to Newbury to evaluate the needs of students with special needs. If approved, the proposed territory transfer would be made official on July 1, 2020 after the end of the next school year.

Director of Pupil Personnel Amy Davis said there are currently 99 Newbury students that have Individualized Education Programs, known as IEPs, including 63 students kindergarten through 12th grade attending Newbury, eight preschool students and 28 students who are educated through services outside of the district.

“We’d like to be familiar with the IEPs to determine what services we would need to offer those students to make sure we had the adequacy to fulfill those services,” Dr. Markwardt said. “So what we’d like to do is be able to appoint a person here who is in a supervisory capacity so they would be able to go in and do this work.”

Board Vice President Bill Beers asked Dr. Markwardt if he envisioned the role as a one-year position that would end after Newbury’s student population was fully a part of West G, but Dr. Markwardt said he intends for the position to be ongoing.

“It’s not a one year position because with the increase in students that we’ll have, we’ll have significantly larger number of kids on IEPs,” he said. “It’s a position that really can be done by someone in a supervisory capacity; they would be overstepping their bounds as a teacher to try to do the jobs that this will entail.”

Dr. Markwardt noted the district intends to fill the position in-house with a current staff member, who would receive about a $10,000 raise to an approximate $86,000 salary for the supervisory role. Treasurer Karen Penler said while it will depend on how many days the new supervisor spends at Newbury per week, she estimates at least 40 percent of the supervisor salary will be paid by Newbury in the coming school year through a shared service agreement.

Mrs. Davis added that on top of getting to know Newbury students and parents, the supervisor would also help West G teachers co-plan and co-serve both general and special education students, be involved in curriculum planning and be a classroom support for teachers while also fulfilling the staff member’s current responsibilities without the need to hire an additional employee.

“I think it helps to clarify, which it wasn’t clear to me before, that this is more of an expansion of a role and there’s no backfill, because I was under the impression that this was a new role and there would need to be a backfill on top of it, which is a different picture,” Dr. Beers said.

The board unanimously approved the job description with the decision of hiring the staff member to the position anticipated to be discussed at a future board meeting. Dr. Markwardt noted while the board officially created the position with their action, they are under no obligation to fill the position if they later decide against the need for the supervisory role.

In other business, the board approved several service and supplemental contracts for athletic and other extracurricular activities, including hiring Ben Stehura to continue as wrestling coach with a $7,145 contract. Mr. Stehura was hired as district athletic director June 28 at an annual base salary of $78,000.

“The thought for that is he’d like to do it for a year for the continuity of the program,” Dr. Markwardt said. “I don’t think indefinitely he wants to do it that way, but the only tricky spot we get into is evaluation of the coaches in the program will have to be done by someone other than Ben, but it’s certainly legal and allowable. In this case I think we should be doing it for the good of the program.”

The board also approved the purchase of several textbook curriculum sets, including a $25,593.38 purchase for Fundations kindergarten through second grade reading materials, $24,288.83 for various math textbooks and e-books from CPM Educational Program and $7,146.06 for new French textbooks from EMC School.

Tim Tedeschi covers the Solon and West Geauga Board of Education, as well as statewide education issues, sports and features. He is a lifelong diehard Cleveland Indians fan and a graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University.

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