School cuts affect nurses, library

The Fort Dodge Community School District has made staff reductions and changes ahead of the 2013-14 school year to meet a $2 million budget shortfall.

The three areas most affected are librarians and nurses.

According to Robert Hughes, FDCSD assistant superintendent, the district currently has three-full time librarians. Two are retiring, and their positions will not be filled.

“We’re retaining one librarian,” Hughes said. “That librarian is going to have more of a role as media specialist and facilitate and monitor the different resources that we do have. As we move into the 21st century, we realize and see there’s a lot more technology skills, online learning, access to a variety of media than just book and text.”

Librarian Jennifer Kehoe will fill the position of media specialist, Hughes said.

“(She) will oversee the larger program,” he said. “She’ll be supported by some technology specialists. She’ll be watching all of the collection, ordering the material, making sure we maintain our inventory of current books and publications as much as possible. She will also be facilitating the library curriculum, which varies from literacy skills to the use of technology and media.”

Kehoe will rotate among multiple elementary buildings while library paraeducators and support staff will facilitate students as they do different daily activities, Hughes said.

“Although we went from three librarians down to one, we’re still maintaining and actually increasing one para to try to support that program as much as we can,” he said. “We really kind of increase the effectiveness by empowering one librarian to oversee the district media services and then we’re trying to engage not only our support staff but give support to our general ed teachers so they can carry out a lot of the lessons.”

Nurses were on the initial reduction list, Hughes said, but instead have been reassigned.

“We heard feedback from staff and parents, board members representing the community. They asked us to revisit and look at what the assignments would be,” he said.

There is currently a full-time nurse at both Fair Oaks and Phillips middle schools. With those schools coming together, only one nurse was needed at that building. The high school also has one full-time person.

“We went back in and reassessed the assignments of the nurses and met last week about how we can more effectively reach the kids,” Hughes said.

“We’ve divided some of the duties out a little bit differently. There will be a full-time nurse available at the high school, the middle school. Two of the elementaries have full-time nurses based on the need the students have in those buildings. And then we share part-time nurses with the other three buildings.”

The end result, Hughes said, is that the FDCSD board has maintained the same number of nurses.

Following the retirement of Principal Mike Woodall from Butler Elementary, the district principal position will not be filled. Instead, an administrative assistant will cover those duties.

“This individual would be a step above a lead teacher,” Hughes said. “They’ll have administrative endorsements and abilities, but they won’t be compensated or have as long of a contract as a principal. They won’t have quite as many duties as the lead principal, they’ll be an assistant.”

This person will be in charge of a building, while a “mentor principal” will periodically visit, meet with the assistant and aid in some administrative duties.

“It’s a nice way to take a younger administrator who’s looking for some experience and mentor them with a seasoned principal in one of our buildings,” Hughes said.

Stuart Cochrane, FDCSD board president, said these choices are complicated and always difficult because “they affect different people in different ways.”

“We try to prioritize so we’re not cutting or reducing programs and when we have a choice to make we try to make decisions so we’re limiting the number of people we cut who are in front of kids in a classroom,” he said.

Cochrane said they didn’t have to reduce as many positions as the board originally feared thanks to the efforts of the school’s administrators.

“Unfortunately when you try to retain as much the staff in front of kids as possible, it’s the support services that are often targeted,” he said.

“It’s the librarians who are affected and nurses. And while we are still exploring ways to retain those positions, those are probably positions that we look at as less important as they are not directly related to programming and consequently are often the first we target.”