Steamboat school board further discusses special education staffing shortage
Officials with the Steamboat Springs School District reiterated Wednesday that the district is meeting requirements laid out in student individual education plans despite being short staffed.
“I review every IEP and document that comes through our district, making sure that we’re in compliance,” said Anne-Marie Williams, director of exceptional student services for the district.
“I’m confident in saying we are following all IEPs, and if we are not, I would hope that a parent or concerned person could go to the case manager and bring that up,” she continued.
Parents of special education students have questioned whether these agreements were being met, particularly at Steamboat Springs High School where the district is down several positions.
Three special education teachers have resigned from their roles recently, and the district is down the equivalent of six-and-a-half special education paraprofessionals, four-and-a-half of which are at the high school.
District Human Resources Director Katie Jacobs said that across the district, they are 95% staffed with the equivalent of 20 full-time positions currently unfilled. At the start of the year, that number was more than 30. The district has about 400 staff, not including coaches and substitutes.
“We’re 95% staffed, which I feel like is a pretty good place to be right now,” Jacobs said. “I know we have positions that are a challenge for use to find right now, and we’re working in a variety of ways to get those filled.”
Jacobs said there are another 14 people going through the hiring process to be a substitute, meaning they may have submitted an application or had an interview but may be waiting for a background check or to acquire the appropriate licenses.
Williams said in addition to the special education staff they do have, the district is using building interventionists and other special services providers to help when needed.
“We want to make sure that we’re following all the legal guidelines within special education and also providing quality programming for all of our students,” Williams said.
Board member Kelly Latterman said she learned at the Colorado Association of School Boards conference that many districts are struggling to hire custodians, bus drivers, paraprofessionals and substitutes.
“We’re all competing for a similar pool of limited folks in those positions,” Latterman said, adding that Crested Butte even suspended bus service due to a lack of drivers.
The Steamboat school district actually has one of the highest pay rates for teachers in the state and is generally the highest paying district in Northwest Colorado. Still, Latterman said the board will need to pay extra attention to salary schedules when discussing the budget this spring.
“I don’t think that this problem is going to be gone next year,” Latterman said.
Latterman said that she doesn’t want future boards to have to deal with an even bigger problem, and she stressed they need to start conversations about the district creating its own workforce housing now.
Ensuring adequate staffing across the district was a popular topic at listening sessions being conducted as part of the district’s master planning process.
Superintendent Brad Meeks said he felt that having the district 95% staffed was a sign that their recruitment methods are working because they are bound to have multiple open positions at any given time with such a large workforce.
A parent joined Wednesday’s meeting and suggested the district should involve parents in some sort of committee that could help with hiring. Board members indicated it was an idea they would consider and have seen done in other districts, though that committee wouldn’t have actual hiring power.
“I don’t think we necessarily want parents acting as our representatives out there,” Meeks said. “But if there simply to give ideas and see how it fits into what our legal obligations are as we pursue staffing, I think we can certainly talk about some of those things.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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