Staffing changes at Union-North

LAKEVILLE – The Union-North United Board of School Trustees unanimously approved staffing changes for the 2011-12 school year Thursday, but not without lengthy discussion.
President Mark Dickson and trustees Rob Swathwood, Dennis Graf and Dave Grenert voted 4-0 to move a LaVille Jr.-Sr. High School industrial arts position from full time to 4-7, bump up an ag teacher to full time, and return a full time assistant principal and athletic department secretary to the high school. Board member Mike Berger was absent from the meeting.
In addition, the vote created a high school math teacher position and an in-school suspension slot -- both funded by federal stimulus money and guaranteed for one year.
But while Superintendent Dr. Terry Barker’s staffing recommendation met no resistance, conversation quickly turned to the high school’s quest for a new football head coach. Questioned by Graf about the future coach’s full time position, Barker acknowledged flexibility issues. He said no openings exist in subjects typically taught by coaches, such as social studies.
“We’re at a unique point in time where teachers who could retire aren’t because of the uncertainty of their retirement funds,” Barker said. “Across the state of Indiana, and even across the United States teachers who normally would be champing at the bit to retire aren’t retiring.”
Ideally, Barker said, a math-teaching football coach would emerge. He also suggested the in-school suspension position as a possible fit. Graf, though, voiced skepticism that the school could attract a suitable football coach with an in-school suspension monitor at an expected base pay of $20,000.
“What kind of viable candidates do you think we’ll get for $20,000?” Graf asked. “I’m not sure there’s any interview process.”
Barker said current conditions may require the football program “to step back” for a year, but he expects the school’s financial outlook to improve over the next year and remains optimistic that the football coaching situation will work itself out. Grenert, though, panned that approach.
“It’s foolish to say things are going to work out when we don’t know,” Grenert said. “If a person came here for a one-year job is he going to use it as a stepping stone? Are we right back where we started? We risk ending up with a guy who’s desperate for a job rather than dedicated to a job.”
Barker also presented the corporation’s Phase II remodeling planning concept overview. With $348,000 left for improvements to the high school, Barker revealed a plan to use an estimated $138,000 to convert a metals room into a special education room and make other renovations to the school’s C-wing.
Barker suggested applying the remaining $210,000 toward converting to the One to One program at the high school. Under the Apple-based program, laptops would replace textbooks at the junior-senior high school.
“Since we can’t upgrade the science rooms, using the funds this way addresses science and addresses all content areas and benefits 575 students,” Barker said of One to One. “We’d be using Macs. It’s (students’) book. It’s their writing utensil. It’s their resource beyond textbooks. It’s their all-in-one resource material.”
In other news:
• The board voted to increase all breakfasts and lunches by 25 cents. Breakfast will cost $1.50 at both the elementary and high school; adult breakfast jumps to $2.25. Lunch will cost $2 at the elementary and $2.25 at the high school; adult lunch increases to $3.25 at both buildings.
• Graf asked for a discussion to eliminate the school’s proposed middle school construction project to be included on the next meeting’s agenda.