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High school 'overloads' spark debate

"Tension increased quickly when school board chairman Jim Adsley decided to discuss personnel issues in public at Tuesday night's monthly meeting.The agenda stated it was time for a secret executive session to discuss personnel matters, but Adsley had concerns about how some high school teaching vacancies are being filled. It's not necessarily executive material, said Adsley, who later said he believes the board's discussions in executive sessions are sometimes too wide ranging.The question is overloads, and whether they're good or bad for the students, said Adsley. Overloads commonly occur when a teacher leaves the school, and others step in to carry her load as well as their own until the end of the school year.Adsley, joined by Barbara Schneeman and to some extent Ray Gabelein, worried that overloads create too much work for teachers, who lose their planning period, and might reduce their communication with students in need of help.The personnel report included the resignation of Erin Kilpatrick, a high school English and social studies teacher who reportedly left for an opportunity outside of the teaching profession.Instead of hiring a new teacher to replace Kilpatrick for the new semester, which started Monday, the decision was made to allow several other teachers to split her duties among themselves. Mike Johnson, high school principal, recommended the overload approach, a move which Scott Mauk, the union representative, endorsed.Bernhard, Durbin, Clark -- they're extraordinarily capable, Mauk said, referring to the veteran teachers who will fill in for Kilpatrick. They're the best possible Band-aid you could think of. Mauk added that efforts to find a suitable replacement were unsuccessful, although Adsley maintained a qualified teacher was available.Bob Riggs became agitated during the discussion because he didn't want any public discussion of specific teachers or the principal, a sentiment shared by Wendy Alexander. I will not even discuss this, Alexander said.It's a leadership and trust issue, stated Riggs. He read a sentence from Johnson's overload recommendation, that these teachers have the students' best interest at heart, then added, I wholeheartedly support the recommendation of Mr. Johnson.Ray Gabelein also endorsed Johnson, but not before wondering if students with questions might have trouble getting them answered because teachers are on overload, and he worried about the long teaching hours involved. I don't know how they're going to do that, Gabelein said, but, he added, The whole board will trust Mr. Johnson,Schneeman pounded her finger on the desk as she said teaching from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. is a tremendous load, and that parents should be notified of the overload situation. She later said six high school teachers are working an overload schedule, and total overtime pay is $35,000 this year.After publicly airing the issue, Adsley joined the other board members in approving the personnel report with its overload provision.Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lisa Bjork said after the meeting that while not ideal, overloads are sometimes the best option. It's a decision that gives the best program to the kids under the circumstances, she said. There's more continuity to the program. They (the present staff) know what the kids need."

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