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School Board Discusses Resignation

By Staff | Jun 6, 2017

A special session of the Emmetsburg Community School Board of Education addressed the resignation of a Special Education instructor on Wednesday morning, May 31. Board members also acted on contracts offered to a pair of new instructors in the district as well.

The resignation of Suzanne Brownell, a Middle School Special Education instructor, was submitted on Monday, May 22. In her letter or resignation, Brownell indicated that she had accepted a similar position at Borlaug Elementary School in Iowa City. Brownell cited the proximity to her family and a desire for her children to grow up closer to that family, as primary reasons for accepting the new position.

Board President Tammy Naig opened the discussion on the resignation. “Are we going to have a problem filling this position at this time of year?”

“We’ve already begun advertising on Teach Iowa, and we have an interview set up later this week,” replied Superintendent Amanda Schmidt.

“I sent out 20 e-mails to the applicant pool on Teach Iowa, and one of them is coming for an interview,” added Middle School Principal Tracie Christensen.

“Can we get a temporary certification for a person if we would need to, in case we don’t find someone?”?queried Board member Dan Chism.

“Yes, we can get an emergency certification for a teacher through the state,” Schmidt answered. “It has been done before by lots of districts.”

“You know, we had this talk a year ago, when we had a resignation after June 15,” observed Board member Pete Hamilton. “When we have people who resign after they’ve signed a contract with us, we would give them a conditional release, and only release them when we have a replacement for them.”

Hamilton continued, “I see this as a trend, and I?think we need to set a policy as a board to specifically address this.”

“Don’t we have a policy like this already for our coaches?”?asked Chism.

“Only if they are a teacher as well as a coach,”?Schmidt replied.

“If our policy is not applied across the board equally, we are discriminating,”?Hamilton said. “We need to have everyone on the same page.”

After letting that thought settle, Hamilton moved to accept Brownell’s resignation. But the discussion continued.

“We have treated each of these circumstances individually when we’ve gotten late resignations,” Tammy Naig said. “In 2015, our elementary art teacher resigned but stayed through the first semester till we found someone to replace her and we were very grateful for that. As far as consistency, we’ve tried to be very consistent in releasing people, in my opinion.”

“Would you be willing to stay another year?” Chism asked Brownell, who was present at the meeting.

“I am looking to re-locate closer to my family,”?Brownell said, “but I would never let Tracie Christensen down. I?would stay.”

“How tough will this position be to fill this late?” asked board member Scott Kibbie.

“I hired people later in the year than this,” Schmidt replied.

“Something like this is easy for us to decide, but what about the kids?” Kibbie said. “We’re fighting through these times, trying to fill positions. Is this affecting our kids in the long run?”

“Would some kind of set policy be helpful to you administrators?”?Hamilton asked.

“That’s hard to answer,”?replied High School Principal Mike Embrock. “It’s a ‘depends’ situation.”

“The teacher shortage has arrived,”?observed Elementary Principal Joe Carter. “It’s here, it’s real. You already have a policy.”

“I would agree with Mr. Carter,”?Tracie Christensen said. “We have to fill positions. This late in the year, who will we end up with? We want to do what’s best for our kids in our buildings.”

“I’m flattered that I’m so tough to replace,”?Brownell said, “but it would have been just as hard to find a replacement, even in March.”

Schmidt pointed out that the Iowa Department of Education had changed requirements for special education certifications, making those positions more difficult to fill statewide.

“Is there a possibility of this being a shared position?” Hamilton asked.

“No,”?Schmidt replied.

Scott Kibbie posed the question, “I’ll ask the administrators, should we have a set resignation policy with a drop-dead date?”

“We used to be able to hire into June,”?Carter answered.

“It would give me security, but there are lots of variables, such as negotiations, etc. There are just other pieces that come into play,” Embrock added.

“We’re not totally insensitive to your situation,”?Board member Ed Meyer told Brownell as the discussion ended. “I’ll second the motion to accept the resignation.”

The board voted to accept the resignation of Brownell on a 5-1 vote, with Chism casting the dissenting vote and board member Rick Bird absent and not voting.

“Our job is to take care of the district,” observed Kibbie following the vote. “But if this keeps on continuing, we aren’t doing that.”

The board then learned that contracts had been offered to and accepted by Jason Behrens for the 9-12 Vocal Music position and to Sage Lenertz for the Middle School General Music position.

Jason Behrens comes from Center Point-Urbana and has 15 years of experience in vocal music, while Sage Lenertz is a Drake University graduate with an emphasis in Instrumental Music.

“Sage is a graduate of Hampton-Dumont schools and Drake University and is currently living in Early,”?noted Joe Carter. “She has the emphasis in instrumental music but is comfortable with the Middle School vocal position and is very excited about the position.”

On a motion from Board member Jane Hoyman and second from Hamilton, the two contracts were approved on a 6-0 vote with Bird absent and not voting.

In a final update, Schmidt informed the board that the district is still seeking a Spanish instructor and a high school science instructor, as well as the middle school Special Education position.

“For the science position, we looking for someone to teach the Physics and Earth Sciences, but they would need to have the 5-12 General endorsement for science,”?Schmidt noted. “we also need a pair of paraeducators.”

Schmidt also explained that Steve Pfaffle, who offered a resignation from the Vocational Agriculture/FFA?Advisor position earlier this year, has agreed to stay through the first semester of 2017-2018 until the new instructor, Kory Kuecker, can begin his duties for the Second semester of the school year.