ASHLAND – After a lengthy discussion about staffing, particularly in the area of special education, the Ashland-Greenwood Board of Education approved a request to add a teacher and an administrator to the staff.

During their meeting Monday night, the school board approved hiring a special education teacher for the middle school/high school that will start at the beginning of the second semester. The vote also included adding an assistant elementary principal to the staff for the 2020-21 school year.

Director of Student Services Kristin Fangmeyer said her middle school special education staff is stretched thin, as they continue to work with several students who have moved on to ninth grade. The two teachers have caseloads that are in the high 20s, which is challenging, she said.

“We’re outnumbered,” said Fangmeyer. “That’s just the best way to put it.”

Behavioral management with students is also accelerating, pulling staff away from other students in the classroom. The goal is to get all students in the general education classroom, which can be difficult when behavioral issues arise.

“It often takes two or three people sometimes to manage a student,” Fangmeyer said.

Fangmeyer said she didn’t want to discount the efforts made by all teachers, not just the special education staff.

“You don’t want them to lose that zest and rise to it,” she said.

The administration’s resolution to the issue is to add another special education teacher for the middle school/high school now, and look at future staffing later.

Elementary Principal Teresa Bray said the assistant principal will help lessen the burden imposed by the many government requirements that have been added in recent years.

“We are looking at ways to manage that and oversee those for our staff and students,” she said.

The new person would also help manage the 16 paraprofessionals used at the elementary building, Bray said.

The board also heard an extensive report on the state accountability classification recently announced by the Nebraska Department of Education. Ashland-Greenwood Public School District, the elementary, the middle school and the high school all received “great” classifications, said Curriculum Director Jill Finkey.

“Our district was assigned ‘great’ in all buildings,” she said.

The elementary school was tagged with the label Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) due to low performance by special education students on the standardized tests. All students, regardless of ability, take the same tests, Finkey explained. Over 20 percent of the student population at Ashland-Greenwood is special education, she added.

“So this isn’t super shocking to me,” she said.

Subgroups in all school districts are compared to their peers.

“We are certainly not the only school district that has been targeted,” she said.

Finkey said the administration will work with teachers on action plans to help scores improve for special education students, which is required for the school district to move out of the TSI category.

“And we can do that,” Finkey said. “Maybe not with all, but we can do that with some.”

Finkey also reported that the official enrollment for students from birth to age 21 in the district has topped 1,000. There are a total of 1,007students, she said.

There are 470 students in Pre-K to fifth grade, 524 in grades 6 to 12. Outside of the school buildings, the census includes 13 children aged birth to three years old in the district.

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