EAST LIVERPOOL - Despite an impassioned plea for additional manpower by Special Education Director Melanie Carfolo, city school board members did not seem convinced during Thursday's meeting that more personnel are needed.
Carfolo asked the board to consider adding a part-time secretarial support position to help schedule more than 700 required meetings for students in grades K-12.
"I feel like I'm drowning," Carfolo told the board, also saying, "I feel the office is being set up for failure."
According to Carfolo, school psychologists are already overwhelmed with their workload, with each one having at least 126 students on his/her roster, as well as being involved in district and building leadership teams and other responsibilities.
She said the psychologists do more than just test and place students and cautioned the board that failing to contact parents prior to meeting about a student can result in lost funding.
Pointing out that the psychologists are "highly trained, highly educated" personnel paid at average of $254 per day plus benefits, Carfolo asked, "Do you want to pay $30 (for them) to make a phone call when you can pay a secretary?"
She proposed hiring a part-time scheduling secretary to work 20 hours per week with a maximum cost of $7,581 to be paid out of grant funding.
President Janice Martin pointed out the board had just paid about $7,000 for an efficiency study that "didn't say we had to hire another half-time person for your office," complaining that the study is being ignored with a move to add people instead of eliminating positions.
Board member Larry Walton, on the other hand, said, "If $7,500 will get us through this, that's cheap."
Martin, a former district educator, said teachers in the past had scheduled such meetings themselves, which was corroborated by member Richard Wolf, who said his daughter taught special education and also set up such individual education plans for her students herself.
Carfolo said perhaps future contract negotiations could include adding that in the job description.
Treasurer Todd Puster said he supported the move, but the board took no action, with member Scott Dieringer asking for figures showing where the district ranks in the state for number of special education students. Currently, nearly 20 percent of its student population is in the program, compared to a 12-13 percent nationwide average.
A parent also addressed the board regarding its plan to contract with the Mahoning County ESC for special education services instead of Columbiana County ESC and was advised that is due to the grant for the services coming through the Mahoning County agency.
Superintendent James Herring assured her the district works with both counties, as well as Jefferson County to provide the best services for students.
In other matters, the board also heard a presentation by North Elementary Principal Paula Ekis regarding the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, saying a percentage of students are still not on track but that the district's intervention program is far above what is being required by the state.
Herring said the district is unique inasmuch as it has 30 teachers currently taking classes to become certified in the new initiative.
Action taken by the board included approval of:
* A contract with Mahoning County ESC for vocational rehabilitation public and private partnership (VRP3) services
* Resignation of Melissa Baker, assistant to the treasurer, who is leaving for a new position
* The purchase of 180 Chromebooks and five laptop carts from Global Government Education Solutions of Atlanta, Ga., at a cost of $57,555.51, to be paid with Title I funds
* The purchase of Study Island software for $53,000, also to be paid with Title I funds
* The sale of a 1983 Ford bucket truck for scrap to Six Recycling at $980, after no bids were received following advertisement of same
* A letter to be sent to the East Liverpool Lions Club for providing free vision screening and eyewear for students who could otherwise not afford them.
Wolf talked about the recent death of Arthur "Pete" Coplin, who was "many things to this district," and to whom the press box was dedicated.
"He will be sorely missed," Wolf said.