District loses two special ed teachers at last minute
Brown Deer discusses hard-to-fill positions
Brown Deer — Two last-minute resignations of special education teachers approved by the Brown Deer School Board on Tuesday prompted a discussion about teacher retention and the hunt for qualified replacements as the first day of school draws near.
Two special education teachers Leo Eckman and Hallie Lindner, who taught at the high school and elementary school, respectively, have resigned from the Brown Deer School District. District administration is now left with the task of filling the positions from a candidate pool they say has been picked dry.
"The thing that will get us every time is the late resignations," Director of Pupil Services Ted Noll said. "There are great candidates in March and April, but by now the candidate pool is completely drained."
Candidates tough to find
Brown Deer is not the only school district facing late resignations in highly competitive positions.
School Board member Michael Bembenek said all North Shore school districts are facing similar issues because there is a shortage of qualified candidates in hard-to-fill positions. Special education is considered one of those.
Noll had brought in 10 candidates at a time to interview for each open spot, but found the majority of candidates unfit for a position at Brown Deer. He said they did offer a position at the high school to someone from the Milwaukee Public School system, but MPS countered their offer by increasing the salary and benefit package.
"It's competition, it's free market," Noll said, adding that districts are trying to hang on to their highly skilled employees.
Hiring for special education last minute is even more difficult because of the level of skill the School District looks for in a candidate. Special education instructors need to be able to handle myriad student needs from autism to attention deficit disorder.
"My responsibility as director is putting the right people on the bus in the right seat, but it's hard to do last minute," Noll said.
Backup plan in place
Though the plan is to ultimately fill the positions, Superintendent Deb Kerr said they have come up with a backup plan for the start of the school year and they continue the search for the right candidate. The School District found two people to hire as paraprofessionals, but not as teachers. Noll said paraprofessional fit the candidates' qualifications more than hiring them as special education teachers. This should take away some of the workload from the special education teachers at the elementary and high school levels so they can take on the additional case loads in the meantime. If one of the new paraprofessionals "turns out to be dynamic," which has happened in the past, they could be offered a special education teaching position.
School Board members questioned whether the district can do more to prevent last minute resignations. Kerr said their liquidated damages, which is money employees who resign late in the year have to pay the district, is a little low. This will be a topic of discussion when they look at contracts for next year.
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