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School board approves SAMs programs after heavy debate

Published: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 11:34 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 11:36 a.m. CDT

It may not have been a unanimous decision, but the Newton Community School District will give the school administration manager program a trial run during the 2014-2015 school year.

“I’m not pleased with the process, but its certainly within your scope of practices —  this is certainly within that —  to hire with or without our support,” NCSD board of education member Donna Cook said during Monday’s meeting.

Superintendent Bob Callaghan said this action came about rather suddenly. That is why he, and the administrative team,  didn’t come to the board prior to posting the job, interviewing candidates and having discussion on implementing SAMs.

He recommended the board should select Tom Bartello and Mike Moran for the newly created SAM positions at Thomas Jefferson and Berg elementary schools, respectively, which they did in a 5-1 vote.

Callaghan said the SAMs would take away some of the administrative duties from those building principals to allow them to become their perspective buildings instructional leaders and become more involved with those buildings curriculum.

He said this was something that was heavily discussed amongst the administrative team and that those buildings needed this type of support. Callaghan said that with Berg having 500 students and TJ 450 students, this was something that was in the best interest of students and staff, especially considering the time crunch for finding a solution before school started.

Callaghan said they began the process on June 12, with the intention that SAMs could fill the vacancy left by  three former positions —  assistant principal at Berg and instructional coaches at both buildings —  in the district.

Cook made it clear she wasn’t too happy about how expedited this process was. Other board members felt this was considered an administrative task and was actually the superintendent’s duty and not the board’s responsibility. Board member Sherri Benson pointed out School Board policies 201.4, 292.7 and 301.3 specifically had language geared towards this type of situation.

“My opinion is, Bob, we hired you to make good decisions. You have Laura (Selover) to help you out with the HR stuff. You guys are really educated, you know what you are doing. We just need to support you in making decent decisions, we don’t need to second guess and micromanage,” board member Nat Clark said.

Board member Bill Perrenoud chimed in on Clark’s comment and made it clear during the meeting that he felt these positions weren’t necessary, and that he would rather see the money go to use on reading specialists for students.

“Nat, I’m educated as well and I feel, being in the field for 33 years, I know a little bit about what’s going on,” Perrenoud said.

There was also a large amount of discussion on whether or not this position would be considered administrative or not. Callaghan said this is a hybrid type of position and that he couldn’t give a clear cut definition if it was or not. He did add the SAMs would not be receiving administrative level benefits and that these two positions are $16,000 lower than the cost of two instructional coaches.

He also pointed out, if factoring in the loss of Emerson Hough’s preschool coordinator and the former assistant elementary principal position as well, it would be a total cost savings of $218,000 —  smaller than the previously forecast $252,000 but still a significant savings.

Board member Travis Padget reiterated a point that Callaghan made at a previous meeting. He said this program is a great way to help develop the district’s future leaders and entice young professionals looking for a challenge.

Perrenoud compared the situation to student teaching except in this case, the SAMs would be learning how to be principals. Callaghan said if sometime the district reopened another building in the future, it would be worthwhile to have someone ready to step into that principal role and alluded to the SAMs model as way to find that hypothetical person.

The district’s plan is to compare the results it sees from SAMs to the instructional coach model still being utilized at Aurora Heights and Woodrow Wilson elementary schools to see which is more effective after next school year.

Once the discussion began to die down, Callaghan made it clear he doesn’t make these types of decisions lightly.

“So what we are trying to do, is collectively share for the best interest of our district and our kids,” he said. “I apologize for appearing passionate. I am passionate about our district. I am as black and red as anybody in this community.”

He also reiterated that he felt this program can provide the support teachers and principals at Berg and TJ have been asking for.

“The issue for me, when it came right down to it, is that the principals came to me and said, ‘We need support.’” Callaghan said. “When I looked at the numbers, I felt that they were right when I looked at the numbers that they were supporting.”

Senior staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 6532, or at trushing@newtondailynews.com.

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