Edgecomb school committee concerned about ed tech shortage

School needs 2 additional support staff
Tue, 09/12/2023 - 12:30pm
The new school year is about a week old and the Edgecomb School Committee is already working to solve its first crisis. During the Sept. 11 committee meeting, Principal Tom Landberg reported the school has two vacant educational technician positions. The school is currently using two substitutes, but Landberg knows this is only a short-term solution. “They haven’t committed beyond September. We’re ‘turning over rocks’ looking for replacements, but I don’t know what else to do,” he said.
Superintendent Bob Kahler added this is a problem he has dealt with for the past nine years as a school administrator. Hiring has been a problem for school systems whether it’s searching for teachers, ed techs or bus drivers. The committee agreed pay is a major obstacle in finding ed techs. Pre-Kindergarten teacher Rachael Kellogg told committee members surrounding school systems offer more competitive pay. “I’m not sure what we pay for ed techs, but it’s less than Wiscasset. You can also make more working at McDonald’s or Dunkin Donuts without dealing with the problems.”
The committee’s current policy is paying support staff 50 cents more per hour than other Alternative Organizational Structure (AOS) 98 schools. The committee is considering re-opening negotiations with the support staff’s union to discuss better compensation. Besides increased pay, the committee may consider increased health benefits. “I think they are covered for 10 months, maybe we can look at that and do better,” Committee Chairman Heather Sinclair said. 
In other action, the committee had its first reading of a revised “Animals in School” policy. New teacher Kate Race has brought her facility dog Smudgie into her fourth-grade classroom. She previously worked in SAD 40 in Waldoboro. Race reworked SAD 40’s policy with a couple revisions prior to presenting to the committee. One revision would allow facility dogs in school vehicles. “They are part of the community and should be looked at as part of the community,” she said. Race also recommended language inclusion in the student handbook, more signage regarding a facility dog on campus, and a policy for those uncomfortable around animals.
Race explained that Smudgie is a facility dog. She also explained the difference between a facility and therapy dog. “A therapy dog must remain on a four-foot leash with a handler. A facility dog is a specially trained therapy dog who is able to move in and out of classrooms,” she said.
The policy’s second reading is scheduled for next month. The committee meets next at 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 23 in the school cafeteria.