CHATHAM–School district Superintendent Cheryl Nuciforo explained at the last Board of Education meeting earlier this month the impact of sharing teachers between buildings and the difficulties the practice creates. The board also heard from High School Principal John Thorsen on how the state requirements for coaches to be certified is creating hardships for Chatham and schools across the state.
The district shares eight teachers among the district’s school buildings, said Ms. Nuciforo, and it causes limitations to the way the district can do its scheduling. An extra 20 minutes have to be built into the teachers’ schedules for transition time. Teachers also cannot meet with students from both buildings after school.
Ms. Nuciforo said the biggest impact comes from not being able to schedule certain classes for the students who want to take them. She said that when a teacher is in one building in the morning and in another in the afternoon, it limits the ability to make certain classes available in a schedule that works for all of the students in any two of the district’s three buildings.
Currently, the teachers being shared are those who teach music, physical education, health, English as a second language, family and consumer science, and art courses. And looking ahead to projected enrollment declines, Ms. Nuciforo said that “as our numbers drop, we may have to share teachers of core subjects like math, English, and science that will lock up the schedule even more.”
She praised the district’s building principals for working together and finding ways to make it work the best they could.
Asked by a board member when the district might have to start sharing core subject teachers, Ms. Nuciforo said, “I would not be surprised if we were doing that in the next two years.”
Also at the October 14 meeting, Mr. Thorsen presented to the board the state requirements to become a certified coach. He said that for a person who is not a teacher to coach school athletics, he or she must complete a long list of steps, which includes: obtaining three letters of reference, receiving current CPR and First Aid training, going through school violence intervention workshop, receiving Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) training, having fingerprints taken, and completing three state approved coaching courses. If the person is not permanently certified, then a temporary certification must be reapplied for every year. In order to receive permanent certification, the person must complete three years of temporary certification.
Mr. Thorsen said that the list of requirements for teachers is much shorter because candidates are already required to complete many of the items before becoming a teacher.
The high school principal said the time commitment required to become certified is half the battle. Many of the courses or workshops cost anywhere from $25 to $75, and the state approved coaching courses cost $75 to $195. Chatham does offer some of the trainings for free if individuals are able to attend at the times they are offered.
“There’s a huge impact in the state of New York, a terrible shortage of coaches,” he said.
Chatham is not excluded. “A couple of years we’ve had to drop modified teams because there wasn’t a coach,” he said.
Mr. Thorsen said there are 39 paid coaches, 27 of whom are non-teacher coaches. Additionally, he said, there are 5-10 volunteers.
Board member Terri Conte asked whether there is a way the district could help with the requirements. Ms. Nuciforo said the district already offers some of the programs for free, but that “there’s a balance” that needs to be met.
Board member James Marks asked Ms. Nuciforo and business administrator Michael Chudy to look into ways that the school could at least help ease the difficulty for volunteer coaches so they are not losing money to coach for free.
“They work so hard for us,” he said.
Ms. Nuciforo agreed to look into it.
On another topic, the board discussed creating a public comment policy. Currently, the board does not have a policy on what rules and procedures apply when members of the public want to speak at board meetings, and board member Mike Clark said the board should have one.
Mr. Marks agreed, since the board has a practice of accepting public comments throughout workshop sessions but hears from the public only at the beginning of business meetings. He said that guidelines for the way this is handled should be created.
Ms. Conte suggested including time limits in the policy and Board President Melony Spock agreed.
“We don’t always enforce a time limit depending on how many people are here.” said Ms. Spock. “I think we should be consistent.” She suggested looking at the policies of other school boards.
“We don’t want to make it difficult for the people to speak,” she said. “We want to hear our public, but we need a process.”