November 20, 2013

Tim and Kristi Hinners approached the Carroll Community School District board of education at its meeting Monday night to request special-education aides working with more challenged individuals receive appropriate compensation.

The Hinnerses are parents of two Carroll Middle School students who have cerebral palsy. Tim Hinners explained that he and his wife were concerned that the turnover rate of the school's special-education aides was so high. One of his son's aides had just resigned earlier that day, he said.

He explained that the state of Iowa identifies students as level one, two or three severity based on how much assistance the students require. His sons are classified as level three, but their aides are paid the same as those who care for students classified at level one.

"It's a lot tougher to take care of the level threes, and I just don't want to see good aides leave because of better-paying jobs," he said. "I think they should be paid more."

Kristi Hinners explained that the issue came to her attention when she received a feedback form from Iowa Medicaid, one of the programs that reimburses the school for additional services it provides for special-education students. One of the questions was if she felt there had been any waste or misuse of services, equipment or supplies.

"My boys' health needs have always been well taken care of at the school," she said. "I'm grateful for that."

But the survey made her curious. She asked school officials to show her where the Medicaid funding goes, and learned that it primarily supports salaries for school employees who provide support services for her sons, including the nurse, teacher and aides. However, even though her sons' aides deal with diapering, self-injurious behaviors and other issues that are not concerns with all special-education students, they do not see any additional pay benefits.

"It's my opinion that Medicaid gives the school different amounts of money for those different students because they have higher needs, and from what they've told me, those funds should be used for the people providing those services to them," she said. "I don't believe my boys haven't been taken care of, I do, but I guess I think if those funds - if they receive more funds from Medicaid, there's a reason why, and I think it should go back to the people providing the services if that's what it's intended for."

Kristi Hinners said that she didn't mean to imply that aides working with level-one children didn't work hard or aren't important, but simply that it doesn't feel fair for the additional Medicaid funding received for certain students' requirements to go to other students' aides.

"Anybody who has a child with special needs - if you have good help, you want to keep it," she said.

Board president Kim Tiefenthaler thanked the Hinnerses for bringing their concerns to the board, explaining that he believed the aides weren't compensated on an individual basis because the salaries were determined through collective-bargaining agreements.

Business manager Gary Bengtson said that several years ago there was a distinction within the bargaining agreement to pay special-education teachers 20 cents more per hour than regular teaching assistants. There was a proposal to further differentiate within the special-education department, but it was not enacted.

"We haven't brought up in four or five years," he said. "It will be interesting to see how it is received. It's harder to keep those aides working with those that have a more demanding job in terms of physically and others."

Tiefenthaler said it was something officials could look into this spring during negotiations.

In other business, the board denied a request by Aaron and Cari Poock to let them out of their contracts early so Cari Poock could take a job as a reading specialist in Wisconsin next semester.

"About 10 years ago I finished my master's program, and on finishing my master's degree, it was K-12 literacy degree, my dream, my goal that I set for myself was to become a reading specialist," she said.

Through several setbacks, her husband encouraged her, and eventually she found the opening in Wisconsin.

"This job is...what I want to do," she said. "I would be helping teachers with struggling readers."

She added that the board had let others out of their contracts early in the past.

However, school board member LaVern Dirkx said those situations were different because those individuals would forfeit their opportunities if they were not released, whereas Poock will have the opportunity to reapply for the position in the spring. Also, in those cases, the district was losing only one, not two teachers, and the individuals released early paid to advertise the position they vacated.

"I appreciate you coming in front of us, but this is the middle of the year, we still have a full semester and I'm just not interested in releasing two people at this time of the year," said Tiefenthaler. "I don't care what position it is, this is just a bad time of the year to be doing this."

Board member Duane Horsley asked if Cari would be willing to go early and Aaron stay to finish out the school year, but the couple said no.

"Looking out for the best interest of the Carroll Community School District children, and you still having an opportunity, I'm going to have to agree (with Tiefenthaler)," Dirkx concluded. "Your door isn't being shut."

In other personnel action, Todd Tidgren resigned from his position as eighth-grade volleyball coach, Tami Brant resigned from her seventh-grade volleyball-coach position to take the eighth-grade volleyball coach position and Tyler Tassell was hired to fill the seventh-grade volleyball coach position.

Brittany Schmehr resigned as special-education teacher associate at Carroll Middle School. Teresa Kotz, Colton Hemer and Stephanie Trecker were hired as special-education teacher associates at Carroll Middle School.

Kotz will start Dec. 9. She will fill the position vacated by Amy Niehaus. She will work seven hours a day, five days a week, for $9.86 per hour.

Hemer will begin Jan. 6, 2014. He is currently enrolled in the 2+2 program with the University of Northern Iowa and Des Moines Area Community College and expects to graduate in May 2015. He will be filling the position vacated by Randi Wirtz, and his starting wage will also be $9.86 per hour.

Trecker will start around Nov. 26 at $9.86 per hour. She will fill the position vacated by Schmehr.

Lindsay Conley was hired as eighth-grade girls' basketball coach. It will be her first paid basketball-coaching experience.

Jon Kitt was approved as a volunteer with the speech program at Carroll High School.