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School struggles to fill vacancies

For the second time in nine months, the Superior school district is scrambling to fill an unexpected vacancy in its special education staff.

The move comes after a special education teacher resigned June 22 and asked to be released from her 2017-18 contract to accept a job in another district.

"If you want to get back into your home district and there's an opening, I get it completely," said Janna Stevens, Superior school district administrator. "Plus if your kids go to school in that district, there are a lot of benefits to that.

"I understand. I just understand that it puts us in a bad position as well."

By state statute, teachers must receive contracts by May 15 each year. They then have 30 days to consider the offer, and signed contracts must be returned by June 15.

Stevens said the teacher in question asked to be released about a week after handing in her signed contract.

"I'm just letting the Board know this will not be an easy position to fill," Stevens said at a July 10 meeting of the Superior School Board.

The school district faced a similar situation in November when an early childhood special education teacher asked to be released from her contract after accepting different job.

The Superior School Board did not approve the teacher's initial request, but the matter was taken up again and approved in January when a replacement was found.

"I don't know if I would say it's a trend," Stevens said. "I think when those opportunities come up, I understand why staff would want to do that. But I think the Board was pretty clear, it does put us in a bad spot."

Board members Len Albrecht and Mike Raunio both voiced concerns about setting a precedent by approving the latest teacher's request to be released from her contract.

Albrecht said when an employee signs a contract the district expects that it will be honored.

"If we don't approve this, they still leave," Albrecht said. However, by denying the motion, the school district retains its rights to sue for breach of contract to recover costs.

The Board voted unanimously to table the matter after Robert Morehouse withdrew his motion to approve and Raunio withdrew his second.

If the school district hires a long-term substitute or if the job is posted and no funding comes from the state, Stevens will collect pertinent financial figures to present to the Board. She expects to address the Board on the matter in August or September.

"There's always a cost," said Kyle Torvinen, school district attorney. "The question is how tangible."

In the meantime, Stevens said the school district will evaluate the challenges special education teachers face.

"Are there specific things we could do in our district to make that job more attractive? Whether it's additional time for paperwork or something else," Stevens said. "There are things we're looking at that we know are challenges in those jobs."