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Sciacca named next principal at Park School
Labor shortage expected to continue
Kelsey Sciacca2022
Kelsey Sciacca

Kelsey Sciacca will become the Park Elementary School principal for the 2022-2023 year, the school board announced Monday. Sciacca is currently an instructional coach at Park.

Last month, the school board accepted the resignation of Park Principal Adam Cline, effective at the end of the school year. He will return to his former position as the instructional math coach at Eisenhower Elementary School. Cline became the Park Principal for the current school year following the retirement of Phil Heeke.

The decision to name Sciacca as the next principal came during the personnel report at Monday’s Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education meeting.

Two other teacher appointments were approved. Morgan Little was hired to teach at the Little Panthers Preschool and Nancy Baldwin-White was hired to teach English at Great Bend High School. There were no resignations.

Before approving the new personnel, the school board met in executive session for 30 minutes to discuss the performance of an unnamed employee. Later in the evening, the board also met in an executive session to discuss the latest proposal for increasing the base pay rate for staff. No action was taken after that.

National labor shortage

Assistant Superintendent John Popp talked about the national labor shortage and how it affects schools.

“One of the big concerns that everybody’s facing in the labor market in general around the United States is this labor shortage. There’s been this feeling that, at some point, people are going to come back to work and it’s going to kind of go away. The data and the research are showing that is not the case,” he said.

“What’s really happened over the last three years is the baby boomer generation, who all the experts predicted would work well into their 70s, maybe even 80s, aren’t. The pandemic showed them that they don’t need to work and maybe their quality of life would be just as good if they didn’t work. This is the generation that they say, overall, found their identity in their work. And so what they’re saying is, the pandemic showed them, ‘I can find my identity in my family and other things.’ And so, what’s happened is the pandemic has largely caused the baby boomer generation to start retiring in mass a lot sooner than they predicted.”

In the early 2000s there were about 66 million baby boomers working, Popp said. “If you count all the millennials and all the Gen Xers together, you don’t have 66 million workers. You’re about 5 million workers short of that.”

There are about 6 million fewer workers now than there were when the pandemic started, Popp said.

“The main crux of the presentations has been that we need to start talking about how we do the same things with fewer workers because there’s not going to be a point when a whole lot of workers come back into the job market.”

Fortunately, Great Bend USD 428 has been able to continue to hire teachers and keep them, but that is not the case everywhere, Popp said.

However, “the labor shortage is real; we are facing it,” he said. “It’s probably going to get worse before – actually I don’t think it’s every going to get better. So that’s kind of dire news, but yet it does give up opportunities to think about things a little bit differently. It also does allow us, if you have fewer workers, maybe you can pay workers a bit more and still not impact your budget as much.”

The schools have more teaching assistants and paraprofessionals then they did before 2018, Popp said. “We have 270 people who are either classified as a TA or a para in the district.” There are 11 TAs per building at the elementary level.

The number of paraprofessionals per building varies depending on their caseload. Christy Gerdes, director of the Barton County Cooperative of Special Services, said there are now 135 throughout the cooperative, which includes other school districts.

With those kind of numbers, estimating each TA or para works about 1,200 hours a year, even a $1 an hour raise would cost the school district about $240,000 a year, Popp estimated.

Meeting at a glance

Here’s a quick look at other action from Great Bend USD 428’s Board of Education meeting:

• Family Engagement Coordinators talked about their first year on the job. They updated the board on their progress and plans for next year.

• Next year’s teacher and student handbooks were approved. The activities and athletics handbooks are being reviewed by in incoming activities director, Matt Westerhaus,and will be approved at a later meeting.

• The 2022-2023 board meeting schedule was approved, as well as the switch to summer hours at the District Education Center. The DEC will close the office Friday afternoons beginning May 27 through and including July 29. Employees will have the opportunity to work their number of contracted hours by taking shorter lunch hours.

• Price quotes for 600 cartons of 8.5 by 11 copy paper and 40 cartons of 11 by 17 paper were requested from paper vendors. Only Office Products Inc. in Great Bend provided a quote, which was approved for a total of $30,320.

• A list of new elective courses at Great Bend Middle School was approved.

• The board approved the purchase of a John Deere tractor and its options from BTI at the state bid price of $45,500. It will also receive $4,000 for a trade-in of the 2001 John Deere 440 that has engine issues.

• Reward incentive contributions were approved. Box Tops contributed $24.50 to Lincoln Elementary, $8.70 to Riley Elementary and 50 cents to GBMS. Casey’s contributed $9.60 to Park Elementary.