By TRAVIS MORSE
---- — MT. VERNON — The District 80 Board of Education approved a number of staff changes Wednesday night, including the non-renewal of two teacher contracts and seven new hires.
The non-renewals were for fifth grade teacher Michael Allen at the J.L. Buford Intermediate Education Center and first grade teacher Abby Etnier at the Primary Center.
Superintendent Mike Green said the non-renewals were not related to “economics or budget concerns.”
Two of the new hires were for certified positions. Jodi Fatheree was hired as the new guidance counselor at Casey Middle School, and Susan Staples was hired as this year’s summer school director at Buford.
Fatheree replaces retiring Casey counselor Teresa Barnfield, who has been in the position for 14 years.
Barnfield said she has greatly enjoyed her time at Casey. She will retire at the end of this school year.
“I love working here. I love the students here,” Barnfield said. “It was just time for me to do the next thing in my life. … I have grandchildren, I’m very active in my church, I have good friends, so I have lots of things that I plan to do.”
District officials decide each year who will be the summer school director for that year’s session.
Staples, who is the district’s after-school director, also served as summer school director last year. She said she looks forward to this year’s session, which will run from June 16 to July 3.
“I’m excited for the students to be there this summer and (to) be able to help them with reading and math,” Staples said.
Kindergarten through seventh grade students can take summer school.
Staples said the program helps kids enhance their literacy skills and maintain their math skills, among other benefits.
“We reach out to all the students. It’s not limited to a specific need,” Staples said.
The district staff changes were approved following a lengthy closed session Wednesday night.
Green said staffing will remain a key topic of concern for the district moving into next year.
The district, he said, will have 17 retirements at the end of this school year, including two administrators, four teachers, one counselor and 10 classified employees. The term “classified” applies to non-certified positions such as secretaries, aides and custodians.
Green said 17 is an unusually high number of retirements to have in one year.
“I would say we typically average around six to eight,” Green said.
The District 80 Board will be gradually filling some of these open positions from now until July.
Even so, it’s unclear whether all the departing staff will be able to be replaced, since the district’s financial picture for next school year is still up in the air, Green said.
The Illinois Legislature has not yet approved the state budget and that usually takes place in July, Green said. State reimbursements are an important factor in the district’s finances, he said.
“It’s just based on economics,” Green said. “We want to replace them, but we’re just monitoring state finances.”
District 80 faculty and staff who are retiring this year include: Barnfield; V. Carlene Brown, assistant principal at Casey Middle School; Becky Deaton, teacher at the Primary Center; Helene Moore, teacher at Primary; Robin Tolbert, teacher at Pre-K; Julia Laur, teacher at Primary; Theresa Degenhart, Pre-K offsite supervisor; and Sarah Martin, social service coordinator at the Dr. Andy Hall Early Childhood Center.
The rest of the retirees are: secretaries Reva Maurer and Vivian Wood; library aide Gail Haskins; tech aide Marcia Vowell; parent coordinator (aide) Bev Mays; and aides Donna Shelton, Marsha Schrum, Kathy Harvey and Mary Ann Morris.
Other District 80 Board actions Wednesday included:
n Approval of hiring Ron Robison as cook helper at Central Kitchen, Margie Schwartz as varsity cheerleading sponsor, Casey Schwartz as assistant varsity cheerleading sponsor, Tyree Trimble as assistant dance team sponsor, and Alis Jones as head dance team sponsor.
n Acceptance of the resignations of Helene Moore as varsity cheerleading sponsor, Kristi Kniffen as assistant varsity cheerleading sponsor, Amy Wylie as instructional coach at Primary, and John Smith as a temporary After-school Program half-time first grade teacher.
n Approval of the following job postings: an early childhood special education teacher at Andy Hall, an assistant girls basketball coach, three social-emotional screeners, six child care aides, and a homebound instructor for an eighth grade student at Casey.