Shelton struggles to fill nearly 2 dozen school vacancies

SHELTON — Competition has been fierce for qualified school district personnel, leaving city administrators struggling to fill nearly two dozen vacancies.

Carole Pannozzo, director of human resources, told the Board of Education last week that the district is seeking to fill openings for 12 tutors and eight substitutes, with school opening on Tuesday.

Shelton schools are opening with a hybrid model, with students attending in class two days a week and remote learning the other three.

“We continue to recruit and make offers,” Pannozzo said, “but the ones we have approached end up accepting another job making more money. There is a lot of competition this year.”

The 20 positions were included in the 2020-21 approved education budget.

As the search for candidates for these spots continues, the Board of Education approved a request from the administration to hire an elementary school teacher for Perry Hill School; three paraprofessionals, with one each for Perry Hill School, Elizabeth Shelton School and Shelton High; and a roaming school nurse.

The hiring of the elementary school teacher and three paraprofessionals are necessary, Pannozzo said, to fill holes left by those who had been reassigned to other positions. The nurse hiring is needed so Director of Nursing Adrianna Collins can assume her role as COVID-19 liaison.

The Board of Education denied an administration request to hire a job coach. Interim Superintendent Beth Smith said the job coach would work with the transition program, which has grown by six students. The board felt the three job coaches the district already has would be sufficient, but agreed to revisit the request if the demand changed.

The board also voted to approve several expenditures, all totaling more than $300,000. The funds for these purchases were all part of the 2020-21 approved school budget.

Among the expenditures are $47,563 for the annual Microsoft license renewals; $1,915 for instructional supplies; $5,325 for 1,000 non-latex gowns; $2,000 for 5,000 youth disposable three-ply masks; $1,200 for six stools; and $196,546 for Shelton’s annual share of the Valley Regional Adult Education cost.

For the adult education cost, Finance Director Rick Belden said the district will receive a $40,000 state grant to help offset a portion of that expenditure.

Included in the expenditures were several purchases of instructional software. Administrators stated the money to be used is already part of the approved 2020-21 school budget — the money was originally earmarked for covering costs for hands-on science kits.

Assistant Superintendent Ken Saranich said the Foss science kits call for more interactive instruction, which is more limited with the remote learning being implemented each week. With that in mind, administrators chose to not make that purchase and instead buy instructional software that would better aid teachers and students with so much learning being done in a virtual manner.

In all, the district budgeted $70,106 for the purchase of the Foss science kits. The purchase of the instruction software totaled $52,808, meaning, according to Belden, the district is seeing a more than $17,000 savings with this change.