Job changes are preferable to job cuts, district says

Staffing changes are planned for Lake Oswego School District’s special education services department in light of the consolidation of elementary schools.

The closure of three of nine elementary schools in the last couple of years has required a three-part reorganization of the department, and this is the final of stage.

Executive Director of Special Services Patrick Tomblin apprised the school board of the changes during a Monday meeting.

“In all of this, no person will lose a job,” Tomblin said.

About 50 people crammed into the small meeting room, some of whom did not support the reorganization of the department. The changes affect every school in the district, said Terry Shlaes, a special services learning specialist at Lakeridge High who testified at the meeting. Shlaes, also in charge of Lake Oswego Education Association grievances, said earlier this week that she doesn’t usually get a lot of complaints, but she got 13 complaints on this issue. She said some did not like how widespread the reassignments are, and some did not like how they were informed.

Two were pulled aside at a conference and told of their reassignment. Most felt there ought to have been a group discussion or some warning, Shlaes said.

“We feel there is a better way of doing this,” she said.

Tomblin said district staff will be meeting with employees to discuss the issue next week, although that doesn’t mean the plan will change.

“Our number one goal is to keep everybody employed even if it’s not ... their preferred assignment,” Tomblin said.

There now are almost 80 employees in special education services, which offers students supplemental services provided by special education teachers, psychologists, speech and language pathologists and classified staff.

There will be two fewer teachers this fall in the elementary school learning support centers, which are areas where students with special needs get help with reading, writing and math. The number of elementary students using this service has decreased in the last few years for reasons including a student population bubble that is aging out of elementary school, sixth grade no longer being offered at elementary schools and the evolution of specialized programs.

One school learning support center teaching position will be eliminated, and another is being moved to the high school ACCESS program, which focuses on students with autism and has a growing caseload.

Also, instead of having one psychologist who also offers counseling at two elementary schools each, two psychologists will take on only psych duties and two will perform only counseling duties at three elementary schools each. There’s one psychologist at each high school now, and there will be one covering both high schools next year.

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