The Otto-Eldred school board opened new business Tuesday evening accepting six resignations, including two professional staff, two support staff, one cafeteria staff, and one board member. Resignations were accepted from Megan Walck (high school English), Nicole Kreiner (Elementary Behavioral Specialist), Terri Ogilvie (paraeducator), Kayla VanCamp (paraeducator), Penny Brown (cafeteria staff) and Keith Cousins (Region III board member).

The recent resignations have called for diligent work by the administration to adjust schedules and make sure student’s needs are met. “Everything is set for the school year to begin,” noted Superintendent Matthew Splain.

“I anticipate the board receiving another resignation from within our science department this week,” Splain said. “At this time of year, finding a certified and qualified replacement will be very difficult. Due to the lack of newly licensed teachers in Pennsylvania, finding a qualified and certified teacher at any point of the year is a challenge. According to PDE, the number of new certified teachers has dropped over 70% in the last 10 years.

“This is a challenge across the state and nation. Just over 4000 new teaching certificates were processed by PDE last year, which is a drop from over 14,000 just a few years ago. Many of us remember the supply and demand curve from our high school economics class. The market for teachers is quickly trending toward the demand outpacing the supply.”

“Teaching is a demanding profession, as is any true profession,” Splain continued. The rewards are countless. Where else can you witness so many successes and so much growth in our future generation while working with such a dedicated group of individuals? At the state and local levels, we need to do a better job of recruiting new teachers into the profession. We need to better understand why education is not being chosen as a career and find ways to incentivize talented individuals to enter our profession.”

As for the recent board resignation of Keith Cousins for personal reasons, the board has already had interest in his position and will hopefully have a person to fill his term by the next board meeting.

“I want to thank Mr. Cousins for his continued support of our district during his eight years on our board of education. During his time on the board, Mr. Cousins led two successful contract negotiations and was a tremendous resource for facility planning and fiscal planning. He was focused on our students and our community. It has been a pleasure working with him,” Splain stated.

High School Principal, Harley Ramsey reported on a collaboration with the Smethport Area School District that is currently in the works to develop a solution for the CAD offerings needed to fulfill the Industrial Arts Mantle requirements for seniors this coming school year. The hope is that the necessary courses will be provided remotely. The need for this collaboration was created after the recent retirement of Industrial Arts Teacher, Edward Reitler.

Ramsey also reported on the success of the first AG and Shop Exploration Day which was held this past month. Sixteen students attended the program and were able to explore concepts related to woodworking, tractor safety, hydraulics, small engine repair, tool identification, electrical wiring, tree identification, dairy production, meat production, pollination and more. “The students seemed to be excited and enjoyed the activities provided,” Ramsey stated.

Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, Melissa Merry, reported on the success of the National Math and Science Initiative training held in Pittsburgh that eight staff attended provided by a Laying the Foundations grant. The lessons they have learned are already begin implemented into curriculum. The board was updated on other attended trainings and upcoming trainings along with results of staff surveys.

In curricular review, assessment review and upcoming school year assessment preparation as well as preparing online programs have been a focus this summer in order to identify how to best meet the needs of our students.

Merry also reported that our district’s Keystone summary report shows that we outperformed the state in all three content areas. (Algebra O-E 45% — State 39%, Biology O-E 59% — State 47%, and Literature O-E 64% — State 57%)

All administrators made note to give a special thanks to the custodial staff, technology staff, and secretarial staff for their work over the summer preparing the buildings to be ready for the school year. Recognition was also given to the Parent Teacher Organization for funding a new sensory path that will be added to the back hallway in the elementary school. The path will allow for educational breaks for all students.

During public comment, Wanda Stebbins thanked the board for their support of the marching band and updated them on their progress preparing for the upcoming football season. Stebbins encouraged the members to come and watch the football team and the band on the field. Stebbins also boasted about the success of the steak bake the football team held and the great community support they received.

Other staffing and substitute approvals were made. Calib Chernish will fill the vacant Behavioral Specialist Paraprofessional position. Rosie Rodgers and Cari Hartzell were both approved for paraeducator positions in elementary. Brian VanCamp, who is currently in a long-term custodial substitute, was approved for a full-time position beginning Sept. 2 to replace a retiring employee. Steve Crawford was approved to take over the long-term custodial position until March of 2020. Deb Halstead was approved as a substitute nurse. Cathy Brown was approved as an elementary cook. Tina Mason was approved as a dishwasher/supper monitor.

Meanwhile, supplemental and volunteer approvals included Mark Miller as a volunteer for the volleyball program. Erin Jackson was approved as a volunteer for the Cross Country program. Hobie Milliron and Ryan Nielsen were approved as volunteers for the football program. Amber Webster will serve as a mentor to Katie Jo Barrett. Katie Jo Barrett will serve as the Show Choir Director. Stefanie Wolfe will be the softball scorekeeper.

Several agreement approvals were met with the Seneca Highlands IU9 Early Intervention, The Guidance Center, The Rural Regional College of Northern PA, The Oswayo Valley School District (Emotional Support Services) and Learnwell for the 2019-2020 school year.

Fall sports are in full swing. Parents are reminded to visit the school’s website for many helpful links.