MICHELLE ROACH

SCHOOL HR DIRECTOR MICHELLE ROACH

 

READING – At the most recent meeting of the School Committee new Human Resources Director Michelle Roach presented the personnel report for the first quarter of the current school year. The report outlined all actions from July 1 through Dec. 10 with a total of 121 new hires during that period with 34 vacancies remaining spread over a wide number of job categories.

There have been 85 new professional employees hired since July 1 in the categories of teachers, administrators, para educators, custodial workers and secretaries.

As of December there were three teaching positions unfilled with four positions filled since the start of school. Since July 1 a total of 32 new teachers were hired with a total district headcount at 396 teachers. The district headcount for administrators is 49 with just over half of those new hires (26).

In a related staffing issue, on Friday Dec. 31 the school administration released a COVID statement which said in part, “We anticipate that the increase in COVID-19 cases will have significant implications on our staffing. For community members who have signed up to substitute in our schools, we ask for your support as much as possible to help us close gaps in absences. Similarly, if you are a community member who has not signed up to substitute but would be willing to step in and support us during this anticipated shortage, please contact our HR Director,

Michelle Roach (michelle.roach@

reading.k12.ma.us) to express interest. We thank the community in advance for your support in such a critical area.”

According to Roach, the hiring of substitute teachers is a continuing problem as a number of subs have not responded to come to work and said the Friday after Veterans Day, there were 68 vacancies and the district could only fill half of them. To remain competitive with other districts, they have increased substitutes’ per-day pay from $75/$95 to $100/$105 but a number of the substitutes were still not working. As of Dec. 10, 54 new substitutes and extended day staff members had been hired giving the district 192 workers in that category. There were seven unfilled long term sub assignments.

Figures presented by Roach showed the number of hires was not unusual for Reading. During the past two school years over comparable dates there had been less new hires but the prior two school years had higher numbers, with 183 in 2017 and 171 in 2018.

Other items

At the Dec. 16 meeting the committee was unable to establish the school calendar for the 2022-2023 school year due to a number of corrections needed in the proposal for next year and the school administration will submit a new school calendar proposal at a future meeting.

School Committee member Shawn Brandt objected to the titles of “Christmas recess” and also “Columbus Day” which he wanted changed to “Indigenous Peoples Day”.

Committee member Erin Gaffen said parents objected to the later start of kindergarten classes which followed kindergarten screenings which started on the first day of school and she asked if that could be changed.

School Com. Chair Tom Wise suggested Friday Dec. 23 be changed to a half day of school which is common in other school districts and asked if teacher in-service days in November could be moved because the proposed November calendar showed five days off for students plus a half day early release during that month.

The committee did not take up the face mask policy which was an agenda item for the session as Wise said he doubted the committee was prepared to make any changes to the policy at that meeting which lasted just over four hours.

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