Several New Teachers Join the Sugarbeeter Family
August 18, 2021
The Black and Orange will be taking their seats in school classrooms on August 25 after their teachers attend two days of orientation on August 23-24. According to Superintendent, Fred Hofman, the Chinook School District is experiencing some staffing challenges, and he has been busy since July inviting applicants to become “Difference Makers.”
At their regularly scheduled monthly meeting on August 10, the Chinook School Board accepted the resignation of Shane Bartschi, who was the 2020-2021 Meadowlark Elementary School Principal. He received an offer to serve with the Charlo School District.
“It is very bittersweet for me to leave Chinook as I will miss the students and staff. However, the stars aligned for me this summer, and I took a principal job in Charlo where I am from,” Bartchi stated. His departure leaves another vacancy in the district.
Upon the recommendation of Hofman, the Board agreed to delay advertising for a replacement elementary principal until February or March when there will be a deeper pool of quality applicants for the position. Until that time, Hofman will assume the official duties of elementary principal and superintendent with some help from an interim hire.
Given the myriad of issues the school is presently working through with regards to staffing, the Board hired retired guidance counselor and school principal, Leslee Weber as a part-time, substitute principal who can assist with the transition at the elementary school. She will be available to the elementary district for approximately 70 days, or about 1/3 of the school year.
Other new hires include Amanda Davies, who will teach third grade, and Judy Whitney, who agreed to come out of retirement to serve as an interim teacher in the fourth grade until such time as Brylle Dadang, a Filipino teacher, arrives. Maria Alquiza Omos was hired as the Hartland Colony Teacher, and Patricia Loceo accepted a position as K-12 Special Education Teacher. Loceo will teach special education primarily in the elementary school. Both Omos and Loceo are likewise from the Philippines.
The Board also added several special education paraprofessionals, hiring Bridgette Brennan for the elementary and Angie Fischer and Bobbi Klingaman for the junior high and high school paraprofessional staff. Several vacancies remain in that department for anyone who wishes to make a difference in the Sugarbeeter family. Interested individuals are encouraged to contact Hofman at 357-2236 for more details.
“While we are starting to fill our teaching and paraprofessional vacancies, we are also still dealing with the fact that six of those teachers are not going to be available to start the year. Our six Filipino teachers are set to begin arriving in mid-September through October and into November, possibly December. That means we need to cover for these teachers and figure out a plan for how to deliver our educational curriculum to our students,” Hofman stated.
Although the high school math department will see new instructors in a husband and wife team, Stella and Gerald Llante who were hired in July, their J-1 Visas are awaiting approval. “Their travel interviews occur on August 25, and provided that all goes well, the soonest they would arrive is September 13,” Hofman reported.
Hofman has put in a call to the U.S. Embassy to hopefully expedite that process. “Who would have thought that the U.S. Embassy would play a role in rural education in Montana?” he asked. “This shortage of teachers is a situation occurring across the state.”
No interim teacher has been hired for those positions, although several substitutes are lined up so that students will receive support.
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“We are trying to finalize how that will look and how substitutes should be compensated; asking people to clear their schedules for 1-4 months is asking for a lot at $85 per day.
We are also looking into using either Skype or Zoom to conduct lessons from a distance, with a facilitator in the room,” Hofman said.
Principal Matt Molyneaux added, “The administration has turned over every proverbial stone to bring in quality educators to our Sugarbeeter school family. Mr. Hofman should be credited with much of this because he hit the ground running when he came to town and hasn’t stopped yet, and it shows with our newly hired personnel.
“I see many daily challenges with problem solving in regard to scheduling of classes for students to supporting new teachers that have never taught before or who have never taught a particular subject matter. We deal with cultural and language differences with new teachers, late arrivals of teachers, and oh yeah, round two or three of a pandemic variant that is easier for the student population to catch during a time when few believe in masks, vaccinations, and government guidance.
“All that aside, I truly believe we have a great K-12 staff that have solid experience and are extremely vested in our schools and our children so will do whatever ‘extra’ is needed to make the school year run as smoothly as possible. We have strong support from our veteran retired teachers that are willing to help where needed, and I am very thankful for that as well. I also believe our community is very supportive of our school system and this support will make the school year another successful one. I feel fortunate to work with such dedicated people that have one common goal in mind: doing what is best for kids, more specifically our students in Chinook.”
At their July 13 meeting, the Board hired former Hartland Colony Teacher, Nick Turner to fill the vacancy left by Hope Hamilton’s departure in the Family/Consumer Science Department. They also hired Laura Kellam to teach Spanish, one section of high school English, and resource room English. Last spring, Aaron Chriss was hired to teach high school science.
Although not new to the school district, some faculty members have accepted changes in teaching assignments. Jill Paulson, who previously taught fifth/sixth grade at Meadowlark Elementary, will be moving to the junior high to teach English 7, English 8, Montana History, and Title Reading. Julie Terry, who previously taught junior high English and English 9 and 10, will be teaching Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition, English 11, English 10, English 9, and Honors English.