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District 518 gets to work hiring new staff

WORTHINGTON --With numerous retirements and new positions created, District 518 is in the process of hiring a plethora of new staff.

"With the 14 retirements and the board approved 10 new positions and then we have a number of other resignations, so we're looking at 25 to 30 new people when it all gets done, depending on the final number of resignations," District 518 Superintendent John Landgaard said. "There will be substantial turnover this year."

According to Landgaard, that number is a lot higher than in previous years.

"It really is a lot. Normally, depending on the year, we range anywhere from two to eight retirements a year," he said. "With the retirement piece we put together for the district, we had a higher number of retirees this year. Otherwise, I would have guessed we would have been about six or seven."

Replacing approximately 12 percent of the positions in the school can create some challenges.

"It's a larger number than we were anticipating," Landgaard said. "It presents some challenges because you have a huge education element and training element that you do for new teachers to the district, whether they are first-year teachers or seasoned veterans. It poses a few unique challenges for us this year."

However, there will be new ideas and philosophies injected into the district.

"It is good from a standpoint that you have some opportunities to work with folks who are coming with different backgrounds and can bring something to the table," Landgaard said. "For example, have better skills in technology or something along those lines. We don't want, by any means, discredit those that are retiring or leaving because they all had value in the district as well."

Turnover, to some extent, is not new to Worthington. In recent years, many positions have been created and filled.

"In 2006, we had about 187 teachers," Landgaard explained. "We've added 53 positions since 2006. That's about 22 percent and that doesn't even count the retirements we've had over that time. One-fourth of our teaching staff has changed over since 2006, either by new positions created or new teachers leaving."

So far, the district has hired quite a few new teachers, but have struggled in some areas to find qualified candidates.

"We're just in May, so I would say we have about 60 percent of our hiring done," Landgaard said. "I'm hoping that in the next two to three weeks we'll have most of the rest of the hiring done. It's really looking positive as far as the number of positions we've filled. You always end up with a few late ones here and there, but I'm guessing by the time we hit mid-June, 90 percent of our positions will be filled."

In education, being done that far in advance of the school year is not common.

"A lot of times, the hiring is done in June and July. I would say we are ahead of the curve," Landgaard said. "We do that intentionally because we want the opportunity to get the best candidates out of those looking for a job."

During the last meeting, the school board approved a total of 11 new hires. Among those was Zach Dingmann as an assistant principal at Prairie Elementary, which is a new position within the district.

"The position out there will be to primarily address Title I and targeted services, which includes the after school element and of course, teacher evaluations and general duties within the regular school day," Landgaard explained. "That was kind of a coordinator-type position previously. In the Title I area, they really wanted it under the direction and supervision of a licensed administrator. Mr. (Josh) Noble kind of served in that role, but we decided to make that a little more specific to the position that was there."

Another key position approved was Josh Dale as the new activities coordinator, replacing Mike Traphagen.

"He actually was a teacher in the district a number of years ago," Landgaard explained. "He taught physical education and adapted PE. He is coming from the Alexandria area. He's been doing some internship and assistant AD responsibilities up there. He's got the background. He not only has an administrative degree, but he also has AD-specific training. It's exciting to have a young man in there who is going to look to grow work in the athletic director and coordinator position."

Dale has experience in coaching, but will not be coaching with 518. The vacancy left by head boys' basketball coach Ron Vorwald has not yet been filled. "We're a little nervous about the whole coaching position to make sure we get the right individual in that position," Landgaard said.

Katie Clarke was also approved to become the director of school improvement.

"She will supervise anything from special things like the North Central accreditation that we did to curriculum development to professional development, testing, assessment and all those little oddball things out there," Landgaard said. "That's a big job. There will be two coordinators working under her."

And while the district will miss the teachers who are retiring and moving on, it's a new era of sorts for the Worthington district.

"Change brings new challenges and new opportunities," Landgaard said. "It's sad to see all that expertise with retirements leave. You can either look at it as the bucket is half empty or half full."

Daily Globe Community Content Coordinator Aaron Hagen may be reached at 376-7323.