OXFORD — The recent hiring of a special education teacher and three educational technicians at Rowe Elementary School in Norway is largely a matter of replacing staff, SAD 17 officials say.

School board members Monday questioned Superintendent Rick Colpitts about adding the staff while there is a budget freeze.

Colpitts explained that when a special education teacher left the system, Robert Ripley, an educational technician III in the program since the fall of 2011, was appointed as a special education day treatment teacher at Rowe school. That appointment was made at Monday night’s school board meeting.

Ripley’s transfer caused what Special Education Director Jane Morse called a “domino effect.”

“He created an opening and we filled it,” Morse said.

Two educational technician IIIs and one educational technician I were hired Monday for the Rowe school.

The school has eight more students needing special education services this year and Morse said the additional personnel provide “adequate” staff.

Only one new position required taking additional money from the budget, which Morse said she had available. The other positions were already in the budget.

Morse said federal funds can be used to hire some of the special education educational technicians because they are not part of the state retirement system.

Ed techs, as they are commonly called, provide supportive educational services in grades K-12.

Morse said as of Dec. 1, SAD 17 had 530 special education students, who make up 15 percent of the student body.

Under state guidelines, a resource room, where many students with special needs receive services, can have up to 35 students with one special education teacher. Students come with myriad needs ranging from a 30-minute consults for speech therapy to a full-day program. Morse said the decision to add teachers or technicians is based on the individual needs, as long as it meets state guidelines.

By hiring ed tech IIIs, Morse said they can do some planning and “take some of the load off of the teachers.” All ed techs must be directly supervised by a certified teacher, she said.

According to the state Department of Education, certification for a educational technician I requires a high school diploma or GED; educational technician II certification requires 60 credits of approved study and Educational Technician III requires 90 credits of approved study.

Many of the educational technicians in the school district have more education than required and some have college degrees, Morse said.

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