Students’ needs stretching East Clinton educators

By Gary Huffenberger -

Sabina Elementary School Principal Jennie Pierson says, “The mental health needs that come to us, it’s unbelievable.”

Sabina Elementary School Principal Jennie Pierson says, “The mental health needs that come to us, it’s unbelievable.”

SABINA — Citing growing needs with students’ mental health, East Clinton is considering hiring an assistant principal to split time at its two elementary buildings and making the school psychologist position full-time.

No action was taken on the ideas at this week’s school board meeting, with Superintendent Eric Magee presenting them for further thought.

Sabina Elementary School Principal Jennie Pierson said, “The mental health needs that come to us, it’s unbelievable. Because you wouldn’t think in a K-to-5 building that there would be the need that we have.”

Rather than a focus on testing, the elementary principal said on many days she spends the majority of her time “being a counselor, talking with students about parents being divorced, about the drugs that are happening in their home, about they have no food, [or] they shut their electric off.”

The situation is similar at the New Vienna Elementary School, said Pierson, and Middle School Principal Robbin Luck, the other principal present at the board meeting, agreed that such students’ needs are growing.

Pierson added, “This is scary, but you have a parent who comes in and says, ‘If you drug tested me today, I’d be positive.’ And I have to send those two kids home.”

Magee said providing more assistance to the elementary principals has been discussed before. A shared assistant elementary principal, said Magee, could help by doing one-on-one targeted counseling, working through situations with students, and also would apply discipline as needed and contact parents as needed.

Currently, the East Clinton district’s part-time school psychologist also works at Blanchester Local Schools.

And caseload numbers in the district for speech therapy somewhat surpass state requirements, so it’s likely East Clinton will increase a current part-time speech therapist position to full-time, which would give the district two full-time speech therapists next school year.

In other news from the meeting, Luck reported the middle school has been “slammed” recently by sickness, with 50 students absent one day.

She said the illnesses range from the flu, fevers, and upper respiratory problems.

For the 2017-18 school year, the middle school is planning to go from eight periods to seven periods, with classes eight minutes longer and lasting a total of 50 minutes.

In addition, there will be no middle school recess next year. Luck said a few parents are concerned about the lack of a recess because their children have some excess energy. There are various activities in the cafeteria that can still be done to help with that, said Luck.

More than 75 percent of behavior issues occur during “recess and transition,” Luck said.

One reason for some of the scheduling changes is to have the high school and middle school on the same schedule, said officials. East Clinton may pursue a new middle school building, and if so, the desire is to have the current kitchen and cafeteria at the high school serve both the high and middle schools on the Lees Creek campus.

To make sure the combined kitchen service works, a uniform scheduling will be implemented next year to see whether there are any “bugs” that have to be addressed in a potential construction project, Magee said.

Accordingly, middle school lunch pricing will increase from $2.50 to $2.75 to match the high school price because there may be times when some eighth- and ninth-graders go through the lunch line at the same time.

Board members accepted a $3,804 donation to the East Clinton Athletics Department from the now-defunct New Vienna Youth League. The funds will go toward baseball and softball projects because those sports are what the money originally was raised for, said the superintendent.

The pitchers’ mound on the baseball diamond will be rebuilt, and dirt already has been applied to both the baseball and softball fields — with the baseball field needing some more, Magee said.

Pierson announced a book fair will be held next week, Monday, Feb. 27 through Friday, March 3, at the Sabina Elementary School. The Tuesday board meeting was held at the Sabina school.

Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.

Sabina Elementary School Principal Jennie Pierson says, “The mental health needs that come to us, it’s unbelievable.” Elementary School Principal Jennie Pierson says, “The mental health needs that come to us, it’s unbelievable.”

By Gary Huffenberger