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It was a packed house Wednesday night as the Sebring Board of Education met to discuss a number of issues.
The board went into executive session around 7 p.m. and stayed there past midnight with teachers and parents waiting outside closed doors.
Two main issues stood out. One is that teachers claim their contract isn’t being followed. The teachers union said they have filed a record 25 grievances this year, which is something that was unheard of in years past. They are blaming the new superintendent, Chris Lewis, saying there have been issues with personal days, reassignments and sick leave.
The union said the board is blaming decreasing enrollment and its bleak financial picture for implementing a reduction in force policy. But union members claim the school is shuffling people and eliminating teachers, but then hiring new ones and classifying the moves as a reduction in force.
“We’re facing a substantial deficit,” said Lewis. “In order to fiscally be responsible, in terms of being able to finish the year out of the red and in the black, it’s necessary to make a reduction in workforce.”
But it wasn’t just the teachers that were seeking answers at Wednesday’s meeting. Emily Waseman, 8, has been fighting an extremely rare form of cancer usually found in adults. Last week, her parents received word that she would be denied open enrollment next year because of the school district’s current fiscal situation. Waseman would need special medical attention that the district can’t afford.
Emily has been attending the Sebring Local School District for three years, but her family lives in the West Branch School District.
Her parents were granted the opportunity to address the board.
“It looks like she’s being denied because she will need some occupational therapy, some physical therapy which I don’t understand because she will be provided that by someone else, not the school, if she does,” said Emily’ father Brian Waseman. “Like her surgeon says, what if come September, she’s fought her way back to where’s she’s fine?”
The board said they would meet with her doctors to discuss the girl’s needs to see if they could accommodate her. Emily’s brother is currently enrolled in the Sebring district for next school year.