YPS boosts incentive for special education teachers

Simeroth: ‘Right thing to do’ to recruit, retain quality educators

Dr. Jason Simeroth

By Conrad Dudderar
Associate Editor

With a growing challenge to hire and keep certified personnel, Yukon Public Schools has increased the incentive for special education teachers.

The YPS Board of Education, at its Oct. 2nd meeting, voted unanimously to approve a change in the certified special education incentive from 5% to 7.5%.

“We don’t have to increase (pay), but we feel it’s the right thing to do to recruit and retain quality teachers,” YPS Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth told board members. “If you’ve been in a school lately, you can see that our population is increasing.”

Simeroth, speaking at Tuesday morning’s Yukon Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast, reported the district’s enrollment has reached 9,600 students.

“People recognize the quality of work that (teachers) do here,” he added.

The pay scale adjustment was recommended to provide a “comparable and competitive incentive for our 102 certified special education teachers and specialists,” according to a board meeting memo from YPS Assistant Superintendent Diana Lebsack.

“Surrounding districts are already paying 7% to 7.5% with many also providing additional retention stipends. Recruiting and retaining special education teachers is critical to our overall student services and meeting Federal and State requirements.”

The increase costs about $168,438 from the school district’s general fund.

YPS officials – with board approval – recently increased what the district pays speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists and other contracted positions “because we were having a hard time finding people”, Dr. Simeroth noted.

“It is a struggle trying to find people. We’re trying to do the best we can to keep those people that are quality in Yukon.”

The incentive hike for special education teachers earned applause from the audience at Monday night’s monthly YPS board meeting.

“We’re probably going to have to look at that again next year,” YPS Board President Suzanne Cannon said.

To which Simeroth replied, “Very likely.”

Incoming Yukon Public Schools’ Chief Financial Officer Jason Johnson (second from right) is welcomed at Monday night’s YPS Board of Education meeting: From left, Yukon Professional Educators Association President Robert Whetzel, YPS Board Member Jeff Behymer, Johnson, and YPS Assistant Superintendent Desarae Witmer. Johnson, who comes from Pryor Schools, will replace longtime YPS CFO Jim Fenrick. They will work side-by-side in coming months preparing for the transition. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)


YPS Board of Education members shared kudos to the school district’s site leaders for October’s observance of “Principal Appreciation Month.”

“We do want to honor our principals,” Cannon said. “A lot of the time the public complains about administration and how much money we spend on administration. And we are well below the amount allowed by the state for administration.

“But you know, if we don’t have administration, we can’t have any of the rest of it. There’s got to be support in place. There’s got to be people there to go to when you need help, and to suggest, mentor and all of that.”

YPS head principals are:

  • Central Elementary – Laurie Gallagher
  • Myers Elementary – Shannon Dutton
  • Parkland Elementary – Heather Mitchell
  • Ranchwood Elementary – Kristin Lipe
  • Shedeck Elementary – Randy Stowe
  • Skyview Elementary – Carla Smith
  • Surrey Hills Elementary – Dr. Bill Pierce
  • Independence Intermediate – Amy Young
  • Lakeview Intermediate – Sam Summers
  • Redstone Intermediate – Traci Sowinski
  • Yukon Middle School – Karyn Garcia
  • Yukon High School – Melissa Barlow
  • Yukon Alternative Learning Experience – Jody Pendleton

Among business items approved at the Oct. 2nd YPS board meeting were:

  • A student transportation contract for the 2023-24 school year with Canadian Valley Technology Center for the El Reno Campus ($24,500 – 7,000 miles) and the Cowan Campus ($9,800 – 2,800 miles).
  • A revised policy for use of school facilities.
  • Eight out-of-state travel requests, one Yukon Fine Arts Center facility use contract, four surplus item lists, seven school fundraisers, and one booster club sanctioning.
YPS Board of Education President Suzanne Cannon announces upcoming events during Monday night’s YPS Board of Education meeting. At left is Board Member Leonard Wells. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)