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Baraboo schools use grant to train special ed assistants for teacher’s licenses

October 30, 2018 GMT

At least eight Baraboo special education assistants will receive training to become certified teachers using a $50,000 grant awarded last week to the Baraboo School District by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

Baraboo is one of eight districts receiving a Wisconsin Fast Forward Teacher Training and Development Grant, meant to facilitate licensing of existing school employees in special education, career and technical education, general education, science, technology, engineering or math, according to a news release from DWD Secretary Ray Allen. Grant awards total almost $375,000.

“School districts in the state of Wisconsin are in a new landscape with supply and demand with teachers,” said District Administrator Lori Mueller, who noted that fewer students are seeking education degrees at Wisconsin universities.

Like other districts in the state, Baraboo has seen fewer qualified candidates apply for teaching vacancies. While school districts have not historically been involved in licensing new teachers, Mueller said the grant is one way the district can broaden its talent base.

“One of the goals of our district strategic plan is having the best of the best in our classrooms,” she said. “If we want to take more ownership of developing those high-quality individuals for our classrooms, this kind of grant gives us the opportunity to do so where we’re creating our own pool of talented individuals.”

District leaders in Baraboo identified special education as the area of greatest need for teachers over the last few years, Mueller said. Special education assistants support teachers working with students with disabilities, but are not certified. Candidates eligible for training under the grant must have a bachelor’s degree.

The grant requires the district to train a minimum of eight new teachers, but Mueller said more than 10 special education assistants across Baraboo schools have shown interest in pursuing alternative licensing pathways. They already have begun the training process in the Thunderbird Teacher Training Program, which extends from this year through 2020.

Danielson Group, a New Jersey consulting agency, will provide training for the program, primarily through Baraboo Instructional Facilitator Teresa Lien. Though Lien already works for the district, she’s also a consultant for Danielson. The agency helps administrators evaluate and develop teachers.

Those who are trained through the program will be able to apply for open special education positions for which they are qualified, both in the Baraboo School District and elsewhere, according to an information sheet given at Monday’s school board meeting.