Rochester Beacon Academy addresses staffing concern

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(ABC 6 News) – A local charter school is facing issues after two administrative positions have opened up unexpectedly in the last couple of months.

On Sunday night, the school board held an emergency meeting to discuss the future of the school and on Monday, officials sent out a letter to parents to update them on what is going on.

Rochester Beacon Academy (RBA) currently serves 77 students, 90 percent of which are special education students. It employs around 30 staff.

The school’s Executive Director and Special Education Director recently stepped down causing concern at the school and for families.

The school board said families should not panic as they are looking to fill the positions as quickly as possible. In the meantime, they are utilizing resources to keep the school running.

“We have every intention of keeping the doors open,” school board member Deanne Breitenbach said. “Of course, that’s what everybody is scared of.”

The big question asked at Sunday night’s emergency board meeting was “How long before we have to close down because we don’t have these jobs filled?”

As board members are working to fill important roles, they’re hoping to hear from teachers, staff and families about ideas moving forward.

“What I’m requesting is that everybody will take the time if you have a suggestion or an idea, anything,” Board Chair Pam Johnson said Sunday night.

“It’s really been encouraging seeing everybody rally together,” Breitenbach said.

Breitenbach has been involved with RBA since it opened in 2015. Not only is she a long-time school board member, but she’s also a parent. Two of her sons attended RBA and graduated this past spring.

“There are kids that need this school and everybody is really dedicated to making sure that the good work that we’re doing continues and I really have no reason to believe based on all of the other obstacles we’ve had to overcome already, I have no reason to believe that we’re not going to overcome these too,” she said.

RBA specializes in working with students with Individualized Education Programs, or IEPs.

Breitenbach said RBA started the school year this year fully staffed with teachers and paras. Now the school just needs to work on getting these two positions filled which are crucial to running the school.

“And of course, we can’t predict the future, right? I can’t sit here and say to every parent out there watching ‘I promise you RBA is never going to close.’ I can’t. That wouldn’t be a realistic promise to make,” Breitenbach said. “I can promise that we are going to be doing everything that we can to fill in the gaps to make sure our kids are safe, our staff is happy and that we can continue doing what we do at RBA because it’s important.”

In a letter sent to parents on Monday afternoon, it said in part “As some of you may already know, on Friday, September 11th, RBA’s Director of Special Education, Melissa Walsh, tendered her resignation, effective Friday, September 23rd. While we are incredibly sad to see her go, we wish her the best in her future endeavors and will be forever grateful for all she has contributed to RBA’s success!

We are aware that a local TV station reported last night that the school may close. Please know that the RBA board of directors is committed to the success of the school, the students, and the fantastic staff. Additionally, we are all committed to moving forward with our mission to provide students with a safe place to learn and grow. The Board is actively putting resources in place to ensure the effective daily operation of the school, and the staff is going above and beyond to make certain that our students are adjusting well to the new school year. We will be contracting with an organization to ensure that there is no disruption in SPED services to students. Additionally, a diligent search for an Executive Director and SPED Director is underway. Our school fills an important need in the community, and we are all fully committed to its continued success.”

For the current job postings at RBA, click here.