JSC launches search for new learning specialist

The Academic Support Services Department is down one staff member and looking to hire a new full-time learning specialist within the next few months.

After one semester, Kevin Speck, who replaced Richard Simmons, has left the college. Fleck specialized in working with students who have learning and physical disabilities. Upon his absence, other members of the department have been meeting with students to help them through the beginning of the semester.

“Some of the students with disabilities also happen to be Trio students,” said Karen Madden, the director of Academic Support Services. “So those students with accommodations in the past will continue to meet with Clyde Stats, Shane Stacey or Carolyn D’Luz, but a vast majority of the students have now been meeting with me.”

Staff members are taking on responsibilities they would not normally have to do because of the job vacancy. This includes meeting with more students and reviewing academic plans.

“Students will come here and identify themselves as having a disability,” said D’Luz. “They usually meet with the learning specialist to go over documentation they had in high school, and through that documentation they produce an academic plan of what they are able to receive here at college. So for returning students who have that done already with the past learning specialist, we’re just reviewing that plan with the students.”

Even though the office is managing without a learning specialist, the college is planning to hire someone as soon as possible. The typical hiring process at the college involves a job description, which is edited and posted by Dean of Administration Sharron Scott. Once applications start coming in, the specific department that is hiring will get involved in reviewing applications.

“I review the applications initially, and then those that I feel are a good match will get reviewed by everyone in the office,” said Madden. “We will have a search committee, and we usually interview two or three finalists. Then, the person we are most interested in meets with the academic dean and the president.”

The search committee will include faculty, staff and a student.

“We try to have a student with disabilities sit on the committee. It is kind of hard because students are busy with classes and it’s hard to have someone to commit to the time it takes, but that’s our goal,” said Madden.

Applicants must have a master’s degree in special education, be familiar with disabilities, understand disability documentation and have worked with students with disabilities for at least three years in an educational setting. Applicants who are successful with the hiring process will have to complete a fingerprint supported criminal background check.

“It’s a difficult position to fill,” said Madden. “The job often appeals to someone who’s been working in the K-12 school system, and they probably make more money in nine months than I can pay them in 12 months. It would appeal I would think to someone who might have kids that are near the age of going to college because they would get free tuition. The salary is certainly competitive for Johnson but not in the wider world so to speak.”

For further assistance in the office, Madden has temporarily hired a psychologist who works in the Lamoille Supervisory Union. This person is not working with current students, but instead, is meeting with new students and doing evaluations. However, he’s also been called in for jury duty.

“The jury duty will probably last a couple of months, but hopefully I’ll fill the position by then,” said Madden.