Pickerington Local School District officials recently restructured the district's special education department following the reassignment of its director.

Pickerington Local School District officials recently restructured the district's special education department following the reassignment of its director.

In the wake of former Superintendent Jim Sotlar's resignation Dec. 31 to become superintendent of the Canal Winchester Local School District, the Pickerington School Board appointed Bob Blackburn to replace Sotlar on an interim basis.

Although Blackburn remains director of the Pickerington's Special Education Department, the board Feb. 11 voted unanimously to provide stipends for the remainder of the 2012-13 school to Kristina Hulse and Jennifer McComas to compensate them for additional special education program duties they are assuming.

Hulse, a special education coordinator who receives an annual salary of $82,370, will receive a $4,000 stipend. McComas, also a special education coordinator who earns an annual salary of $85,923, was granted a $3,800 stipend.

According to Blackburn, the two are being compensated for 10 additional days of work. McComas will help manage the district's special education needs for students in grades K-6, and Hulse will assist the special education department's work with preschool students and those in grades 7-12.

They also are receiving more pay as they take on some of Blackburn's traditional responsibilities, including making budget and staffing recommendations to the school board, managing federal grants the department receives, overseeing district scholarship programs for special education and assisting the Ohio Department of Education as it reviews the district's special education programming to determine if there are areas in need of improvement or adjustment.

"They're going to help support me in making sure all of our special education department needs are met," Blackburn said. "I'm still going to be overseeing the department."

Blackburn noted the school board did not restructure the special education department during the 2011-12 school year, when he also was appointed interim-assistant superintendent for the district following the departure of former Superintendent Karen Mantia.

During that time Sotlar was serving as interim superintendent.

He said that's because the district last school year had a director of student services who helped share management duties related to special education.

That position was eliminated prior to the 2012-13 school year.

"We're giving some additional responsibilities, extra duties to (Hulse) and (McComas)," Blackburn said. "I've got two people I feel very comfortable with, so we can do that."

In addition to management duties, Blackburn said Hulse and McComas will assist him in implementing new statewide policies for school districts' use of restraint and seclusion rooms for students with behavioral issues or who pose physical threats to classmates or school staff.

They also will be in charge of reviewing qualifications for special education teaching candidates the district might consider hiring.

Although the school board has approved stipends for Hulse and McComas, as well as paying Blackburn $1,250 a month in addition to his base salary of $106,497 for duties he's assuming as assistant superintendent, PLSD Superintendent Rob Walker said the restructuring still will yield approximately $54,000 in savings for the district.

That's because the district is not naming a full-time replacement for Sotlar who received an annual salary of $109,434, in addition to annual employee benefits valued at $47,476 while working for Pickerington during this school year.