Idaho Teachers Give up Day’s Pay for Audiologist What’s the value of a school-based audiologist? Priceless, said teachers in Idaho’s Twin Falls School District. As states struggle with record budget deficits, Dennis Robinson—the district’s only audiologist—was able to keep his job only after nearly 100 elementary-school teachers gave up a day’s pay to help cover his salary. Robinson’s ... School Matters
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School Matters  |   April 01, 2003
Idaho Teachers Give up Day’s Pay for Audiologist
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Hearing Disorders / School-Based Settings / Practice Management / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / School Matters
School Matters   |   April 01, 2003
Idaho Teachers Give up Day’s Pay for Audiologist
The ASHA Leader, April 2003, Vol. 8, 1-18. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.08082003.1
The ASHA Leader, April 2003, Vol. 8, 1-18. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.08082003.1
What’s the value of a school-based audiologist? Priceless, said teachers in Idaho’s Twin Falls School District.
As states struggle with record budget deficits, Dennis Robinson—the district’s only audiologist—was able to keep his job only after nearly 100 elementary-school teachers gave up a day’s pay to help cover his salary.
Robinson’s saga began nearly a year ago, when he opened the local newspaper and was startled to learn that his job of 25 years was on the line. Faced with a $1.1 million state budget shortfall, the school board did not renew Robinson’s contract, along with 12 other positions it determined would have the least negative impact on students if eliminated.
But the school board underestimated the difference a single audiologist can make. Each year, Robinson screens more than 2,100 children in preschool, kindergarten, first, third, and fifth grades in each of seven elementary schools for hearing loss and auditory processing disorders. He also provides screenings to children referred by teachers at two junior high schools and two high schools within the Twin Falls School District. In addition, Robinson monitors 100 children who need annual audiological evaluations due to fluctuating hearing loss as the result of otitis media or medications, and works with nine children with hearing loss who use amplification and FM systems.
In a public hearing before the school board and the city attorney, a group of teachers, parents, and students—along with local otolaryngologists and pediatricians—argued eloquently on behalf of the audiologist.
“Robinson identified students with hearing loss or auditory processing disorders that affected their learning in ways teachers were not aware of,” said Chris Turner, a special education teacher for kindergarten through third grade at Lincoln Elementary in Twin Falls.
At the hearing, parents expressed their deep gratitude to Robinson—tearfully, in some cases—for identifying their children’s hearing loss, and teachers stated that they lacked the training to conduct audiological screenings.
Robinson stressed the importance of a student’s ability to hear. “If trimming the budget were compared to trimming a tree, the elimination of the audiology program is equivalent to cutting off the tree’s roots,” he explained. “Normal hearing is the basis of a good education.”
Local otolaryngologists said that without the audiologist position, students would lose access to services. Although there is a state agreement for the Idaho School for the Deaf and Blind to extend services statewide through its regional student service program, the waiting list would grow longer with the addition of students from the Twin Falls district.
To save Robinson’s position, teachers signed a petition pledging to donate a day’s pay to a foundation that would fund his salary. Soon, the teacher’s paychecks arrived with a form requesting the donation, and the teachers raised $20,000 to fund a one-third position.
After the 2002–2003 academic year started, increased enrollment brought more state funding to the district, Robinson’s position was increased to half-time, and the teacher’s donations were returned.
Although the education budget for the 2003–2004 academic year remains in limbo, the audiology position may be reinstated on a full-time basis. Robinson appreciates the teachers’ support, which has had an educational impact beyond the classroom. “Administrators are more aware now of the value of audiology services,” he said.
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FROM THIS ISSUE
April 2003
Volume 8, Issue 8