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Board of Education vote approves RIFs

By Staff | Jan 27, 2012

In a 3 – 2 vote on Jan. 19, the Jefferson County Board of Education approved nine recommendations from the superintendent for termination.

The Board of Education conducted the first round of employee hearings for service personnel and professionals who received RIF letters. Professional employee Kelsey Banks and service employees Sue Wolfe, Sharon Bohrer, Tina Viands, Mary Mullens, Etta Stultz, Emily Grose, Ineata Gavin and Dale Baddorf were all terminated from their positions.

Ten more educators joined the growing number of Jefferson County Schools employees terminated from their jobs after receiving a RIF letter Monday, Jan. 23.

Board members voted three to two in favor of Superintendent Susan Wall’s recommendation. Scott Sudduth and Alan Sturm voted to decline the recommendations, and Pete Dougherty, Mariland Lee and Gary Kable voted to approve. The 10 teachers reduced were Shannon Boone, Leslie Boyd, Storme Burke, Monica Grabowska, Ryan Mills, Jennifer Burnette, Jill Fornadley, Lydia Preczewski, Michael Walters and John Russel.

Grose is a regular cook who had only started her job on Jan. 10. Then she received her RIF letter. Grose said she applied for the job due to her husband loosing his job in November and to have medical benefits for her newborn baby.

“I was told the job was mine if I wanted it. They told me that I would be safe talking this job, that it was mainly aides that were losing their jobs, not cooks. So I decided to go ahead and take the job knowing it’s something permanent,” said Grose.

Each employee had the opportunity to speak to the board members and school administrators publicly or privately in an executive session.

Jefferson County Schools administrators used the board meeting to reiterate the reasons for the RIF letters and the selection process. Preliminary data for the fiscal year 2013 budget distributed at the meeting calculated that Jefferson County Schools would be operating with $5,421,000 less than the previous year’s budget.

The decrease in available funds stems from several factors, including significantly reduced carryover from this year’s budget to the budget for fiscal year 2013; stagnant student enrollment equaling less state money; the around $1.5 million in federal stimulus money; and an unanticipated loss of money from the excess levy due to decreasing property value.

From that shortfall, $1,624,250 would be off-set by the reduction of personnel. Jefferson County Superintendent Susan Wall is recommending the removal of 33 professional positions, 12.5 service positions, 17 team-leader stipends, a total of 62.5 personnel positions. Wall also recommends the reduction of day from 261 to 257 for contracted employees, which will include herself. It will reduce Wall’s pay.

The Board of Education members must decide to approve or reject all of Wall’s termination recommendations by Feb. 1. Once that date is passed, Wall cannot present any additional recommendations to the board members.

Additional employee hearings will be conducted on Jan. 23 and Jan. 30.

In early January, Jefferson County Schools issued approximately 66 RIF letters for the reduction of 45 positions: 33 professional and 12 service. According to a document provided during a recent meeting, a total of 7.5 elementary school positions and 25.5 secondary positions were recommended for reduction in force.

“In the state of West Virginia, I have to look at all permanent people in that category first – they are to get the reduction first – then after that I must go by seniority date. I also have to look at other degrees that they are fully certified in to see if there is any lateral movement that employee is entitled to because they are certified in something else,” said Dale Shaffer, coordinator of human resources for Jefferson County Schools.

Positions reduced at the meeting include one fourth-grade teacher, two fifth-grade teachers, two sixth-grade teachers, three middle school English teachers, one high school social studies teacher and one half of a music position.

Many mentors and fellow teachers spoke during the hearings, informing board members on the qualities, importance and impact the reduced teachers possess.

Teachers terminated will be placed on the preferred recall list for jobs that become available in Jefferson County. The teachers on the preferred recall list would be given priority over substitutes.

“On July 1, they will hop onto a realm of not being in our system, therefore being affected by those in the system who wish to transfer, but yet they are protected from us looking at anybody who would want to come to our system outside our system,” Shaffer said.

The Board of Education members will conduct one more employee hearing on Jan. 30 to approve or reject all of Wall’s termination recommendations by Feb. 1. The budget for fiscal year 2013 will be finalized by March 1.