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Cogle to remain at SMS, Board of Education approves new staffer for CTMS

By Staff | Sep 27, 2019

Rachel Hally, left, and Jessie Shanholtz spoke to the Board of Education in support of keeping Jennifer Cogle on staff at Shepherdstown Middle School, as well as funding a new position at Charles Town Middle School on Monday night. Toni Milbourne

CHARLES TOWN — On Sept. 17, Superintendent of Schools Bondy Gibson notified Shepherdstown Middle School families that a transfer of staff was necessary within the school system. Due to a decrease in enrollment, a budget shortfall and the need for a teacher in another school, Shepherdstown Middle School would lose one of its teachers five weeks into the school year.

“We notified the principal August 23rd that a reduction in staff at the sixth grade level was possible,” read the letter from Gibson. “Knowing how disruptive such an action would be, we took every step possible to avoid this outcome. None of this was sufficient to cover the needed services without another staff person.”

The need for a staffer at Charles Town Middle School led to the action taken by Gibson; however, that decision was met with frustration and concern at SMS, where the teacher affected, Jennifer Cogle, had already developed a rapport with her students.

Cogle commented on social media, saying, “It is with a heavy heart that I found out that Friday will probably be my last day at SMS. I am being reassigned to a school within Jefferson County.”

Cogle said the move would affect not only her classes, but would also affect other classes, as the students from Cogle’s classes would be merged with already-formed classes.

“Class sizes will go from 10-20 students to classes of 28,” Cogle wrote.

Upon receiving the news, both from Gibson and via Cogle’s social media post, parents rallied together to determine if a different solution could be found.

In response, Gibson mailed a second letter a few days later, to say that after being contacted by concerned citizens and board members, she thought a new position could be funded, without disrupting SMS.

“Several board members contacted me to ask questions and convey their concerns,” Gibson wrote. “As a result of their individual feedback and willingness to support creating a new position for the other middle school, I have placed a new full-time position creation on the Board agenda for approval.”

The position, approved as part of the consent agenda at Monday evening’s Board of Education meeting, drew no comment from any of the board members.

Members of the public, however, were on hand to voice their appreciation for addressing the issue at Shepherdstown and to voice concerns over the process in general.

Jessie Shanholtz, also a parent of a Shepherdstown student, called for the superintendent to be more proactive in the future when faced with a situation of declining enrollment.

“We need to make sure we have the least amount of disruption to the school system,” Stanholtz said.

Rachel Hally also voiced support of the full-time position at CTMS to prevent the loss of Cogle at SMS.

“Sixth grade is already emotional. With less than a week’s notice, every student in would have been affected,” Hall said. “Jefferson County Schools is not a business. It’s a school system.”

Hall called on the board to, in the future, incorporate changes between grading periods, if they are made after the school year begins.

While no communication was made between Board members or the superintendent with those making public comments, Gibson did write in her second letter to SMS families that with continuing decline in revenue due to teacher and service personnel raises over the past two years, along with a decline in student enrollment resulting in a loss of an additional $1 million from the state, the local system will likely face additional difficult decisions.

“We will navigate those with as much care and thoughtfulness as possible,” Gibson wrote.