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Possible schools layoffs dominates meeting

By Staff | Jan 13, 2012

CHARLES TOWN – More than 100 people attended Monday night’s Jefferson County Board of Education meeting in opposition of the Reduction in Force – or RIF – informing teachers and service personnel of possible termination.

“Each year as we prepare the budget for next year, we review all areas, which does include personnel,” Jefferson County Superintendent Susan Wall said.

“We review staffing and send notices to reduce the number of employees over the state aid formula by carefully crafting some reductions in force and transferring others where appropriate,” she said.

Concerned teachers, community members, parents and organizations addressed their concerns to Wall and the Board of Education, urging the board to look beyond the numbers of the budget to the personal impact the RIF represents.

“You are asking service personnel to take one of the largest pay cuts in the state,” said Jackee Long, president of the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association. “All 261 day employees will lose four days. The average service personnel’s salary is $26,000. Four days’ pay off of that is devastating.”

Long also referenced a recommended reduction of days for custodial employees, from 261 days to 235 days, a loss of 26 days and $3,900 for the highest paid custodial worker, in addition to 20 days’ vacation.

While no one has been laid off yet, the Board of Education members must vote to accept or decline the superintendent’s recommendation to terminate the informed employees by Feb. 1.

“I am hoping that, as we go through the budgetary process and we look at funds available and also through attrition and retirement, the final analysis will be much different than the original recommendations,” Wall said.

In an effort to lessen the impact of the RIF, the board voted to approve a one-time-only retirement incentive to all Jefferson County Schools employees eligible for retirement by Sept. 30, 2012. According to Wall, around 80 employees currently qualify for this incentive.

Jefferson County Board of Education President Pete Dougherty reminded those present that all the discussion and action up to this point has not involved the board of education. Multiple board members assured the concerned audience that they would explore all possible avenues when looking at the budget.

“It is important for us to hear you. You are going to help us understand what the impact is as we are asked to look at the budget situation for the next fiscal year. I certainly don’t believe that a valid case has been made for a reduction in force,” board member Scott Sudduth said.

“As I understand, the law requires us to go through this seemingly worse case, and I certainly hope the very capable personnel here at the central office will present us some very serious options to consider as we go through this process,” he added.