Teachers, admins object to cuts

PARKERSBURG – Some Wood County Schools teachers and administrators are taking issue with planned position cuts for the 2014-15 school year.

Each year the state Department of Education releases funding numbers for local school districts based on enrollment numbers. School systems then set staffing goals to make sure the number of paid positions within the system matches the amount of state funding.

Wood County Schools has begun the reduction in force process on 14 professional positions to meet those staffing goals. The school system has seen a drop in enrollment in recent years, and as a result a decline in state funding.

“These are county positions that are being eliminated, not employees,” said Bob Harris, assistant superintendent of personnel.

The Wood County Board of Education reviewed the list of positions Tuesday evening but took no action on the list. Harris said officials are moving forward with the list as presented because state code requires all personnel subject to a RIF be notified by Feb. 1.

“Our state policy along with county policy and state code define when we have to do things,” Harris said.

The positions being eliminated for the 2014-15 school year are:

* School/Community Liaison, Franklin Elementary Center.

* Grade 2 teacher, Emerson Elementary School.

* Grade 1 teacher, Lubeck Elementary School.

* Grade 3 teacher, Mineral Wells Elementary School.

* Grade 6 teacher, Williamstown Elementary School.

* Special education: mild mentally impaired, Gihon Elementary School.

* Math/Reading Interventionist, county assigned, two positions.

* English Language Arts teacher, Hamilton Middle School.

* Behavior support specialist, county assigned.

* Attendance social worker, county assigned.

County assigned positions work at multiple schools. Harris said of the 14 positions, only the elimination of the attendance social worker position will result in an employee losing their job.

“They cut the program one position,” he said. “We don’t have any social workers other than in that program, so that person doesn’t have a position to go into.”

All of the other position cuts will result in teachers bumping other teachers out of positions until the person with the lowest seniority ends in a vacant position.

Harris also said the two intervention specialist positions are not being eliminated, but will instead be paid for with Title I federal funds as reading specialists.

Several interventionists spoke about the need for such programs which provided targeted help for students struggling in math and reading, and said while the jobs are safe for next year, they feared the positions would continue to be on the chopping block in coming years.

“I am not here for me personally. I am here for my position as intervention specialist. Interventionists all throughout the county are concerned about their positions,” said Susan Williams, an interventionist at Criss Elementary School. “I believe in what I do. I believe my position as an interventionist at Criss Elementary is very important to that school.”

Superintendent Pat Law said the original RIF plan involved eliminating five interventionist positions, but officials were able to come up with alternatives and different ways to fund some of those positions.

However, he warned that relying on federal dollars for any positions risks losing those positions should funding be reduced.

Williamstown Elementary Principal Heather Mannix-Bretthauer addressed the school board Tuesday evening, saying the elimination of a sixth-grade teacher harms the school’s ability to provide middle-school-level and -model of instruction to those students. Williamstown Elementary is one of only two elementary schools in Wood County which serves students in sixth grade.

“You take that one person out of our building and we can’t provide that four-person team those students deserve. Your scores in reading, math and science are going to go down,” she said, noting the school currently has some of the highest test scores in the state. “You are sending the message our students don’t matter as much as the other middle schools in the county.

“We’re begging, please, do not cut this position.”

Harris said that cut is due to declining enrollment, and Law said he believes the school can still meet the students’ needs with fewer teachers.

Law said he met with administrators about all of the planned cuts, and while he understands their concerns the school system has no choice but to reduce the number of positions somewhere within the system.

“I’ve tried to be very understanding of their conerns,” he said. “We need to make those cuts, and we felt this was an area where the cut could be made.”