Randolph BOE conducts RIF hearings

The Randolph County Board of Education heard arguments for and against the elimination of county school positions Monday.

Hearings were scheduled for six positions recommended for elimination by Superintendent Terry George. Those instructors were scheduled to speak before the board so they could present evidence against elimination.

Each instructor was allowed to speak to the board following testimony given by George’s counsel, Greg Bailey.

Hearings will continue this evening. The boards’ decision – of whether or not to eliminate the positions – will be made Wednesday evening.

The first instructor to speak was Marilyn Smith, the Green Team Leader at Elkins Middle School. Her position, Bailey said, was recommended for elimination because the superintendent, along with Elkins Middle School Principal Rich Carr, agreed that an increase in students in the 2013-2014 school year would place too much of a demand on her current responsibilities.

Currently, Smith spends time with the Green and White teams – groups of students within the school.

“My concern is that (Smith) will not be able to fulfill the obligations of the Green Team if she is on the White Team,” Carr said.

A greater number of students would not allow her to work with both teams, Carr said. Instead, she would need to be with one team, and he said scheduling would not allow her to spend an entire year with a single team.

She would need to be scheduled to switch to a different team halfway through the year. Carr said this would not promote a good environment for the students.

Smith defended herself with her counsel, staff representative Frank Caputo, by saying that her proximity in the school would be near enough to each team to give her access to any student who needs her.

“I don’t think next year being half and half would be an issue,” Smith said.

She said she would work closely with teachers and planners throughout the year and would not be removed from the presence of every student in her proximity, regardless of her team association.

Daniel Harper, Project Lead the Way/CAD instructor at the Randolph Technical Center, was heard next. The project consists of four classes that, once completed, can be used for up to three college credits at some secondary institutions.

Bailey said there was not enough current enrollment in the Lead the Way course to merit another year of funding for the project. He called upon Donald Johnson, director of the Technical Center, to give testimony.

“It’s an outstanding program,” Johnson said, “but we need students in it.”

He said only one student completed the program last year. Zero students completed it this year. Enrollment is also down, he said, and graduation rates will not be affected if the program is removed because most students take the course as an elective.

Harper cited some national studies which claim that academic achievement, overall, is enhanced for students who are enrolled in Lead the Way. He said many students are not able to take the class because of scheduling conflicts.

He also argued that funding for the position was merited because of the Technical Center’s initial investment in his training -approximately $8,000 over two years for training.

“There has been a marked trend,” Bailey said, noting the decrease in students who complete the program. “That means the program will not be funded.”

Following Harper, Melissa Reger, a clerk, switchboard operator and receptionist at the Randolph County Board office, went before the board.

Bailey began the hearing by telling the board that the duties of her position are able to be transferred to other staff members in the office. Due to fiscal constraints, he said, it is necessary to cut the position.

“We have identified duties in the Central Office that can be distributed,” he said.

Reger countered by saying that she is a highly active staff member who would be missed if replaced.

“Sometimes I track people down in the Board Office,” she said, when it was mentioned that her switchboard duties could be completed by an automated phone tree.

She also said she is currently filing permanent records, a list of files that numbers in the tens of thousands. The enormity of this job, she said, speaks for itself and cannot be simply traded to someone who is already taking on full-time responsibilities.

In addition, she said she helps the attendance director in her office and that the loss of her help would be greatly missed because the director does not have an assistant.

Finally, Reka Rowan, an interventionist at the Randolph Technical Center, presented her case.

Bailey said Rowan’s position was necessarily being cut because there will be no funding next year to support it.

“It’s unlikely that funding will exist for this position,” he said.

Johnson said Rowan’s position is funded entirely from Payment in Lieu of Taxes monies, funds made available to compensate local governments for revenue lost due to property ownership.

Funding from that source, Johnson said, is decreasing each year and will be less than is needed to support Rowan in the 2013-2014 school year.

Rowan said she is involved with many students every day. She said she sees students from all areas of the school, even adult students who need help with classwork.

“This position is growing,” she said.

Rowan told the board that her position is necessary so that extra help can be given when it’s most needed. She said she helps students pass tests and pass classes and that the demand for help is continuous.

Christie Hudson, a learning skills teacher at Elkins Middle School, and Shelly Canfield, a cook at Tygarts Valley High School, were on the board’s agenda Monday evening, but they were not present for their requested hearings.

Contact Casey Houser by email at chouser@theintermountain.com.