Tucker Board of Education makes personnel cuts

The Tucker County Board of Education conducted its annual reduction in work force and transfer hearings Monday evening.

In total, the board voted to eliminate eight positions and transfer 10 positions. Personnel hearings took place in a special session at 5 p.m. and the board’s final decisions were made at the regular board session, immediately following at 6 p.m.

Positions eliminated included those of Donna Cross and Margaret Loria, cooks at Tucker County High School; Debra Thompson, a cook at Davis Thomas Elementary Middle School; Robert Bennett, an aide at DTEMS; Steve Minear, a bus operator for the Cannon Settlement Run; Rachel Landis, a Title I/reading teacher at DTEMS; Jill Evick, a Title I teacher at DTEMS; and Rob Masten, an extra-curricular band instructor at Tucker Valley Elementary Middle School.

Those positions transferred included those of Amy Nestor, a cook at DTEMS; Cindy Snyder, a cook at TCHS; Carolyn Gray, a cook at TVEMS; Rachel Ball, the county Canaan Valley route bus operator; Julie Hull, the county Route 72 route bus operator; Delvin Knotts, the county Quality Hill route bus operator; Mark Burns, the county Limestone route bus operator; Alan Kidwell, the Aurora route bus operator; Melinda Waybright, a math teacher at TVEMS; and Teresa Butler, a Title I teacher at TVEMS.

Two county bus drivers, Burns and Kidwell, elected to have public hearings before the board, each discussing the issues surrounding their transfer recommendations.

During Burns’ hearing, Dr. Eddie Campbell, the superintendent of Tucker County schools, spoke first and laid out the reasons why he recommended the transfer of the bus driver’s position.

“We are looking at the possibility of overcrowding as well as shortening our (bus routes),” Campbell said.

Placing Burns on a transfer list would allow Campbell to alter Burns’ schedule for the next school year, he said. He could not elaborate on how the bus routes may be changed, however, because the board had, at that point, not made a decision on whether or not certain school positions would be eliminated or transferred.

Burns asked the board how his route would be changed.

“My bus run is one of the longest and hardest, in terms of the weather,” he said. His concern, he said, was for the students. He said he didn’t want their bus rides to be any longer or more difficult than they had to be.

“There is still no plan in place?” asked Burns.

“We have a plan that we know there needs to be adjustments,” Campbell responded, adding it would be impossible for him to provide specific details about those adjustments at that time.

In the end, Burns seemed satisfied with the situation and offered his assistance in any way that would help the kids of Tucker County.

“I want to offer my help in rearranging the bus route,” Burns told the board.

Campbell said he is looking forward to the feedback given from all the bus drivers. He said managing bus routes is complicated, and it will take knowledge to make proper decisions about next year’s routes.

Campbell said the issue with Kidwell’s bus route concerned the picking up of kids in Preston County. He said recent talks with Dr. Larry Parsons, the Preston superintendent, ended with the understanding that students who are living in Preston – but are attending Tucker schools – would no longer be allowed to catch the bus on a route that goes through Preston.

Instead, the Preston kids would need to meet the Tucker bus on a route that goes only as far as the county line.

“We will need to significantly change his run to adapt to that situation,” Campbell said of Kidwell’s bus route, noting this is why the recommendation for transfer was necessary.

“These kids are excelling in Tucker County schools,” Kidwell said, insisting that alteration of his bus route would cause trouble for students because they would be forced back into Preston County schools.

He said that students contribute greatly to the academics and sports in Tucker County schools, and said he didn’t want to see that opportunity removed by a change in bus availability.

“I understand it is an inconvenience,” Campbell responded, but he said this practice of meeting kids at county lines is commonplace among surrounding counties.

In the end, the board voted to transfer both Burns’ and Kidwell’s positions. However, the board was vocal about their support in trying to accommodate Preston students in any way they can.

Campbell spoke for the group.

“In no way are we saying, or have we ever said, that Preston County students are not welcome at our schools,” he said.

Four other personnel decisions were made at the 6 p.m. meeting:

– Tracy Cheneoweth was hired as a mentor for building construction for the second semester of the 2013 school year and first semester of the 2014 school year.

– Phyllis Turner was hired as a substitute teacher for the remainder of the 2012-2013 school year.

– Alicia Lambert was hired as a critical skills interventionist at DTEMS for the remainder of the 2012-2013 school year.

– Lisa Smith was hired as a critical skills intervention specialist at TVEMS for the remainder of the 2012-2013 school year.

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