Wayne school supporters not giving up fight

MINGO JUNCTION – Supporters of Wayne Elementary School will not go down without a fight.

Bloomingdale Mayor David Gaffney and resident Jeff Bonecutter attended Thursday’s Indian Creek school board meeting to discuss the board’s decision to close the building at the end of the current school year.

“As you may know, the people of Bloomingdale are very much opposed to closing Wayne Elementary,” Gaffney began. “The superintendent and treasurer gave a great rundown of the budget at the last meeting. However, I read the audit from the state, like a lot of others, and the costs of closing Wayne just do not add up.”

According the Gaffney, the audit included closing Bantam Ridge Elementary School, cutting seven bus routes and several other options as ways to save money.

“You moved students from Bantam Ridge Elementary School, but you kept the administration at the building,” he said. “How is that saving any money? Also, the audit says to cut seven bus routes and we only closed two. The audit gives a whole list of other ideas how to save money for the district. In addition, we were told that closing Wayne would save the district $337,000, and the state says $237,000. We do not know what the busing will be like with closing Wayne, either.”

Gaffney also mentioned that rumors have been flying throughout the village that indicate the Wayne Elementary building already had been sold.

Bonecutter said board members seemed to go along with whatever the superintendent and treasurer recommended.

“Something that bothered me was that the school board members pointed at (Superintendent John) Rocchi and the treasurer (Denise Todoroff), and basically said we have to agree with them,” he stated. “But honestly, you need to put it together and make your own decision. This seems like Rocchi made the decision and you guys are just going along with it. If I was sitting in any position, I would want to close Wintersville Elementary first. It’s in the worst condition and needs the most work. I think the school board isn’t looking at the district as a whole. When Rocchi brought up about maintenance at Wayne, none of this is any worse than what we have at the Buchanan building. I think the school board needs to step back and review this whole situation before making a final move and shipping these kids out of Wayne.”

Bonecutter told board members that many Wayne Elementary parents are saying their children are excelling at the school.

“We just had the annual science fair at Wayne, and there were so many parents talking about this issue,” he said. “Some of their kids came from other buildings in the district as well as other school districts and they weren’t doing very well. Now they are at Wayne and they are socializing with other students and getting a better education. When you close Wayne, you are going to destroy these kids. There is no way that they are going to do well at any other school. I can’t emphasize heavy enough for the school board to review this whole picture and take it back to the drawing board, because I think it’s going to hurt us more than fix us.”

Gaffney also asked board members why they rushed their decision to close the school.

“There is no real rush to close Wayne,” said board President Bob Smith. “But, at this point in time, we have to do something to not be in the red next year. Wayne is our best option. Getting the fifth-graders to the middle school as well as moving teachers takes time and effort, and we have to let them know the decision immediately.”

Smith said the assertion by Gaffney and Bonecutter that the building had been sold was the first he had heard of it.

“We are not in negotiations with anyone regarding the sale, lease or rent of the building,” he explained. “None of us up here have even heard that rumor until now.

“We want you to know that this wasn’t a quick decision by the school board, it was a painstaking decision,” he said. “I know it is difficult for you out in Bloomingdale, but it was just as difficult for us. I will definitely take your input and talk with the other board members. It never feels good to close a school, it rips the heart of the community and it really is the last thing we want to do.”

Rocchi also noted that the board’s decision to close the school was based on verified financial information.

“The board is using the financial information that myself and Denise provided members with and, currently, they are not changing their decision,” Rocchi stated.

In other business, the board:

Heard from Rocchi, who announced that middle school teacher Michelle Minto has been commended by AEP for participating in the energy-efficient education program. She was one of 350 teachers to be awarded and was presented with $500 of supplies for her classroom. He also announced that Hills Elementary School has been named a school of promise by the state school board.

Accepted the amounts and rates of taxation as determined by the Jefferson County Budget Commission, authorized the necessary tax levies and certified them to the county auditor.

Approved the following individuals as teachers for after-school intervention to be held through April 18: Karen Lloyd, Robert Leonard, Diane Bovina, Mike Voltz, Alex DiPietro, Christine Peterson, Karen Edwards and Gabrielle Connors.

Approved the employment of Jamie Kropa as high school Spanish teacher, Lisa Ward as boys and girls varsity track assistant coach, JoLynn Smith as high school drama club assistant adviser and Trent Starkey as middle school track coach.

Approved the resignation of classroom aide Christina Bube and track coach Alan Stevens for personal reasons; and physical education teacher Bruce Barrett and intervention specialist teacher Phyllis Ferris for retirement purposes.

Approved the employment of Jake Geary and Mitch Hukill as volunteer varsity baseball coaches.

Approved the renewal of three-year contracts for Rocchi, Todoroff and middle school Principal John Belt. The board also approved the renewal of one-year contracts for Wintersville Elementary School Principal Nicole McDonald, high school Assistant Principal Dan Hartman, district Special Education and Preschool Coordinator Jamie Kovalski, middle school Principal (fifth- and sixth-grades) Toni Jean Dondzila and Transportation Supervisor Brenda Staffilino.

Adopted a resolution to not re-employ Brian McCamic as district network administrator when his contract expires June 30.

Announced that the annual scholar’s banquet will be held at 1:30 p.m. May 5 at St. Florian Hall.