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Brooke schools slashing staff

WELLSBURG — Citing fiscal conditions that led to the Brooke County school district being placed on a financial watch by the state, the county’s school board on Wednesday agreed to cut 44 professional and service personnel positions.

“It’s unfortunate that we had to do this, but it was something we had to do,” said Board President Ted Pauls in a telephone interview following the meeting.

“There are a lot of hurt people tonight, and anyone who thinks it doesn’t affect us (board members) — they’re wrong,” he said.

Pauls said the decision came following 90 minutes in executive session in which the board “considered all kinds of options.”

Superintendent Jeffrey Crook expressed similar sentiments.

“It’s unfortunate and I hate it for all the folks we had to lose,” said Crook, who added, “The actions we took tonight had nothing to do with job performance. It had to do with our financial situation.”

He noted state officials had recommended up to 80 layoffs to ensure the district is financially solvent.

The board is required to submit the staff changes by May 1.

Crook confirmed declining enrollment has left many staff not being covered by the state Department of Education’s funding formula while the board contends with a miscalculation in the district’s five-year operating levy, attributed to former staff, that has resulted in a $3.2 million per year shortfall.

“By law and by code I have to do what I can because we can’t operate at a deficit. We have to pay our bills like any organization,” he said.

He said since the school district was placed on financial watch by the state Department of Education early last year, state officials are “watching our every move as far as finances. We don’t have a lot of choice in getting our overage down to formula.”

Crook said the cuts affect personnel with experience ranging from one year to 30 years and include three assistant principals and administrative assistants at the board office as well as teachers and service personnel.

He confirmed the computer repair and cosmetology programs in the high school’s career technical department will be eliminated as a result of the cuts. He said enrollment in the former was very low and students engaged in it will be directed to programs appropriate for them.

Crook said the cosmetology program, the department’s newest, was expensive because it required two instructors at all times to supervise its students, who gained hands-on experience in hairstyling, manicures and pedicures.

He said more cuts are expected next year though he hopes they can be reduced, as they were this year, through retirements.

Crook said at least a few more retirements are expected and any vacancies left by them could be filled by staff who have been cut.

He noted those staff members will have the first opportunity to be interviewed for them, provided they are qualified.

“We will try to bring them back if we can,” he said.

The cuts include positions held by the following teachers and other professional staff members: Earl Sturm, Carolyn Matteson, Kelly Hunter, Olivia Becca, Travis Strader, Ash leigh Negri, Kara Oxier, Amanda Sheppard, Shannon Crumrine, Richelle Lounder, Emily Saluga, Stephanie Alexander, MacArthur McLean, Chelsey Stockdale, Christina Kerns, Martha Mercer and Hayden Cook.

Also cut were coaching positions held by Douglas Sizemore, Shayla Raab, Mario DiBias, Jason Williamson, John Farmer, Thomas Cole and Brian Davis.

Also cut were positions held by service personnel Greg Hoit, Lawrence Underwood, Greg Sheperd, Dennis Lough, Cody Pratt, Cheryl Lucas, Joshua Hoit, Shane Brown, Charles McCoy, Scott McUmar, Jessica Henline, Brittany Teaters, Lisa Haught, Alicia Lazear, Amy Shaffer, Melissa Salatino, Roberta Mozingo, Silvea Mazzella, Christine Tate and Loreto Pettini.

The board also approved the transfers of 43 professional and service personnel members to other positions.

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