Upshur County Board of Education members Roy Wager and Daya Wright at Tuesday's regular meeting at B-UHS.

Board of Education accepts RIF, transfer recommendations; PALS program to move to the high school

TENNERTON – Upshur County Board of Education members voted in favor of the proposed Reduction in Force and Transfer recommendations during their Tuesday at Buckhannon-Upshur High School.

The personnel season proposed recommendation included three professional positions for RIF and six professional transfers as well as one RIF and two transfers for service personnel in Upshur County Schools. Board members also voted to accept the list of probationary staff members – i.e., those who have less than three years of employment with the county as well as continuing personnel.

Upshur County Board of Education Vice President Jan Craig made a motion to accept the proposed Reduction in Force recommendations. The motion received a second from board member Sherry Dean. All board members voted to accept the proposed Reduction in Force recommendations except for BOE member Roy Wager, who abstained from voting.

The motion to accept the Transfer recommendations was made by Craig and received a second from Dean. All board members voted to accept the motion except Wager, who abstained. When voting on the status of employees, Dean made a motion to accept the probationary and continuing personnel recommendations, and the motion received a second from board member Daya Wright.

The motion carried with all board members voting to accept that proposal.

One personal care aide at Rock Cave Elementary School requested an open hearing before the decision to accept the recommendations. Upshur County Schools Interim Superintendent Dr. Debra Harrison explained the RIF for the aide was due to a more senior aide needing a position.

Still, Joni Roby, the aide, appealed to the BOE members to reconsider her RIF. Roby told BOE members she was completely blindsided by the RIF.

“I am fully aware of the policies and procedures,” Roby said. “I am the third aide this student has had this year, and she has had multiple substitutes. My first few weeks were rough – I am not going to lie. I only started substituting to get myself to retirement and had not intended to be full-time before I met this child.”

Roby described the bond she formed with this student.

“I decided if a full-time position came available for this student, I would apply,” Roby said. “I started full time on Feb. 2, 2023, and since that time, this student has blossomed and made so much progress.”

Roby said she had to learn what works best for this student, and they accomplished that, resulting in the student working very hard for her.

“She is talking so much now and listening and communicating with the other kids in school,” Roby said. “I make her use her words. Each day we learn and we grow, and I believe that comes from consistency. I hope to follow this student throughout her education process. I think it will make a huge difference in her quality of life and the quality of her education.”

“I realize there may be nothing you can do, but I wanted you to know the difference the right aide makes,” she continued. “The student also wanted you to know and wanted you to know she wants to keep me.”

Roby said she was asking for special consideration and thanked the board for their consideration.

The student’s mother was also present during the hearing and spoke about the difference Roby made in her daughter’s education and learning.

In addition, two professionals who teach in the PALS program at Fred Eberle Technical Center, Erika Jeran and Johnette Radabaugh, requested a closed hearing, meaning the hearing was held in executive session regarding their proposed transfer. Wager recused himself from the hearing.

Upshur County Financial Director Jeffrey Perkins said some of the proposed transfers came about because programs at the Stockert Youth and Community Center and the Fred Eberle Technical Center need to be moved to other locations because the lease agreements with those entities will end at the end of the 2022-2023 school year.

Then, in a message to My Buckhannon, Upshur County Schools Interim Superintendent Dr. Debra Harrison confirmed that the two PALS classrooms at SYCC and the two located at FETC will relocate to B-UHS.

“The PALS classrooms currently at Stockert and FETC will move to the high school for the 2023-2024 school year,” Harrison wrote. “It will continue to be referred to as PALS. It will be the same format with two classrooms and two instructors [each] at FETC and Stockert.”

Perkins said for the upcoming school year, the Upshur County Schools’ most recent payroll included 335 professional personnel and 208 service personnel.

Following the vote, during the board member comment portion of the meeting, Wager said he wanted to make a comment.

“The only bias that I showed for the transitional school was for the eight students that came that evening (to the Upshur County Board of Education meeting) concerned about their ability to complete school in an alternative setting because they all stated that they were not succeeding here [at Buckhannon-Upshur High School],” Wager said. “That was my bias – for those kids. I knew nothing about personnel there until I saw these two ladies at a board meeting a couple of weeks ago. I had no idea who even taught there or if it was still there.”

Upshur County Board of Education President Dr. Tammy Samples said personnel season is the most challenging time for her to be a board of education member.

“There are some things we just cannot do anything about,” Samples said. “Being on the board is always hard, but personnel season [is the most difficult] because I know our teachers love our students and want the best for them. That is the bottom line. Sometimes, there is nothing we can do.”

Dean said it is difficult because of the laws and Code related to personnel.

“I cannot visit teachers when we are in personnel season,” Dean said. “It is not because I am indifferent because it is not. It is because I do not want to jeopardize my vote or being able to listen to you. According to West Virginia Code and according to the Sunshine Laws and according to all of the training we go through, they consider that being biased.”

“We cannot do that,” Dean continued. “It is better if it comes to us, and we can hear it fresh and make our decisions, and then no one can accuse us of slipping around or saying we are biased.”

The next Upshur County BOE meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Buckhannon-Upshur High School Auditorium. However, community members are invited to a superintendent candidates forum Wednesday, May 3, at the Virginia Thomas Law Center for the Performing Arts on the West Virginia Wesleyan College campus.

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