Upshur BOE eliminates nine positions in first round of RIF hearings

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Board of Education voted to eliminate nine positions in the first round of hearings during the Reduction in Force, or RIF, and transfer period.

School administration officials and board members said they are working diligently to ensure they are fiscally responsible while also providing the personnel they need to support students in Upshur County Schools.

During Tuesday’s meeting, BOE members began their task of making sure they are in line with their recommended number of personnel positions through the state aid formula.

Upshur County School officials said they are over by 1.8 professional positions and over by 16 in service personnel.

Before Tuesday’s meeting, Upshur County Superintendent Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus explained the overage of 16 service personnel is deceptive because some employees are counted twice – once if they are full-time service personnel and a second time if they take on an extra duty, such as a secretary taking on an extra bus run.

Dr. Debra Harrison, assistant superintendent of Upshur County Schools, said in this situation, that employee would be counted twice as two separate employees, even though it is just one employee.

“It is not 16 discrete individuals,” Harrison said.

The Reduction in Force, or RIF, and Transfer period started much earlier in this school year.

“We had an early retirement incentive for professional employees that includes $500 from the county and $500 from the state,” Stankus said. “The state just does this for professional employees; however, our county does this for our service personnel as well.”

Harrison explained the bonus for retiring individuals was given only to those who reported their decisions by March 1.

“This is for employees who let us know by March 1,” Harrison said.

Stankus said selecting retirement is a big deal for employees and added there were some employees who weren’t ready to make the decision by March 1.

“This is a big decision – we have some employees who are still wavering on the issue,” Stankus said. “We talked with some people who said they are not sure yet. They haven’t told us. Maybe they won’t retire until later. We will have some more names in the next week or so – or even in the summer.”

Stankus said the meetings with those employees involved in the RIFs and transfers took place two weeks ago.

“We have to be fiscally responsible and live within our means,” Stankus said. “That’s just what we are trying to do. I think people understand we are not trying to create any situations to cause stress to anyone – we are just trying to live within our means.”

Stankus said the affected employees met and were notified about the RIFs and transfers and following their meeting, they were notified by certified letters.

Only one employee requested a hearing during Tuesday’s BOE meeting – Carolyn Blend, who teaches French at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School and OSE/homebound. Blend requested her hearing be closed to the press and public.

Employee hearings during Tuesday’s meetings were the employee’s choice and the employee is able to select whether their hearing was open or closed. If open, all those in attendance are allowed to stay. If closed, the media and everyone attending the meeting is asked to leave, and the meeting is conducted in executive session.

There is no time limit for their hearing.

BOE members voted unanimously to make the following professional personnel transfers: Carolyn Blend, B-UHS French, due to reduced enrollment; Jennifer Dalton, Buckhannon Academy Elementary School special education, due to reduced enrollment; Barbara McVaney, Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School ISS due to programmatic change; and Jackie Crites, Pre-School special needs teacher at Hinkle Drive Headstart for French Creek Elementary School, due to lack of need.

The board also voted unanimously to make the following service personnel transfers for three aides because of reduced enrollment: Thelma Lori Hamner, BAES; Carmela McHenry, TES; and Teresa Halle, B-UMS.

Nine positions will be eliminated during the 2019-2020 School year, following a unanimous vote by BOE members.

Those positions include ISS instructor Barbara McVaney at B-UMS because of programmatic change; special education instructor Jennifer Dalton at BAES because of student enrollment; OSE/homebound instructor Chris Ware because of programmatic delivery format changes; OSE/homebound instructor Carolyn Blend because of programmatic delivery format changes; OSE/homebound instructor Lisa Wildman because of programmatic delivery format changes; French instructor Carolyn Blend of B-UMS because of student enrollment; special education aide Thelma Hamner of BAES because of student enrollment; special education aide Carmela McHenry at TES because of student enrollment; and special education aid Teresa Halle at BUMS because of student enrollment.

Following Tuesday’s meeting Stankus and Harrison said there may be more transfers, job eliminations and hearings during the next BOE meeting.

“The people whose positions were eliminated tonight were eliminated because of programmatic delivery format changes and may be eligible for our new program called PALS, but that was not approved by the board tonight,” Stankus said.

“There may be that rare occasion where we need people for the homebound/OSE,” Harrison said. “They are put on this list every year because we repost the positions when the need arises.”

“All of the positions that are listed on the to be eliminated list, all of the folks holding those positions, will have another position in the county,” Harrison added. “The position is cut, but the person will be transferred.”

Stankus said there were not enough numbers of students wanting to take French at the middle school to justify a part-time instructor.

“Our French program can be done virtually at the middle school,” Stankus said. “We have Chinese and Spanish at the middle and high school and the Spanish classes are busting at the seams. We are trying to be responsive to what the students are telling us.”

More personnel hearings will take place during the next Upshur County BOE meeting which is scheduled for Tuesday, April 9, 2019 at 6 p.m. at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School.

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