School boards mull shared service concept

As the West Virginia Legislature presses school districts around the state to cut administrative costs, the Brooke County Board of Education already is exploring ways to share certain costs with neighboring Hancock County.

Following Monday’s board meeting, Superintendent Kathy Kidder-Wilkerson said Brooke County is exploring the possibility of sharing legal services with Hancock County and operating a joint alternative learning center.

She said it makes sense to work with Hancock County because the counties are similar in size and tax base. A combined alternative learning center – which serves students with behavioral problems, including those who have been expelled from school – would benefit Brooke County, Kidder-Wilkerson said, because she would no longer have to pay an English and a math teacher to staff the center.

Forty-seven of West Virginia’s 55 counties are projected to experience declining enrollment in the coming years. In response to that trend, House Bill 2940 – signed into law by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in April – requires county school superintendents and school board members within each of West Virginia’s eight Regional Education Service Agencies to meet once every two years to identify administrative services and functions that could be shared as a means of saving money.

RESA 6, which includes Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, Marshall and Wetzel counties, held its first such meeting in August, but Brooke County officials said sharing services isn’t an all-new concept.

“A lot of the schools, including us, are doing that,” said board member Chad Haught. “They don’t want to have to consolidate school districts, but they’re not taking anything off the table.”

Haught said other counties are sharing the cost of legal counsel and food service, but there seems to be a lack of hard data in terms of cost-benefit analyses.

“The problem is there’s not really enough data or information to develop concrete answers. … One of our recommendations is this is going to be at least a three-year process,” Haught said.

Kidder-Wilkerson said Brooke and Hancock counties already share the cost of providing teachers at the Lee Day Report Center in Weirton, as well as for the middle college program at West Virginia Northern Community College’s Weirton campus, which aims to prevent at-risk students from dropping out of school and allows those students to earn their high school diploma and begin post-secondary course work at the college. Brooke County also participates in bulk purchasing of items including paper and cleaning supplies with the other RESA 6 school boards.

In other business, the board:

Approved a one-year contract with Compass Energy Gas Services of Houston to purchase natural gas for eight of its 10 school buildings.

The gas would be transported via Mountaineer Gas lines, but the estimated cost through September of 2014 would be $61,757 – about $2,400 cheaper than purchasing the fuel directly from Mountaineer Gas, according to board Treasurer James Hervey.

The board will continue purchasing gas from Mountaineer for Wellsburg Middle and Wellsburg Primary schools, Hervey said.

Approved the hirings of Jennifer Perloski as a reading/literacy interventionist at Jefferson and Hooverson Heights primary schools; Rachel Carey and Mary Folden, substitute cooks; Mary Kimberland, substitute aide; Teresa Platt, bus driver; and Alicia Vincent, worker at Brooke High School Wellness Center.

Accepted the resignations of Cindy Thomaselli and Barbara Pettini, teachers at Jefferson Primary School who are retiring.