Bond issue to go on Brooke ballot

WELLSBURG – On Monday the Brooke County Board of Education agreed to put a bond issue for the construction of a new middle school on ballots in the Nov. 4 general election.

Pending voters’ approval, the bond issue will raise $15 million over 15 and a half years, including $12 million for the new school and $3 million for upgrades to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at Brooke High School.

Plans call for the school to be built near the high school and replace Follansbee and Wellsburg middle schools.

Superintendent Kathy Kidder-Wilkerson said the school district will seek another $15 million from the state School Building Authority for the new school and allocate $3 million of its own funds for the project.

The state School Building Authority has awarded a $100,000 planning grant for such expenses as employing a bond counsel and financial advisor for the endeavor.

The board recently hired Massaro Construction Management Services of Pittsburgh to oversee the school’s construction.

Kidder-Wilkerson said the levy rates in place for the school district’s current bond issue will apply to the new one.

The current 15-year bond issue raised $15 million for the construction of the Brooke High School Wellness Center and improvements to all Brooke County schools.

Board President Jim Piccirillo said because the school board was able to refinance that bond issue, it will expire next year, when the new bond issue will go into effect if approved.

The school board has aimed not to raise levy rates for the new bond issue to minimize the impact on taxpayers.

Rising costs for utilities and maintenance and declining enrollment have been cited as reasons to replace the two existing middle schools. The projected enrollment for the new school is 978.

Consolidation of the two middle schools is part of a 10-year comprehensive school facilities plan adopted by the board in 2010. The plan was developed by McKinley and Associates and Planning Advocates with input from a committee of 43 teachers and community members.

The board also has made plans to build near the high school because it owns the land, reducing the cost for the project.

Piccirillo said preliminary designs call for a two-story building with an elevator to be built in the grassy area by the Brooke football stadium used for parking during football games and other events.

Piccirillo was asked how parking will be accommodated if the school is built there. He said those attending football games may park in the parking lot to be created for staff at the new school and in an area near the softball field that has been used for games with high attendance.

Besides the bond issue, the board met Monday to approve the hiring of many personnel.

Piccirillo said current state hiring policies make it difficult for local school boards to fill positions in a timely manner. In recent months the board has called several special meetings to hire personnel for the new school year, which begins Monday.

“We’re a week away and still looking for teachers, which we shouldn’t be,” he said.

Piccirillo said after posting a position for at least five days, a committee of school board staff, the school’s principal and two representatives of the school’s faculty senate can spend days interviewing candidates.

Piccirillo said in recent years there have been frequent shifts in staff positions, particularly of special education teachers leaving those jobs for traditional classroom assignments.

“I’m really concerned about the special education students because they need the most stability,” he said.

Asked about a possible remedy, Piccirillo said the state could change its policy to require new staff to stay in a position for a number of years before moving. He noted some states require staff to remain in a position for the duration of their contracts, but he acknowledged keeping a person in a position he doesn’t want isn’t a desirable situation.

Monday’s hirings included two new principals: Richard L. Whitehead, formerly a sixth grade social studies teacher at Follansbee Middle School who will serve as assistant principal at Wellsburg Middle School; and Brandi Reinacher, formerly a second grade teacher at Jefferson Primary School and Title I reading instructor at Wellsburg Primary School, who will serve as principal at L.B. Millsop Primary School.

Because of its smaller enrollment, Millsop School has been led for many years by a principal who also served as a teacher.

Assistant Superintendent Marty Bartz said the board decided to change that situation because the principal’s class could suffer from interuptions when their teacher was needed for administrative duties.

He said instead Reinacher will serve as a Title I interventionist at the school and assist Valerie Smith, the school district’s attendance director and grade 6-12 curriculum director, in monitoring attendance in the county’s elementary schools to ensure pupils are complying with its attendance policy.

Other hirings included: Morgan Kent, chairman of the alternative learning center; Nicole Cottle, fifth grade teacher at Follansbee Middle School; Sarah Rouhier, third grade teacher at Millsop Primary School; Jami Fonner, Brooke High School math teacher; Elizabeth Jeffers, eighth grade math teacher at Wellsburg Middle School; Sean Blumette, game day manager at the high school; Justyne Obeldobel, assistant girls soccer coach at the high school; Clark Besece as assistant boys basketball coach at the high school; Nicholas Tracy as special education teacher at Wellsburg Middle School; Jami Dantry and Amy Demi, countywide occupational therapists for students with special needs; Cheri Fullerton as countywide physical therapist, also for students with special needs; and Tracy Gilchrist as a cook at the high school.

It also accepted the resignations of Tim Ennis, who is retiring as a bus driver after many years; Rae Ann Cipoletti as a health teacher and track coach at Follansbee Middle School; Marie Volek as a school bus aide; and Amy Camp, a fifth grade teacher at Follansbee Middle School.