Resource officer losses debated

WELLSBURG – The loss of two prevention resource officers in Brooke County Schools and the criteria to determine future valedictorians and salutatorians at Brooke High School were among issues discussed Monday by the Brooke County Board of Education.

The school board agreed to contribute $20,000 for the cost of a prevention resource officer at the high school at the request of the Brooke County Sheriff’s Department.

Superintendent Kathy Kidder-Wilkerson noted last year the school district allocated $50,000 for three sheriff’s deputies to serve as prevention officers at the high school and Follansbee and Wellsburg middle schools.

Noting the money was allocated in the school district’s operating levy, Kidder-Wilkerson said the remaining $30,000 will be set aside for other officers when the sheriff’s department is able to provide them.

Board President Jim Piccirillo said, “We believe there’s a need for them, that the middle schools need them and we’re willing to put up the money for them.”

Brooke County Sheriff Chuck Jackson said a lack of manpower and new hires still undergoing regular training led to the reduction in resource officers.

The sheriff’s department also has seen a reduction in state grants for the positions, due in part to increased competition for the funds, with just $20,000 awarded last year.

Jackson said each prevention resource officer costs about $50,000.

Brooke County was among the first counties in West Virginia to employ school resource officers.

The officers, who may be deputies or city police officers, are trained to serve as liaisons between students and local law enforcement and to respond to outside threats to their schools.

During summer and other school breaks, they are available to perform regular duties.

Brooke County sheriff’s deputies have received state awards for their role at schools and as trainers for new resource officers in the region.

Jackson, who was contacted for comment, said plans call for Lt. Larry Palmer to remain as resource officer at the high school.

He said he’s approached the Wellsburg and Follansbee police chiefs about coordinating a police presence at the middle schools.

“There will be officers in the schools, but they may not be on a full-time basis,” he said.

Also on Monday, the board changed the way valedictorians and salutatorians for each graduating class are determined, effective with this year’s eighth graders.

Kidder-Wilkerson said in addition to overall grade-point average, a student’s class ranking will be determined next by the number of A’s they have earned for advanced placement, honors, college-level and regular courses, in that order.

The new policy states in cases where one scholarship is awarded to the school’s salutatorian, such as one from West Virginia University, it will go to the one with the highest ACT score.

School officials noted the change was made to reward students for enrolling in courses with weighted grades. It will be phased into use with current eighth graders, who may take such courses, and not high school students who already have enrolled in or completed courses.

In other business, the board:

Is slated to meet at 5 p.m. Monday to consider issues related to a proposed bond issue for a new middle school as well as the hiring of personnel for the new school year.

Pending approval of the bond issue in the Nov. 4 general election, plans call for the school to be built near the high school and replace Follansbee and Wellsburg middle schools.

The school board also plans to seek $15 million for the project from the state School Building Authority, which has awarded $100,000 for costs involved in planning it.

Raised salaries for head coaches by $200 and assistant coaches by $150.

In 2011 pay for the coaches was raised in those amounts if their teams or athletes competed beyond the regular season because the coaches’ salaries didn’t reflect time put in for playoffs and other extended seasons.

But Kidder-Wilkerson said she has learned that’s considered merit pay under the Affordable Care Act, entitling coaches who don’t work full-time for the school district to health coverage.

The board moved Monday to increase the salaries for all coaches by that amount, regardless of whether they have extended seasons

Raised pay for instructors of homebound students from $16 per hour to $20 per hour, citing a need to encourage more teachers to serve in that capacity.

Approved the hiring of the following personnel: Jason Bennett as a special education teacher at Follansbee Middle School, Amie Camps as a fifth-grade teacher at Follansbee Middle School, and Samantha Nelson and Philip Hamilton as bus drivers for extracurricular activities.

At a special meeting last week it approved the hiring of Ashleigh Gurskey as a special education teacher at Hooverson Heights Primary School; Mario DiBias as a physical education teacher at Beech Bottom Primary School and assistant football coach at the high school; Eric Francis, Morgan Kent and John Leary as teachers for the alternative learning center; David Edwards as a part-time cook at Jefferson Primary School; Sharon Haught as secretary at Colliers Primary School and Paul Gogikar as a special education teacher at Follansbee Middle School.

The board also hired many substitute teachers and service personnel during the last two weeks.

The board also accepted the resignations of Paul Duffy Jr. as volleyball coach at Wellsburg Middle School; Megan Harlan as athletic director at Follansbee Middle School; Monica Gray as a sixth-grade science teacher at Follansbee Middle School and assistant softball coach at the high school; Jeffrey Blundon as assistant freshman football coach at the high school; John Leary Jr. as assistant principal at Wellsburg Middle School; Holly Stillion as Title I reading specialist at Wellsburg Primary School; Eric Francis as a special education teacher at the high school; and Morgan Kent and Dennis Palcic as math teachers at the high school.

It approved the retirement of Tina Zago, who is leaving the principal’s position at L.B. Millsop Primary School to accept a principal’s position at an East Liverpool school.