Brooke school board approves 48 staff cuts

HONORED HOOPSTERS — The Brooke County Board of Education recognized five Brooke High School boys and girls basketball players for outstanding honors they have received. With Cameron Koehler, boys basketball coach; and Amy Serevicz, girls basketball coach; are from left; Hope Bowman, Ashley Arca and Chloe Fox. Bruin basketball players Evan Cuomo and Justin Shelton also were recognized. -- Warren Scott

WELLSBURG — On Monday the Brooke County Board of Education approved the elimination of 48 staff members, citing declining enrollment and revenue.

The number includes 31 teachers and other professional staff and 17 service personnel.

“This is the one of the hardest things the board has to do because it’s the law,” said Board President Brian Ferguson, who added seniority was the key factor in determining which staff members were cut and which remained.

Superintendent Toni Paesano Shute said, “It’s something we take no pleasure in, but we have to follow the letter of the law.”

Co-workers, parents and students offered praise for several teachers who requested hearings before the board on March 27 and other recent meetings.

But Shute said the hearings’ primary purpose were to allow staff to raise any arguments the reductions in force weren’t conducted properly regarding such issues as seniority and qualifications.

Terminated employees in recent years have been restored with the retirement of older colleagues. But Shute said few retirements are expected this year from the school district’s largely younger staff.

Shute said if any vacancies do occur, staff who have been let go may be considered for them before applicants outside the school district.

The names of all of the terminated staff members didn’t appear on the board’s agenda.

Instead it included 89 professional and service personnel to be considered for transfer to other schools in the county, which also were approved by the board.

The moves come at a time when the board is preparing to close the county’s two middle schools and three primary schools for the 2018-19 school year.

Follansbee and Wellsburg middle schools will be replaced by the nearly complete Brooke Middle School, while children from Beech Bottom, L.B. Millsop and Colliers primary schools will be transferred to Hooverson Heights and Wellsburg primary schools, to be renamed Brooke Primary North and South; and Jefferson and Franklin primary schools, to be renamed Brooke Intermediate North and South.

Shute acknowledged that a past administration for the school district said the new middle school wouldn’t result in layoffs, but she said that wasn’t a realistic statement.

The current board made it no secret the primary school consolidations would mean cutting staff, saying it would eliminate about 73 professional and service personnel while saving about $1 million.

In other business, the board:

• Heard school improvement council reports from Franklin Primary School and Follansbee Middle School.

Scott Donohew, principal of Franklin Primary School, said the school has adopted the leadership traits promoted in Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Happy Kids.”

Amanda Schey, a first grade teacher at the school and advisor of its Magnificent 7 Club, said pupils who demonstrate the traits are rewarded with membership in the group, which gathers for television with lunch and various games and activities during recess.

She said misbehaving can result in members being ejected from the club but they can return after demonstrating good behavior again.

Amy Polk, president of the school’s Parent Teacher Student chapter, said pupils also have collected money for the American Cancer Society, raised funds for the American Heart Association through the Jump Rope for Heart event and received free books through two book fairs held during the school year.

Greg Rothwell, principal of Follansbee Middle School, said the school has adopted a curriculum promoting science, technology, engineering and math, with a STEM club and students preparing to compete in the world VEX IQ Robotics World Championship later this month.

He said successful pupils have been paired with struggling ones, with the pairs meeting and working together during the lunch period.

• Recognized five Brooke High School girls and boys basketball players for special honors they have received.

They were: Hope Bowman, who was named the Two Rivers Athletic Conference’s Player of the Year and to its All Conference First Team; Ashley Arca, who was named to the TRAC All Conference Second Team; and Chloe Fox, who received honorable mention from the conference; Evan Cuomo, who was named to the TRAC All Conference Second Team; and Justin Shelton, who also received honorable mention.

Amy Serevicz, who coaches the girls’ team with Ryan Scherich and Johnny Schupbach, said Bowman, Arca and Fox were key starters for the team, helping it to finish the season with a 14-6 record.

Cameron Koehler, who coached the boys’ team with Mike Lanigan and Larry Hood, said Cuomo and Shelton were the team’s top scorers and among a hard-working group of seniors whom he will miss next year.

• Approved the $20,441 purchase of three 77-passenger propane powered school buses, with $264,934 of that amount to come from state funds.

• Agreed to move its April 23 meeting to April 30 and its May 23 meeting to May 29.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

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