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Board Approves 23 RIFs And Moves 10

By Staff | Jan 25, 2012

The Wetzel County Board of Education made difficult decisions Monday night regarding the termination and reassignments of several county school employees, in efforts to keep a balanced budget. After much deliberation and a lengthy hearing regarding the proposed reduction of one service personnel’s employment to half-time status, the board elected to approve the superintendent’s recommendations for the termination of 23 individuals and the reassignment of 10 others.

Angela D. Greathouse, a full-time aide at Hundred High School, met with the board during a special meeting conducted Jan. 23 to contest the superintendent’s proposal to reduce Greathouse’s position to half-time status. A formal hearing was held on the matter with several witnesses made up of co-workers and students vying to convince the board to keep Greathouse on full time.

Superintendent Diane Watt made her opening statement wherein she said that the board is required to keep a balanced budget, a requirement that is increasingly difficult to maintain with decreased enrollment and increased costs.

Specifically, in looking at Hundred’s Virtual Schools program (of which Greathouse oversees) Watt said it was determined that only a half-time aide was needed to be available to supervise the students who are taking these online courses.

Treasurer Jeff Lancaster was called on by Watt to help explain what was termed the funding formula. Simply stated, Lancaster said that in regard to service personnel and all staffing, funding is all driven by student enrollment. While enrollment increased slightly this past year, Lancaster said the county’s student enrollment has been declining in the last 30 years.

He went on to say that the county is currently over budget by roughly 30 percent in service personnel, equating to over $31,000 per service personnel for a total over budget amount of around $950,000. Notably, the county was able to afford extra service personnel thanks to grant funding over the past few years, however that funding will no longer be available after this school year according to Lancaster.

According to Assistant Superintendent Jay Yeager, it was determined a half-time aide was sufficient to supervise the Virtual Schools program after speaking with Principal Richard Ochsenbein on the issue. It was said that a half-time aide could be available to cover the majority of the students and the rest of the time could be covered by other personnel in the building, as persons covering the room were only supervising, not instructing.

Yeager added that Greathouse was asked to be placed on the transfer list because she is qualified for a full-time position. “She is assured a full-time job for the next school year,” he said.

However, Greathouse’s main concern was not losing her position, but rather, she lamented to the board that she had great concerns that the Virtual Schools program and the students at HHS would suffer if her position was reduced, noting that she provides not only supervision of the program, but helps the guidance counselor with program enrollment and helps students with assignments. She’s even taken it upon herself to learn Spanish to help students taking the online Spanish courses. “I’m not here tonight fighting for a position on my behalf,” Greathouse stressed. “I am here to speak on behalf of the future of Virtual Schools for Hundred High School and the opportunities for the students that will be lost in the change of making this position half-time.”

Additionally, Greathouse acts as the media specialist for the school, assists in the library, and covers classrooms when a substitute is unavailable. She’s also coordinator for the Hornet Raze Crew, a program to bring tobacco awareness to the school and community.

Greathouse was backed by several co-workers and students who made statements to the board in efforts to retain her present position. Roughly 16 letters were provided to the board which detailed the many ways Greathouse was an invaluable resource to the students and the school. Of those, five individuals appeared to read their statements.

Regarding the difficulty in effectively learning Spanish, HHS Student Body President Mitchell Moore said, “With a facilitator that has no knowledge on the subject, students are helpless. However, at HHS, this is not the case. Since her hiring in 2008, Mrs. Greathouse has dedicated herself to learning as much Spanish as she can in order to assist the students she monitors-dedication that any student should admire and demand in an educator.”

In his closing he implored the board, “Remember, not all teachers are educators, nor necessities, but if you have an educator as devoted as Mrs. Greathouse, you definitely have a necessity.”

Guidance Counselor Beverly VanScyoc said, “I can tell you that Angela has taken ownership of this job. She takes it very seriously.” She also expressed her concern with the high potential for students to cheat or view inappropriate material on the computers if left unsupervised, as would likely be the case if other personnel were forced to tackle room supervision on top of their already established duties. Additionally, as a counselor working half-time at both HHS and Long Drain School, VanScyoc stressed, “If I have to basically put all Virtual students in four periods a day, scheduling will be a nightmare for me.”

HHS Freshman Victoria Stevens noted what a good example Greathouse is for the students of HHS. “Numerous activities she oversees encourage students to help the school, community members, and people outside of our community,” Stevens said as she listed Greathouse’s contributions including supervising the Raze group, coordinating an annual teddy bear drive which benefits sick children and the elderly, organizing the school’s Relay for Life team, among other fund raisers and activities performed throughout the school year. “When students see Mrs. Greathouse taking part in these activities, it helps them want to also be involved in activities that assist others.”

Rebecca Spicher, science instructor and science department chair at HHS, reflected on Greathouse’s role in supplying students with necessary research materials. “In order for HHS students to function effectively in the world of academia, they must have a solid understanding for acquiring knowledge in the form of magazines, books, newspapers, as well as digital media. Mrs. Greathouse strives for excellence to ensure that the students have access to these essential materials.”

Spicher went on to say that Greathouse works to find books appealing to young adults to encourage reading. “As a professional educator, I understand the importance of reading and writing across the curriculum,” she said. “If a student improves his or her reading level, they can easily improve their academic performance in all areas, and ultimately increase their WesTest scores.”

In pleading her case to the board Greathouse cited a letter she received from Sarah Lyons, the assistant director of West Virginia Virtual Schools wherein Lyons commented that HHS was one of the “shining examples of student success stories” due to the commitment of the principal and facilitators to the online classes.

“Cutting the position to half-time and placing different teachers in the virtual classroom could hurt the program’s consistency that the students tend to need in order to become successful within the courses,” Greathouse emphasized. She went on to share with the board what Virtual Schools Spanish Teacher Anna Megyesi wrote to Principal Ochsenbein on Greathouse’s performance as facilitator of the program at HHS. “I see firsthand the make-or-break reality of good facilitation,” Megyesi wrote. “The facilitator is critical to students’ success. Without a knowledgeable, active, energetic facilitator, students struggle with technology and with new material and often become overwhelmed or frustrated. Angela Greathouse and her work are true assets to Hundred High School and I am grateful for all that she does.”

Greathouse expanded on the many duties she fulfills during her days at the school. Noting she has only two classes empty this year, she uses that time to review students’ progress with the virtual courses, works on a daily spreadsheet for the hall passes Principal Ochsenbein uses to monitor students, puts library books back on the shelves, gives Accelerated Reader tests to students, catalogs Library of Congress books into the school’s system, and does purchase requisitions for items needed for the library and teachers’ classrooms.

Regarding the fact that the virtual courses are completely done online, Greathouse defended, “In order to see the student success rates continue to improve, most students need that extra guidance from a facilitator who can get around the course and understand what is being asked of the students.”

In Watt’s closing statement she stated that HHS was very fortunate to have many “stellar educators walking their halls” and that it appeared to her that while it is unfortunate to have to cut service personnel, the school did have the staffing available to keep the Virtual School running. With that, she reiterated her recommendation to cut the position to half-time status.

The board retired into executive session to discuss the matter and after a half-hour, the board upheld the superintendent’s recommendation pertaining to all proposed terminations and reassignments in a vote of four-to-one, with board member Linda Ritz in opposition.

As such, the following personnel were approved for termination and assigned to the Preferred Recall List for the 2012-2013 school year.

Full-time professional personnel: Laura A. Barcus, Jennifer L. Eller, Leslie C. Emch, Stacy J. Hooper, Ryan T. Jones, Kimberly L. Nelson, Meredith L. Pilant, Sharon E. Snider, Cathrina Jade Spencer, Kimberly D. Starkey, and Carla N. Wade.

Full-time service personnel: Georgia L. Bland, Molly A. Harris, Kimberly S. Haught, Tonya R. Hostutler, Bernice J. Hornbeck, Radine S. Hubbard, Monica L. Morris, April D. Ring, Melissa K. Starkey, Kimberly D. Ueltschy, Kelle J. Wetzel, and Jeanette R. Whiteman.

The board also approved the transfer and subsequent assignment list for the 2012-2013 school year for the following personnel.

Full-time professional personnel: Davette M. Petrucci, Jay D. Smith, and Elisa N. Sprowl.

Half-time professional personnel: Michael J. Findling.

Full-time service personnel: Angela D. Greathouse, Susan L. Paden, Denise L. Poling, Lisa J. Sidenstricker, Kelly D. Taylor, and Barbara L. Yeager.