A Massive Communication Problem Occurred

In the first part of this story, we summarized the resulting controversy and protest activity that surrounded the decision by the Pocahontas County School Administration when, back in March, they issued Reduction-in-Force (RIF) letters to several Math and Science teachers at Pocahontas County High School.

The second reason for the controversy and protests was that one of the reasons given for the RIF letters was that the current number of the teachers next school year would no longer be needed because PCHS was also going to reduce the number of Advanced Placement (AP) and Dual Credit classes offered.

At the April 22nd Special Session of the Board of Education, the concerns about STEM Teacher RIFs were resolved when after a hearing, the board members voted to not RIF Math Teacher Cassondra Griffith who was the sole remaining PCHS teacher being considered for termination after the school administration had withdrawn all other proposed RIFs.

While the RIF situation has been resolved, the BOE will still need to make decisions about the AP and Dual Credit courses offered next school year. There has been talk about consolidating some of these classes which have only a few students attending them.

It is our understanding that a balanced budget which takes into account both the 1.2 million-dollars in expired COVID relief funds, and the rising costs of many items in the budget, will be presented to the board for a vote in May. This shortfall, according to School Treasurer Sherri Radcliff, will be made up for by using some reserve money and making other unspecified cuts, Radcliff also advised us that the RIFs, even if they had occurred, would not have had a big impact on the budget. School Superintendent Lynne Bostic explained that the main purpose of the RIFS would have been for the responsible spending of taxpayers’ money since when they were proposed, it appeared that those positions might not be needed.

Bostic, when interviewed while the RIF controversy was still going on, answered our question about how she would have handled the situation differently if she had it to do over.

“I’ve spoken to my mentor about this as well, and hindsight is always 20/20,” answered Bostic. “I should never have assumed that personnel season was understood. I’ve been involved in it for years when I was Elementary Director in another county., just working with the Personnel Director (in that other county.)  I should have been more open about: this is what’s happening. I think the public as well as our employees have a hard time -I know they have a hard time understanding that we cannot be totally transparent about the RIFs or the transfers that are coming on.  That is because the Board (of Education members) has to be able to hear that and not have some pre-judgments made about who or what they are hearing about at that time. But, communication -just some general facts about RIF and transfer season – I will definitely start next year, even with the board. Being more specific about the time period that we have, reminding them that we are looking at numbers, reminding them that we are looking at our budgets, and then making sure that we all understand the State Code that we are following that talks about the written notice on or before April 1st to all professional or service employees who are being considered for transfer, change of assignment or dismissal. And they can also have a hearing and then as a Superintendent to present to the board on or before May 1st , in writing, a list of teachers or other employees to be considered for transfer or different assignments for the following school year,”

“If we don’t do that type of work by May 1st, and then we find we could have transferred a teacher into maybe a different grade level or something, our hands are kind-of tied. So, that’s why we have to follow the state code.”

“I should have been talking to you more, Mr. Walker, and explaining to our employees and the public that this is personnel season and these are some of the things we do in-order-to make these decisions. And again, it is who is being considered -not that it actually will be done (RIFS, change of assignment or transfers.) Even if we made a decision on or before May 1st, we can always come beck and say: ‘We do need that person, our numbers have changed’ or ‘this isn’t going to work the way we thought it would.’”

“So again, communication is key, and I know we should have had some earlier talks.”

Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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