Drama Over STEM Teacher RIFS at PCHS Subsiding

As mentioned in earlier news stories on AMR, Pocahontas County High School experienced disruption on Monday, March 25th, with many of the students walking out of school and staging a protest against proposed cuts to STEM teachers and to both dual credit and AP STEM courses at the school. Although somewhat smaller in numbers, those protests continued on Tuesday, March 26, despite warnings that students who walked out on that second day would receive a day of in-school suspension. The students who were outside protesting were ordered to return to class, and were told that if they did so they would only receive the one-day in-school suspension. However, 59 students remained outside protesting and they received the additional day of out-of-school suspension.

At the regular BOE meeting that afternoon at the Green Bank School, about 50 PCHS parents, teachers and students showed up and spoke out against the proposed Reductions in Force (RIFs) of the STEM teachers and against the proposed elimination of some AP and Dual Credit Courses.

School Superintendent Lynne Bostic explained that the WV Department of Education’s personnel rules require that the employees who could possibly be transferred or laid off had to be notified in writing of that possibility by April 1st, and would be entitled to a hearing before the Board of Education before May 1st to contest any decision about their employment. Bostic also said that until those hearings, the school’s lawyer has told her that neither she nor the board can discuss the proposed personnel moves.

The day after that meeting, Bostic sent out a letter to the suspended students saying that if the school-day protests stopped, their suspension records would be purged. The protests stopped.

On April 16th, the BOE held a regular meeting at which Josh Hardy, representing the Pocahontas County Local School Improvement Counsel (LSIC), made a presentation. Hardy said there should have been more budget work sessions where the public could have had input before any irreversible decisions were made. He suggested that any RIF decisions be delayed for a year and a budget committee be appointed to come up with solutions that don’t involve RIFS of teachers or termination of STEM classes. He listed a lot of what he views as misinformation being put out by the schools concerning these cuts.

The personnel hearings were held at a special meeting  on Monday, April 22nd. The agenda listed a hearing for only one teacher at PCHS – Math Teacher Cassondra Griffith. Griffith asked that the meeting be open to the public. Testifying on her behalf were Jason Rogers and Robin Cutlip of the American Federation of Teachers; Joe Riley, the PCHS Principal; Chris Sutton, the PCHS Math Department Head; and Joanna Burt-Kinderman, the school’s Math Coach. Each of these pointed out just how skilled and effective Griffith is as a teacher. But. Sutton and Burt-Kinderman demonstrated using visual aids that without Griffith as the 4th math teacher at the school, next year they will have to scrap their carefully crafted plans to add a Computer Science CTE Completer program at the school. They said without Griffith, they will have to pull a math-certified teacher from the Computer Science program to teach the required Math courses, leaving the new CTE program short. Sutton apologized to Superintendent Bostic that he should have informed her about their plans to create the Computer CTE Course.

The board members went into executive session and discussed this, came out and Board Member Morgan McComb read the following statement: “The Board decided to keep the 4th math position for next year while we consider the CTE program for Computer Sciences including state approval (of the program), funding, and training/certifications. The (upcoming) WV Department of Education’s instructional reviews may change the courses offered across the board which may affect all areas.”

So, there will not be any RIFs at PCHS this year, since the other proposed RIFs had already been rescinded by the Superintendent prior to this special meeting. The proposed budget will be voted on by the board at their May 7th afternoon meeting at Hillsboro Elementary School.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this story where we will talk about the proposed course reductions and hear from Superintendent Bostic that, knowing what she now knows, what she would have done differently.

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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