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Board president says teacher job issue was not voted on

February 08, 2001|By TARA REILLY

Board president says teacher job issue was not voted on



Five of the seven Washington County Board of Education members said they didn't know that 16 Project Challenge teacher positions were being eliminated, and that it's possible the board will look into the issue at its next meeting.

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Project Challenge teachers on Friday were told by administrators that their jobs would be "vacated" and turned into enrichment teacher positions for the school system's new advanced learners program, Quest.

Project Challenge teachers can reapply for the new positions but are not guaranteed jobs, according to board administrators.

School Board members, on the other had, said they're not sure how Quest will be funded, and that it might not receive the more than $490,000 in new money requested by Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett in his proposed fiscal 2002 operating budget.

The program is listed as priority 23 under new money requests.

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School Board President J. Herbert Hardin said Wednesday that administrators had told the board it already agreed to the job eliminations. Hardin, however, said the board never voted on the job matter.

"The School Board did not give approval ahead of time, and they're very concerned about that," Hardin said. "Most of us do not recall that they were going to do that."

"The School Board did not know," board Vice President Bernadette Wagner said. "We have to approve all funded positions. It's not the right way to do business. I think we should've been informed."

Bartlett could not be reached for comment.

Project Challenge is a county-funded program that focuses on gifted elementary students identified through test scores and grades. Quest would reach gifted, talented and highly able students in all grade levels, according to a board document.

The program would begin on the elementary level and eventually would be put in place on the middle and high school levels if funding were to become available over the next few years.

The previous School Board approved Quest in November, but its implementation plan has not been approved, board members said.

Board member Roxanne Ober also said she didn't find out about the eliminations until a teacher called her over the weekend to give her the news. Board member Edward Forrest said he found out by seeing a classified ad in Sunday's newspaper that the school system was seeking teachers for Quest.

"We need to discuss a matter like this before it is presented in the school," Ober said. "The new program hasn't even been funded yet."

"I really don't know how it will work without any additional funding," Forrest said.

Ober said that money is still available for the Project Challenge program, but that it might have to be used for Quest, rather than use new money to fund it. She said it is just an option and a final decision has not been made.

Board member Doris Nipps declined to comment. Board member Mary Wilfong said the board "technically" knew the job eliminations were coming.

Wilfong said that when the previous board approved Quest, it knew that the job descriptions for the teachers would change. She said the board is required to post new jobs every time a job description changes.

"The teachers didn't know it, but we knew the job descriptions would be different," Wilfong said. "Technically, we knew it would happen, but we didn't know when."

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