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W.Va. school officials defend system's operation

April 28, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - A day following the resignation of Jefferson County Board of Education member Jud Romine, Jefferson County Schools officials defended the operation of the school system Wednesday.

Romine resigned Tuesday night during a board meeting, and Romine said one of the reasons he stepped down was because of the number of new positions that have been created in the school system.

The state aid formula provides funding for personnel based on enrollment, Romine said. Any positions added above that level must be paid for with local funds, he said.

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The school system currently is about 100 positions over what the state aid formula provides funding for, Romine said.

On Wednesday, Board of Education President Lori Stilley and Superintendent of Schools R. Steven Nichols defended the decision of the school system to have more employees than the state provides funding for, saying it is necessary to deliver a quality education to Jefferson County students.

Nevertheless, Nichols said Romine "continues to harp on it," and the superintendent equated the situation to a "one note song, over and over."

Nichols also said he believes that Romine - who also was a longtime administrator in the school system - has allowed friends to "cloud his judgment."

The Jefferson County Board of Education has 45 days to name a replacement for Romine, Stilley said.

Beyond that, Stilley said she could not provide additional details Wednesday on how the replacement process will work, saying she is "still a little shocked" over Romine's resignation.

Romine said during an interview Wednesday that he stepped down for two reasons.

Besides the number of new positions that have been created in the school system, Romine said he has been concerned about good, longtime professionals who recently have left the school system. Romine said he believes the employees were not treated in a professional manner, although he declined to go into detail.

Regarding the number of new positions that have been created in the school system, Romine said the situation is complicated by new schools that will be opening in coming years. The school system is preparing to open a new high school and middle school, which means more positions will have to be added to staff those facilities, Romine said.

"How could we possibly afford something like that?" Romine said.

Romine said the mentality at the central office seems to be "hire as many as we want and worry about the money later. I just can't operate like that," said Romine, adding that he believes the school system is getting close to running in the red.

Romine said he did not want to be on the Board of Education if the situation got worse and he was unable to do anything about it.

After reflecting on his resignation Wednesday, Romine said it is unfortunate he did not leave on a "little better note," but he felt there was no other recourse.

Stilley said the school system has added positions that are not funded by the state aid formula, but the positions are important to give local students a quality education.

Those positions have included extra nurses, guidance counselors, advanced technology teachers, and music and art teachers, Stilley said.

Stilley said arts education is important because it is proven that those subject areas increase students' academic performance.

Stilley and Nichols said it is typical for school systems across the state to have more positions than the state aid formula provides funding for. Nichols said that is the only way for a growing school system such as Jefferson County to operate. In the meantime, the school system must fight for changes in the state aid formula, Nichols said.

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