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When a watchdog departs...

April 29, 2005

A former Jefferson County, W.Va., school administrator has resigned the seat he won in 2004, saying he believes the school system has too many employees.

Given his long experience in the system, we wish he had stayed to argue his case for a smaller number of school staff.

Jud Romine's resignation during a Tuesday meeting of the board was a surprise and he said afterward he wished he had left on a "little better note."

In addition to his concern over the number of positions, Romine told The Herald-Mail's Dave McMillion that some veteran educators have left the system because they weren't treated in a professional manner. He declined to offer details.

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Romine did say that the Jefferson County school system now has about 100 positions more than enrollment-based state school aid pays for.

That means county taxpayers must pick up the tab for extra workers, Romine said.

Board of Education President Lori Stilley and Superintendent of Schools R. Steven Nichols defended the additional personnel, saying they were needed to provide a quality education to local students.

Those positions include extra nurses, guidance counselors, and teachers of advanced technology, art and music.

Who would argue that any of those are unnecessary? Not us, but Romine said he is worried that with a new high school and a middle school planned, the number of employees - over and above what the state will pay for - will increase even further.

On every board of elected officials that handles taxpayer money, there is usually one member who takes the role of budget watchdog, questioning expenditures and the need for additional positions.

In our view, such boards make better decisions when they have to answer such members' questions. For that reason, we're sorry that Romine felt he had to resign. In choosing his replacement, the board should not pick someone who is reluctant to ask tough questions about financial issues.

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