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Waynesboro school board divided over two personnel positions

June 17, 2010|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- Less than a week away from adopting their 2010-11 budget, some Waynesboro Area School Board members are fighting for two personnel positions that others say are already eliminated.

At issue are a school resource officer and assistant high school principal. The future of those two positions created tension during a school board meeting that lasted four and a half hours Tuesday.

Board member K. Marilyn Smith brought up the topic, saying both positions are needed and "we're going to be sorry" if they are eliminated.

Board member Leland Lemley, who participated in the budget discussion via speaker phone, responded that the matter was already decided and the spots would be eliminated.

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"The people who lost the motion cannot bring it back to the table," Lemley said, prompting a review of Robert's Rules of Order.

Board member Chris Lind said the matter could be debated again if someone who voted against the positions changed his or her mind.

"I don't see that happening," he said.

Lind relented later, saying he didn't think the school resource officer position ever came to a vote. He said alternate funding would have to be established because of the solicitor's opinion that the board cannot use tax dollars for the police officer to be in schools.

"The challenge is -- if we want to talk about it at the next meeting, find the money," Lind said.

"I can't in good conscience sit here and defy the guidance he's given," board member Billie Finn said of the lawyer's opinion.

"I suggest we do this anyway and let the courts be damned," board member Pat Heefner said later.

Using a Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency program, the school district would be responsible to pay 75 percent of the school resource officer's salary and benefits for 2010-11. The Waynesboro police officer works in the schools through a memorandum of understanding with the Borough of Waynesboro.

"We have been trying for over a year to get (other) grants for this position," Smith said.

Lemley and Board President Ed Wilson alleged Tuesday that the initial agreement for the school resource officer was done dishonestly. Wilson also said the original vote had a stipulation that the general fund wouldn't be used for the position.

"The full board needs to know what's happening at all times," Wilson said.

"We were undermined by the (previous) administration and maybe by certain members of the board," Lemley said.

Smith said she admits she thought the board would see the position's importance after two years and want to keep it. She described both the school resource officer and assistant principal as "essential," with board member Bonnie Bachtell adding that they're important for safety.

Finn said she takes exception to the safety claims, citing the 3,336 discipline matters handled last year by the assistant principal. She said many of those were instances of tardiness, "continual defiance" and late to class.

"These are not safety issues," Finn said.

Those problems could be handled by the dean of students, guidance counselors, teachers and other principals, she said.

Superintendent James Robertson said he wanted to point out those classifications came from discipline forms and don't tell the whole story.

"My point is you have administrative people that can handle these issues," Finn said.

The board's preliminary budget, with about $50 million in spending, included a 1.5-mill tax increase. Heefner suggested making the increase 2 mills to eliminate a projected deficit.

Lind said his son did work recently for an elderly couple living in the district.

"They can't pay their tax increase," he said.

Also unclear going into Monday's school board meeting is what will happen with a librarian vacancy at Waynesboro Area Senior High School. The majority of the board has rejected an administrative proposal for how to fill that spot.

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