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Waynesboro Area School Board members argue about use of state funding

July 12, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Waynesboro Area School Board members engaged in a 15-minute public argument Tuesday about using state funding to restore positions cut during 2011-12 budget negotiations.

Board member Pat Heefner proposed restoring a math position and a reading exploratory position at Waynesboro Area Senior High School. She said she wanted to also transfer a social studies teacher to an assistant principal spot and then fill the affected social studies position.

"The people of the community ... need to know we have money to make our schools better that we're not using," said board member Bonnie Bachtell, who supported Heefner.

Partly at issue was $413,000 in state basic education funding and accountability block grants. That funding for Waynesboro wasn't included in early versions of the state budget, but materialized in the final version passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly at the end of June.

Board President Ed Wilson said he is concerned about estimates for a continued deficit in the future.

"Next year, we're going to be $600,000 in the hole," he said.

Board member Leland Lemley voted against Heefner's motion. He questioned why she would want to re-establish an assistant principal position if she was professing to worry about the quality of education.

"We're talking about the safety of our students," Bachtell said.

"It's not the best scenario, but it's one I'm willing to work with. ... I don't look at a teacher as a recurring expense like you do," Heefner said.

"We're in the education business," Bachtell said.

It's the job of top administrators to oversee education, but the board needs to worry about finances, board member Firmadge Crutchfield said.

Heefner retorted he should let those administrators do their job and not micro-manage them.

"To me, we have an opportunity to make an investment where we need it," said board member Chris Lind, who voted in favor of Heefner's motion.

Underperforming high school math scores on Pennsylvania System of School Assessment standardized tests are going to land Waynesboro on a state warning list, Lind said.

He and Crutchfield entered into a vigorous debate.

"This isn't a court. ... You're trying to bully people. ... I believe (it) is a plan we can live with," Lind said over Crutchfield's interjections.

"We (already) had the math teacher and reading teacher, and still our scores are going to be poor. It's a process that's not as effective as it's meant to be," board member Billie Finn said.

With the furloughs created by the board for 2011-12, scheduling classes will be difficult, but doable, Finn said.

Heefner ended up voting "no" to her own motion because of a caveat that only members voting in the majority can make the same motion again in the future.

Voting in favor were Lind, Bachtell and K. Marilyn Smith. Voting against were Finn, Wilson, Lemley, Heefner, Crutchfield and Sherry Cline.

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