CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — A month ago, the jobs of 33 teachers and 12 service employees in Jefferson County Schools were in jeopardy in the face of a projected $5.3 million budget shortfall stemming from significant drops in state aid, student enrollment and taxable income from foreclosures and dwindling property values.
This week, the Jefferson County Board of Education cut the number of threatened positions down to 29, Superintendent Susan K. Wall said Tuesday.
The board, following a new state law, had to notify any employee whose position was put on a Reduction in Force, or RIF, list by Feb. 1. Until the new law took effect this year, such employees didn’t have to be have to be notified until April 1, Wall said.
Usually by that time, school finance officers would have a handle on the next year’s budget and which employees planned to retire or otherwise leave the system so their positions could be posted, she said.
“I had to follow the law and notify them by Feb. 1,” she said.
That caused an uproar among the affected employees. It also sparked an organized candlelight protest involving more than 60 sign-carrying teachers, service personnel, parents, students and citizens who lined up in support in front of the Central Office building before a February school board meeting.
“I said early on that this would be a process,” Wall said Tuesday.
She said she knew then that things would not be as dire as they looked in January when the RIF list was made public.
Many employees on that list have been placed on a preferred recall list, said Alan Sturm, a member of the school board.
This week, nine employees were removed from the RIF list and seven new positions were posted. More will be announced at the board’s March 26 meeting, Wall said.
“We are going to continue to post positions,” she said.
Helping the situation is the fact that 39 teachers announced that they will retire this year. Wall also said there are always some employees who resign for various reasons every year, which also frees up positions.
She said she could not say for certain that some employees would not lose their jobs at the end.
“This is an ongoing process,” Wall said.
The district historically has seen a 10 percent increase in enrollment or about 200 new students every year for the last decade. Enrollment jumped by only three students in the current year.
“It was flat,” Sturm said.