GREENCASTLE, Pa. — Kerri Barnes cried tears of joy and leaped into the air with her arms outstretched after a split board vote enabled her to keep her job as director of Tayamentasachta.
“I am feeling ecstatic,” Barnes said after the Greencastle-Antrim School Board voted.
The school board had discussed cutting Barnes’ position, as well as teaching and support staff positions in order to balance the district’s $33 million 2012-13 budget.
Cutting Barnes’ position as director of the school farm would save the district $85,000 in salary and benefits.
On Thursday, the board was deadlocked, 4-4, on a motion to transfer Barnes from director of the district’s Tayamentasachta Environmental Center to a middle school science teacher’s position effective Aug. 20, 2012.
Board members Mike Still, Joel Fridgen, Melinda Cordell and William Thorne voted against the transfer. Eric Holtzman, Brian Hissong, Kenneth Haines and Tracy Baer voted in favor of the transfer. Michael Shindle was not present.
Prior to the vote, students held hands and some cried as they waited for the board to decide the fate of Barnes’ position.
While Holtzman admitted that the school farm was a sacrosanct area for the district, he said that the district has tough, unfortunate decisions to make.
With Barnes’ job safe, the district must find another way to come up with $85,000 as well as a way to fill the middle school science teacher’s position.
Several hundred parents and teachers packed Thursday’s board meeting to argue not only to keep Barnes’ position but also to keep sports and extracurricular activities.
The latter are being discussed as possible cuts to help the district balance its budget.
“I think it’s your responsibility to keep us an elite district,” said Chuck Tinninis, Greencastle-Antrim High School’s longtime head football coach. “I don’t want to be a district that people laugh at. We need to do what we need to do.”
If taxes have to be raised to keep the bar high, then so be it, he said.
Jennifer Everetts, a high school counselor and Greencastle taxpayer, said she considers education an investment.
“By raising taxes one or two mills, you are investing in our future,” she said. “Taxes are an investment – not a punishment.”
Eric Jeffreys moved his family to the district from Las Vegas.
His children came from a school district with class sizes of 35 to 50 and graduation rates of 60 percent.
“We don’t want to see these programs (sports and extracurricular programs) gone and you gotta do what you have to do,” he said referring to a tax hike.
After more than an hour of public comment, Fridgen suggested that more budget discussion be held before a final budget vote is taken.
The board will discuss the budget and a possible 2-mill tax increase on June 7 at 6 p.m. in the Greencastle-Antrim Middle School Library. The public is encouraged to attend.
The final budget vote will be held on June 21 at 6 p.m.