WILLIAMSON — The Mingo County Board of Education held their monthly meeting on Tuesday to discuss current issues and to hear from many community members concerning the idea of cutting teacher positions for the next school year due to budget cuts.
There was only standing room available at Tuesday’s BOE meeting with twenty four people prepared to give delegations to the board. Normally, the board allows thirty minutes for delegations during meeting and immediately asked if anyone would be willing to give up their chance to speak so that other people could have longer than one minute each. The room fell silent before Brandon Tinney, a staff representative with the American Federation – Teachers asked to speak first.
“Mingo County Board policy 0169.1 states that the board can vote to extend the regular thirty minutes which I believe in this case would be a good idea since Mingo County Policy 0118 states that the Board declares and reaffirms it’s intent to maintain two way communications with citizens of Mingo County,” stated Tinney who then urged the board to vote to extend the time so that everyone speaking was given the standard five minutes of speaking time.
The Board then made a motion to give all twenty four speakers three minutes for their remarks.
High school counsellor Latisha Marcum was the first to speak in regards to the budget cuts that are set to affect Mingo County schools during the next school year and how reducing teachers positions and classes at Mingo Central High School would affect the current Juniors.
“By cutting some of our classes, we will risk lowering our graduation rate because it will mean that some students will not have the opportunity to graduate on time,” said Marcum. “Through my findings, the proposed cuts will drop our county graduation rate by 11 percent.”
According to the RESA II OEPA Baseline Data, Mingo County’s graduation rate is currently first place when compared to Cabell, Wayne, Logan and Lincoln Counties.
Current MCHS teacher Josh Johnson who currently teaches science at the school also discussed the effects of the budget cuts.
“Policy 6200 says that a science lab should allot 50 square feet per student. By cutting our classes, you will overcrowd our science labs which will be a safety hazard to everyone. Following those guidelines, our labs are designed for twenty four students. I currently have twenty four students in one of my classes and I can tell you that is it too crowded and is already a safety hazard,” added Johnson.
Katie Endicott represented the English Department at MCHS and also spoke of the repercussions that budget cuts would have on the students of MCHS.
“We were informed that we would be losing one English position for the upcoming 2016-2017 school year. With the elimination of this position, classes such as creative writing, literature, public speaking, mass communications and journalism will be eliminated. While these classes might seem optional to some, they are actually our greatest asset,” added Endicott. “The MCHS English Department has had the highest school level Westest and Smarter Balanced scores every year since the school has opened. When our classes are cut, rest assured that our scores will be cut as well. English elective classes service 25% of students at MCHS. Are we really willing to remove 25% of our students from additional time in English to send them to an overcrowded gym? I hope not.”
Marcella Charles, CTE Administrator at MCHS spoke next for the Career Technical Education Center.
“As you are aware, we have two very successful high schools in this county. The board was very clear that you want equality among our two centers. My concern is that MCHS at the current time is the only CTE center scheduled to suffer a loss. We are currently designated a Premier CTE center as well as a Model SWP Site. CTE is thriving at MCHS but as the the proposal for reductions currently stand, MCHS is the only center being considered for reductions,” added Charles.
MCHS principal, Teresa Jones was one of the last to speak on the issue.
“I suppose if I had to title this presentation something, it would be titled The Biggest Loser,” said Jones. “The current plan being proposed will result in MCHS losing seven professional positions — nearly 1/3 of the total cuts in professional positions being proposed. Teachers will be reduced by five, counsellors by one and one assistant principal cut. One of the reasons for the cut is due to a decrease in student enrollment. However, the projected enrollment for next year is 756 students which is greater than the current enrollment. With this predicted enrollment and a cut of five teachers, class enrollment will be a minimum of 21 students and up to 30 or more students in some classes.”
“Also, with the loss of some electives and the loss of our business teacher and librarian, student scheduling will be horrendous. For example, seniors only have three required classes which mean they need five additional courses. Where will I place the seniors that only need electives? It will be impossible unless they are placed in gym electives. Can you imagine as a parent your student having five gym classes every day? Based on current enrollment in the elective classes we currently offer, we are losing placement for 449 students. This means gym electives will be grossly overcrowded with 76 students in each nine of the classes. You can see that is clearly unfair to students, teachers and will create an unsafe classroom environment.”
MCHS student Eric Dillon also spoke fondly of MCHS and how the school had impacted his life and the lives of his classmates.
“When Mingo Central first opened, the Board of Education made us a promise. I watched classmates transform at MCHS from average students into world changers once they were offered the AP courses and curriculum. I love my school. I love going to school. MCHS helped me come out of my shell and helped me take opportunities. We need our teachers. My school is my home and it hurts me to think that my home would hurt and suffer,” added Dillon.
Doug Ward, past principal at Williamson High School also gave a delegation to the board.
“We closed our small schools based on the promise that was made to us by the board. You promised smaller classrooms, more opportunities, better curriculum and now you are saying that you can’t fund this”, asked Ward. “This leaves me wondering did we build MCHS to help kids or for some other reason.”
“Mingo County has promised, according to it’s slogan, to prepare today’s learners for the challenges of tomorrow. If these classes are cut, we will be breaking promises made to our greatest stakeholders: our students. Instead of preparing them for the future, we will actually be sending them back to the past,” said MCHS teacher Katie Endicott.
(See Reader’s Write, letter to the editor on page 4A)
(Madalin Sammons is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. Madalin can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 304-664-8225.)