RED JACKET — At a recent faculty senate meeting, Mingo Central High School personnel drafted a response to the recent data and information released by the Mingo County Board of Education concerning the 2016-2017 school year.
According to the report issued by the Mingo County BOE, Mingo County enrolled 149 fewer students in 2015-16 than in 2014-15 which has led to a loss of funding for almost 11 professional positions and over 6 service personnel positions in addition to positions that have already been paid with county funds.
“In all, if no reductions are made, we would have to fund about 15 professional positions and 44 service personnel positions not covered by our enrollment, as well as 14 other positions that cannot be paid by federal or state funds,” stated the report.
While the MCHS response agrees that enrollment has decreased, it argues that loss of funding should not be an issue, seeing that the top three positions in the county make more than $292,000 each year when combined.
The response released by MCHS also addresses the one percent cut from the state of West Virginia on county board of educations. According to the response, Mingo County receives $21,587,003.14 in state. One percent of that total is $215,870.03.
“215,870.03 does not justify 40 positions being cut,” read the MCHS response.
The Mingo County BOE also attributes the position cuts to a declining local tax revenue, saying that general and excess levy revenues fund salaries, extracurricular activities, field trips, maintenance, and other costs not covered by state or federal funds. MCHS contends that the levy revenues are in place until 2019, which means that there isn’t a decline until the renewal.
“The salaries it provides funding for are Central Office staff: No teachers, counselors, or administrators,” stated the MCHS response.
According to the response, there is $200,000 set aside for incentive pay in the levy. The response continues to question where the $200,000 is at – if all of the money isn’t used?
MCHS also declares that while some positions are not required by state law, the loss of an assistant principal, counselor, business teacher, English teacher, science teacher, social studies teacher and librarian at MCHS is not what is best for the students.
According to the statement and data released by the Mingo County BOE, certain positions are funded through very particular grants or line items in the budget.
“If these funds do not come through due to state budget cuts or other programmatic changes, it is up to the county to pay for them out of local revenues. With local revenues declining, the county cannot afford to pick up too many “extra” positions,” read the BOE report.
Personnel at MCHS repeat in their response that the pay scale at Central Office needs to be more closely looked at, reiterating that the Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent and Administrative Assistant make $292,000 each year combined and that the Director of Transportation currently makes $71,000 each year without having a degree.
MCHS also states that no programmatic changes have developed at the newly built high school which means that there is no retooling, re-configuring or eliminating of programs that is needed while the initial report from the BOE says that sometimes these actions are necessary due to Legislative changes, state or local board of education priorities, changes in the local economy or even a lack of interest.
“We review our academic and support programs annually to determine if they are serving our students well compared to the costs involved,” stated the BOE report.
The Mingo County BOE justifies the cutting of approximately 40 positions across the county including seven at MCHS by bringing attention to county enrollment.
“When the consolidation hearings for MCHS were held at Gilbert High School in 2007, it was projected that Mingo Central High School would enroll 882 students in its first year. Currently, there are only 678 students enrolled at MCHS,” according to the BOE report.
The MCHS response to this report disagrees with the projected enrollment for next year based on the amount of incoming eighth grade students and seniors graduating. According to MCHS, there are currently 155 Juniors, 179 Sophomores, 209 Freshman and 220 eighth graders which amounts to 763 students. MCHS also took into account that some students will move or transfer, leaving a total of approximately 723 students.
MCHS also contends that while the Mingo County BOE insists that MCHS has the largest amount of professional staff in the county, not every teacher at MCHS can be considered into the whole.
“MCHS has 12 CTE professionals and 6 special education teachers that can’t even be considered into the “portion” because these teachers have different courses and have different policies/laws to follow,” said the MCHS response.
According to the BOE, MCHS has 23 more teachers, counselors, and administrators than the next largest school, Lenore PK-8.
The report released by the BOE claims that it takes approximately 14 students to fund a professional position and that the State of West Virginia funds positions by looking at the total enrollment of a county, not the enrollment of individuals.
“It is common, then, that some schools will have more professional personnel than their student enrollment is able to fund. High schools in particular show this, as CTE and other advanced programs require more teachers than can usually be funded with just the high school’s population,” read the BOE report.
According to the BOE, it has tried to maintain this by holding the PK-8, elementary, and middle schools to very tight staffing while allowing the high schools to be more generously staffed. MCHS countered this point by stating that cutting teachers in CTE and advanced programs will only lose other funding. MCHS claims that a loss of a business teacher leads to less CTE completers which in turn leads to less funding.
MCHS also reported that teachers currently teaching electives will be required to teach more core classes, leaving no room for electives in the 2016-2017 schedule.
“The loss of electives will result in students not graduating, nowhere to put students during their “option” courses, and more students in a class,” read the response. “AP Enrollment WILL drop. Right now we offer AP courses in the morning and afternoon in order to allow students in CTE programs the opportunity to take CTE courses as well as AP courses. With these cuts, most AP courses would only be offered at one point throughout the day which would force our students to choose between CTE and AP. Furthermore, this would be a direct violation of the AP Access & Equity Policy. This would result in less CTE completers and lower enrollment in AP which would remove the AP District Honor Roll recognition that Mingo County recently received.”
The response also concludes that the decline in AP enrollment will be the decline in Promise Scholarship students that MCHS produces, stating that every student who received the Promise Scholarship last year at MCHS were enrolled in multiple AP/Dual Credit courses. MCHS also included an example in their response: 220 Freshman students in 2016-17 have to take English 9, not including the 10th graders who failed English 9. That would leave an average of 32 students in an English class which MCHS says is impossible to do. According to the response, if another teacher teaches a few sections to get the average number below 25 then that would eliminate electives, which are a part of PEPs and requirements for graduation.The Mingo County BOE contends that the reductions as proposed look to reduce excess capacity, not eliminate programs.
“In fact, if the reductions as proposed were implemented today, no advanced courses, electives, or specialized offerings would have to be eliminated from the academic or CTE programs at MCHS,” read the BOE report.
The Mingo County BOE agrees that naturally, fewer teachers will lead to larger classes but that classes at MCHS are already abnormally small for a high school of its size and that in the three largest PK-8 schools, the average classroom size is much larger — approximately 24 at Lenore, Williamson, and approximately 22 at Matewan.
“But even with the reductions as proposed, MCHS will only see a modest increase in class size,” stated the BOE report. “At Lenore, Williamson, and Matewan, shifts in enrollment and reductions in force at those schools will raise average class sizes to about 25, 26, and 23, respectively. The new Burch PK-8 should fall somewhere in this range. MCHS will still have smaller class sizes than these schools, thanks in large part to the funding provided by the larger classes in the PK-8 schools.”
According to the MCHS response, it is unfair to compare a high school to a PK-8 school since students at PK-8 schools do not have options and are all required to take the same courses. The response states that instruction is more personalized in high school where students are required to choose pathways which include specific courses to address specific needs.
MCHS ended their response by reminding readers that every student has to complete a program of study.
“With the proposed cuts, there are 45 students at risk for not graduating,” stated the MCHS response. “Mingo Central has a 90.34% graduation rate. If the cuts occur, the graduation rate has a possibility of dropping to 68%.”
According to the data and statement released by the Mingo County BOE, the Board is committed to the long-term success of each and every student in Mingo County, and the continued development of our educators and communities to help meet the needs of these students.
“An important part of that long-term success is sound financial management. We still plan to offer the same programs, the same opportunities, and same unique experiences to our students in 2016-17, but with fewer of them enrolled in our schools and fewer neighbors in our communities, we must face the reality that fewer educators are needed as well,” read the final words on the report.
To view the entire report issued by the Mingo County Board of Education visit http://mingoboe.us/planning_1617a.php
The entire MCHS response to the BOE can be found at http://mingocentralminers.com/files/111946944.pdf
(Madalin Sammons is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. Madalin can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 304-664-8225.)