School Board Approves Bond Call for New School

The Brooke County Board of Education on Monday agreed to put a bond issue for construction of a new middle school on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Pending voters’ approval, the bond issue will raise $15 million over 15 and a half years, including $12 million for the new school and $3 million for upgrades to the heating ventilation and air conditioning system at Brooke High School.

Plans call for the school to built near the high school and replace Follansbee and Wellsburg middle schools.

Superintendent Kathy Kidder-Wilkerson said the school district will seek another $15 million from the state School Building Authority for the new school and allocate $3 million of its own funds for the project.

The state School Building Authority has awarded a $100,000 planning grant for expenses such as employing a bond counsel and financial adviser for the endeavor.

The board recently hired Massaro Construction Management Services of Pittsburgh to oversee the construction.

Kidder-Wilkerson said the levy rates in place for the school district’s current bond issue will apply to the new one. The current 15-year bond issue raised $15 million for the construction of the Brooke High School Wellness Center and improvements to all county schools.

Board President Jim Piccirillo said because the school board was able to refinance that bond issue, it will expire next year, when the new bond issue will go into effect, if approved. The school board has aimed not to raise levy rates for the new bond issue to minimize the impact on taxpayers.

Rising costs for utilities and maintenance and declining enrollment have been cited as reasons to replace the two existing middle schools. The projected enrollment for the new school is 978.

Consolidation of the two middle schools is part of a 10-year comprehensive school facilities plan adopted by the board in 2010. The plan was developed by McKinley and Associates and Planning Advocates with input from a committee of 43 teachers and community members.

The board also has made plans to build near the high school because it owns the land, reducing the cost for the project.

Piccirillo said preliminary designs call for a two-story building with an elevator to be built in the grassy area by the Brooke football stadium used for parking during games and other events.

Piccirillo was asked how parking will be accommodated if the school is built there. He said those attending football games may park in the parking lot to be created for staff at the new school and in an area near the softball field that has been used for games with high attendance.

Besides the bond issue, the board met Monday to approve the hiring of personnel.

Piccirillo said current state hiring policies make it difficult for local school boards to fill positions in a timely manner. In recent months the board has called several special meetings to hire personnel for the new school year, which begins Wednesday.

“We’re a week away and still looking for teachers, which we shouldn’t be,” he said.

Piccirillo said after posting a position for at least five days, a committee of school board staff, school principal and two representatives of the school’s faculty senate can spend days interviewing candidates.

Piccirillo said in recent years there have been frequent shifts in staff positions, particularly of special education teachers leaving those jobs for traditional classroom assignments.

“I’m really concerned about the special education students because they need the most stability,” he said.

Piccirillo said the state could change its policy to require new staff to stay in a position for a number of years before moving. He noted some states require staff to remain in a position for the duration of their contracts, but he acknowledged keeping a person in a position he or she doesn’t want isn’t a desirable situation.

Monday’s hirings included two new principals: Richard L. Whitehead, formerly a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Follansbee Middle, who will serve as assistant principal at Wellsburg Middle; and Brandi Reinacher, formerly a second-grade teacher at Jefferson Primary and Title I reading instructor at Wellsburg Primary, who will serve as principal at L.B. Millsop Primary.

Because of its smaller enrollment, Millsop School has been led for many years by a principal who also served as a teacher.

Assistant Superintendent Marty Bartz said the board decided to change that situation because the principal’s class could suffer from interruptions when their teacher was needed for administrative duties.

He said instead Reinacher will serve as a Title I interventionist at the school and assist Valerie Smith, attendance director and grades sixth through 12th curriculum director, in monitoring attendance in the county’s elementary schools to ensure pupils are complying with policy.

Other hirings included Morgan Kent, chairman of the alternative learning center; Nicole Cottle, fifth-grade teacher at Follansbee Middle; Sarah Rouhier, third-grade teacher at Millsop Primary; Jami Fonner, Brooke High School math teacher; Elizabeth Jeffers, eighth-grade math teacher at Wellsburg Middle; Sean Blumette, game day manager at high school; Justyne Obeldobel, assistant girls soccer coach at high school; Clark Besece, assistant boys basketball coach at high school; Nicholas Tracy, special education teacher at Wellsburg Middle; Jami Dantry and Amy Demi, countywide occupational therapists for students with special needs; Cheri Fullerton, countywide physical therapist, also for students with special needs; and Tracy Gilchrist, cook at high school.

The board also accepted the resignations of Tim Ennis, who is retiring as a bus driver; Rae Ann Cipoletti, health teacher and track coach at Follansbee Middle; Marie Volek, school bus aide; and Amy Camp, fifth-grade teacher at Follansbee Middle.