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Board Must Deal With Raise Issue

This one isn’t going to fade away quickly. If Brooke County school Superintendent Toni Shute had any illusions about that, they were dispelled Tuesday.

A large crowd of people attended the county board of education meeting held that day in the gymnasium at Brooke Middle School. Many in the crowd sounded highly critical of both Shute and the board, over large salary increases granted to many school system administrators.

Since the issue surfaced a few weeks ago, criticism over the raises, from both taxpayers and some school employees, has not cooled. If anything, it may have heated up.

Shute maintains the move on administrators was part of a two-step plan to increase pay for all school employees. Step two, raises for teachers and service personnel, is contingent upon voters renewing a tax levy next year.

It did not take long Tuesday for anger regarding the matter to be demonstrated. Board members had planned to begin their meeting with a discussion of plans for a levy election. The raises were No. 2 on the agenda. Then some in the crowd began chanting, “Now!”

At one point while Shute was talking, some in the audience turned their backs on her. Others walked out of the meeting.

One concern is that even among some members of the board — not the same group that adopted the raises — the action has been questioned. Of the current board, only two, Brian Ferguson and Antoinette Perkins, served when the increases were approved last year.

And on Tuesday, Perkins told the crowd that when she voted for the raises, she did not realize they would be so high.

Also during the meeting, board Vice President Stacy Hooper offered criticism. She said she had asked for copies of board minutes reflecting discussion of the raises — but has not received them

To that, Shute replied that several discussions concerning the increases were “informal.”

That raises the possibility the former board violated the state open meetings law, of course.

Despite the acrimony, one comment drew cheers from some in the crowd. It was Hooper’s motion that Shute’s contract be reviewed during a Nov. 26 meeting.

Clearly, Shute is not capable of handling criticism of the raises on her own. That leaves it up to the board to do so — and we sincerely wish them luck on that.

They’ll need it.

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