Wood County BOE wraps up hearings

Wood County Schools Assistant Director of Transportation Pat Sole, left, and attorney Richard Dunbar, right, address the Wood County Board of Education during Monday’s reduction-in-force and transfer hearings. (Photo by Michael Erb)

PARKERSBURG — Planned reductions for Wood County Schools reached administrative levels Monday in the third and final round of employee RIF and transfer hearings.

The Wood County Board of Education upheld the reduction of a position at the Wood County Schools Transportation Department and a transfer at the Caperton Center, but rejected recommendations to eliminate a position at the Wood County Technical Center.

The board met in special session Monday afternoon to hold reduction-in-force hearings for Pat Sole, assistant director of transportation for Wood County Schools; Lori Ullmann, broadcasting instructor at the Wood County Technical Center; and Jeff Mennillo, director of the Caperton Center.

Sole has been with the Wood County Schools Transportation Department for six years and due to reduction of that position will no longer be employed by Wood County Schools.

Superintendent Will Hosaflook said since no certification was required for the assistant director position, there “would be no bump,” meaning Sole would not be able to move into a position held by a less-senior employee. Hosaflook said Sole did at one time possess a certification in physical education, but that certification had lapsed.

Hosaflook said there are numerous supervisor positions at the department, many with overlapping responsibilities. Sole said many of those responsibilities concern student safety and require multiple people to ensure things are being done correctly.

Sole was represented Monday by attorney Richard Dunbar of law firm Dunbar and Fowler. Dunbar asked Hosaflook a flurry of questions concerning Sole’s responsibilities and education, the size and needs of the transportation department, and how the decision to eliminate the position was achieved.

He also asked Hosaflook his views on student safety and to read from one of three identical letters from transportation administrators stating Sole’s position is “vital” to the department.

Board President Rick Olcott repeatedly asked the attorney to direct information to the board rather than treating the superintendent like a witness in court.

“This is not an interrogation of Mr. Hosaflook,” Olcott said.

“He’s making a recommendation to eliminate this position,” Dunbar said. “It’s my job to make sure the recommendation is sound and good advice to you.”

Dunbar asked Sole if one person could handle the combined duties of the transportation director and assistant director.

“In my professional opinion, no,” Sole said. “We might be able to do it on a temporary basis. But for 10 months of the year when school is in session? I just can’t see that.”

The board voted 4-1 to uphold reduction of the position. Board member Debbie Hendershot was the lone vote against.

Ullmann’s position was up for elimination with the broadcasting program not being offered at the tech center this fall. She has been at the Wood County Technical Center for 11 years.

Ullmann Monday requested a closed-door hearing. Two witnesses were called upon to testify on her behalf.

The board voted 1-4 on the RIF, effective preserving Ullmann’s position and the program. Board member Rick Tennant was the lone vote to uphold the RIF.

Olcott and board member Justin Raber both called upon Ullmann to “raise the bar” on the broadcasting program in the coming year.

Mennillo’s hearing was held in open session. He has been director of the Caperton Center for the past three years.

Mennillo is categorized as an assistant director, since the Caperton Center is under the umbrella of the Wood County Technical Center. Hosaflook said Mennillo is being moved to an assistant principal position at Williamstown High School.

The move would actually result in a pay increase.

“I took a little bit of a pay cut to go to the Caperton Center because I’ve had an ongoing interest in career and technical education,” Mennillo said. “I’m not losing my job, I’m just going somewhere else. That said, I’m not sure that my job (at Caperton) doesn’t impact kids to a greater degree.”

Hosaflook pointed out increased completion rates for Caperton Center programs under Mennillo, who also was instrumental in helping create the center’s criminal justice program.

Hosaflook said the plan is to place a part-time position at the center, which would share time with an elementary school.

Mennillo said reducing the school to a half-time administrative position would be a disservice to its students and programs.

“We’ve got the place in a situation where it is beginning to thrive,” he said, pointing to different technical programs which feed into West Virginia University at Parkersburg and technical clubs which also serve the community at large. “We are growing. I think the stewardship I have provided is a big part of why we are being successful. I feel like we are just starting to tap the potential.”

The board voted 5-0 to keep Mennillo on the transfer list.

Wood County Schools officials say enrollment has dropped this year by 443 students and with it a loss of about $2.2 million in state funding. The school system is about 110 service and professional positions above the state funding formula, and only some of those are funded through the district’s excess levy, leaving multiple positions for a reduction-in-force.