Waverly speakers urge Wood BOE to delay consolidation

Board votes to suspend, terminate two employees

Waverly Elementary School fifth-grader Baileigh Miller, left, and fourth-grader Sophia Perkins, right, speak Tuesday to the Wood County Board of Education, urging members to reconsider a plan to close the school and consolidate it with Williamstown Elementary School in a new Williamstown-Waverly elementary school. The board will hold a consolidation hearing Sept. 30 at the school. (Photo by Michael Erb)

PARKERSBURG — Parents, students and community members rallied around Waverly Elementary School Tuesday, calling on the board to remove the school from a consolidation list.

The Wood County Board of Education will hold hearings for three schools — Waverly, McKinley and Worthington elementary schools — at the end of September and beginning of October, as well as four schools which will receive students when those schools close and consolidate.

Williamstown Elementary School and Waverly will consolidate into a new Williamstown-Waverly School in early 2020 when construction of that building is completed. The construction is part of a $41 million bond call approved by Wood County voters.

Proponents of Waverly argue closure of the school was not included in the bond, even though the new school was named Williamstown-Waverly and its enrollment was listed as the combined number of students from both elementary schools.

Officials say while they believe the school already was slated to close through passage of the bond call, they are holding hearings for Waverly and Williamstown as a courtesy to the community.

Ten speakers addressed the board Tuesday evening on the topic of Waverly School, and representatives handed out a four-page document of talking points and demographic numbers.

The Waverly delegation included two students, several residents and a handful of parents who asked the board to delay closing the school.

Fred Clark, a businessman from Charleston who grew up in Waverly and who has advocated to keep the school open, told the school board too many questions have been unanswered.

“I’m asking you to delay closing Waverly until you complete your CEFP,” he said, referencing the Comprehensive Education Facilities Plan, which governs facilities over a 10-year period.

Clark and others also argued the times board members reported on bus routes were not accurate.

“You will end up having violations of the school bus authority,” he said.

“I don’t want them to be on the bus for 30 minutes,” said parent Josh Schofield. “I just don’t see how it’s fair.”

Waverly parent John Miller said he has a special needs child who has received additional attention and consideration at Waverly, and sending him to a larger school would be detrimental.

“I think the small schools are what we need more of, honestly,” he said. “You need more one-on-one time with them.”

“I don’t have an issue with consolidation, but it hasn’t been done correctly in this county for years,” said Waverly resident Jennifer Malone. “It’s like you’re picking on just a couple schools, just to get rid of, and it’s ridiculous.”

In other business, the school board voted 4-0 to terminate two employees. Board member Debbie Hendershot did not attend Tuesday’s meeting and did not vote.

The board voted to suspend and terminate Lori Ullman Wright, the broadcasting program instructor at Wood County Technical Center, and Janette Smith. No reasons were given in open session as to why the employees were terminated, and the board met in executive session for about 20 minutes prior to the vote.

In April, Ullmann came before the board as part of a Reduction in Force hearing after officials announced termination of the broadcasting program at the center. Ullman was granted a private hearing and the board voted 1-4 to uphold the RIF, effectively preserving the broadcasting program and Ullmann’s job.

The board also voted 4-0 to expel two students for violation of the state Safe Schools Act, which applies to incidents of violence, drugs or weapons. No details were made available.