The Monongalia County Board of Education is asking the state school board to join them in the appeal of a lawsuit that said the county could not allocate funds to their regional education office to hire classroom teachers at hourly rates.
The West Virginia chapter of the American Federation of Teachers filed the lawsuit in 2011 claiming the county board was circumventing state hiring practices by using its RESA, or Regional Educational Service Agency, to hire interventionists, certified classroom teachers who are shared between classrooms and schools working one-on-one with low performing students.
Monongalia County Superintendent Frank Devono told members of the West Virginia Board of Education Thursday the county employees 26 interventionists who focus on the bottom 25 percent of students in the county. These professionals were hired through the RESA at an hourly rate and without state benefits.
The total budget spent on the positions, Devono said, is $500,000, and most positions are filled by retirees. Should the practice of hiring at that hourly rate be discontinued, Devono said the county would only be able to afford 9 interventionists at that funding level.
Earlier this year, a Monongalia County Circuit Judge ruled in favor of the AFT saying the continuation of the practice could undermine the entire hiring system for classroom teachers as defined in state code.
Teachers hired to work as interventionists, along with being hourly and without benefits, are not subject to state hiring practices, which include using a weighted system to ensure the most qualified teacher is placed in the classroom, and do not fall under the state's official teacher evaluation procedures.
“In the decision the judge determined that if regulation is read to permit the hiring of classroom teachers by a RESA the statutory provisions governing the hiring and employment of classroom teachers in this state would be virtually eviscerated," Christine Campbell, president of the WV-AFT told the board Thursday.
Mon County, however, is now appealing that decision to the West Virginia Supreme Court and is asking the West Virginia Board of Education to join them in the appeal by filing an amicus brief.
“It’s for other parties to say, wait a second, this could affect us or affect our interests in a way that perhaps the parties that are in the law suit aren’t advancing as well as we can," attorney Howard Seufer explained to board members. Seufer is representing the county in the lawsuit.
The board voted Thursday to grant Board President Mike Green and the board's attorney the authority to choose whether or not to draft the brief. Green said after the meeting he had not decided whether or not to join Mon County in the case.
Should Green chose to draft such a brief, it is due to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in October. Seufer estimated oral arguments could be scheduled for January should the court not decide the case on filings alone.