Proposed Fed-Hock Staff Reduction Dropped After Public Outcry

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Due to overwhelming public participation at the latest meeting of the Federal Hocking School Board, board members voted to remove a proposal to reduce the district’s staff by one physical education position and one music position.

Supt. George Wood said at the meeting that the reduction was proposed to avoid the need to lay off a district employee in the next financial year. Due to declining enrollment and rising costs, local principals and Wood hoped to get out ahead of the looming financial trouble.

“I have to be financially responsible,” Wood said following audience members remarks.

The proposed reduction would limit the music and physical education programs between Coolville and Amesville elementary. For half the year, students at one school would gain increased recess time and be taught by a part time instrumental instructor in place of physical education and music classes, while the other school would have their full time programs. Halfway through the school year, this would switch.

Some individuals took the stage to state their concerns over this proposed change. Lori Messina, who has taught music in the district for almost 30 years, stressed that music class exercises the mind, the body and the spirit.

“We want our students to thrive, not merely survive,” she said.

Jamie Linscott, a counselor at Amesville Elementary, said gym class is always something that she finds students are happy about.

“The most important thing that I think I want people to leave with here tonight, is realizing how difficult it might make the children’s day,” Linscott said.

Regina Sayers is the mother of two children in the district and attended the meeting specifically in reference to this issue. Sayers said that she initially did not want to go to the meeting because she felt the decision had already been made from a business perspective but, after giving seven speeches about Type Two Diabetes that day, felt a rising concern for her children’s loss of physical education courses.

“What are the state requirements?” Sayers asked board members. “Are we going against the state requirements by cutting this. The impact of childhood obesity. We are in the center of that and are we thinking about that?”

A brief recess followed the public participation, wherein Wood and the school principals held a meeting. Wood then announced his intention to remove the proposal from the agenda.

“There’s no such thing as a good job cut, I’ll grant you that,” board member Tom McGuire said, but he asked audience members to understand the importance of resource management.

McGuire has served on the board since 1997 and mentioned that there are always challenges to keep the budget balanced.

“One thing that I fought long and hard against, is heading towards fiscal emergency again,” McGuire said.

The board will hold a special meeting at 9 a.m. on July 29 for the purpose of considering the approval of contracts and/or agreements related to the employment of teaching employees including the physical education and music positions.

Schuyler Fastenau and John Schwartz wrote this article. They are Ohio University students interning at the Messenger.