Belpre BOE approves RIF, creates nurse position

Larry Block gestures with a notepad while addressing the Belpre Board of Education Monday prior to the board’s vote on an eight position reduction-in-force, including a full-time school nurse position. (Photo by Michael Erb)

BELPRE — The Belpre Board of Education Monday approved a reduction-in-force of eight positions, but created a part-time nursing position to replace the full-time position being eliminated.

Residents and educators came out in force Monday, with more than 100 people in attendance and a half-dozen people addressing the board with concerns over the planned RIF.

The board held a brief executive session at the beginning of the meeting, and after returning to open session unanimously approved an addition to the RIF list which created a part-time nursing position.

“The board amended the agenda to create a 25-hours-per-week, five-hours-per-day position,” said Superintendent Jeff Greenley. “The current position, they’re here 40 hours per week. We think we can get a nurse here on campus the vast majority of the time to alleviate the concerns (we) heard from constituents.”

Greenley said the new position would have to be applied for and would be a pay cut from the current position.

“The current nurse would be eligible for recall on that if she so chooses,” he said.

School nurse Robbin Alton said she was “stunned” by the board’s action. Alton has served as a district-wide nurse for Belpre City Schools for 21 years.

“I’m at a loss for words, because, what is that saying to me?” she said. “I’m glad they think they need a school nurse, but I don’t think they understand the importance if they think the nurse can only be there five hours a day when the kids are there longer.”

Alton said she felt the move would ultimately rely on the person in the position doing more than they are paid to do.

“If it’s me, if I was in that position for five hours, I would be there before that, I would be there after that, because the kids need me,” she said. “Whenever I’m not there, they are still going to need me.”

The majority of people who addressed the board Monday evening voiced concerns over the safety of children and why most of the positions being eliminated involved student services, including a district school psychologist, an intervention specialist at Belpre Elementary School and an assistant principal at Belpre Elementary.

Ron Ferrell called elimination of the nursing position “a poorly thought-out decision” and said nurses act as “safety nets” for schools and allow “parents to know that their children are safe.”

Resident and former school board member Larry Block said studies have shown school nurses help reduce student absenteeism, improves dropout rates and increases academic performance.

“Teachers can focus on teaching. Office people can do their job,” he said. “It is recommended by the National School Boards one school nurse for every 750 students.

“Are the students in this district not entitled to one nurse for the entire district?”

“It is alarming that each of the eight positions to be eliminated are directly related to those who provide direct care to our students who receive support services,” said Belpre Parent-Teacher Organization representative Amanda Hudnall. “You are literally shooting our officers right before our very eyes and then trying to convince us it’s all in the name of winning the war. We should be investing in our teachers and administrators.”