EP school leaders get new contracts

EAST PALESTINE – Three building principals, an assistant principal and a transportation/maintenance supervisor were rehired Monday, but the decision was not unanimous.

The Board of Education discussed the hirings behind closed doors for an hour before the public vote, which passed with three in favor.

Board member Douglas Lammert was the only one who voted against and board member Sue Weigle abstained due to being related to Barry Weigle, who was being considered for another three-year contract as transportation/maintenance supervisor.

The principals were also given three-year contracts, and Chris Canann was given a two-year contract for the assistant principal position that is split between the middle and high schools.

Superintendent George Fisk said after the meeting salary was never discussed, and the new contracts will remain the same as the current ones.

Laura Griffiths, Carol Vollnogle and Kim Russo were first hired as high school, middle school and elementary school principals in July of last year to replace the three who resigned.

The women were awarded two-year contracts during the same meeting that month, with Griffith’s salary set at $77,000 a year, Vollnogle at $75,000 and Russo at $65,000.

The new contracts take effect on Aug. 1.

Lammert said after the meeting he voted against because he would like to see the district address test scores and open enrollment before awarding any administrative contracts.

He said he did not have an issue with any one person.

The district’s test scores were not satisfactory, according to the Ohio Department of Education annual report card.

The ODE gave the district a C grade on the state achievement tests, an F grade on student progress in math and reading for one year in grades four through eight, and a D grade in gifted progress for the same subjects. The district received a B grade in graduation rate, however, with 89.5 percent of students graduating in four years.

As for open enrollment, the district is currently losing more than $1 million as a result of students leaving the district, according to the five-year financial forecast approved by the board on Monday.

Students are typically drawn to neighboring Columbiana or Crestview districts. Over the summer Crestview Superintendent John Dilling said a cap may be needed on their open enrollment program because of the amount of students choosing Crestview over their own local districts.

Crestview Treasurer Charlene Mercure estimated at that time the district was earning $2.3 million a year through open enrollment.

East Palestine could be $951,000 in the red by fiscal year 2018, according to the five-year forecast prepared by Treasurer Rick Ellis.

The district is expected to earn more revenue through general property taxes and state funding over the years, although expenditures are also expected to increase, with employees’ retirement and insurance benefits increasing by about $500,000 over the five-years.

Ellis noted in the forecast he anticipated health insurance premiums would increase by 10 percent and hospitalization by 3.6 percent. Teaching staff are already paying a flat 10 percent on their hospitalization costs and non-teaching staff are paying 6 percent of the premium for hospitalization coverage.

Figures in the forecast are only projections and can be adjusted over time as revenue and expenditures fluctuate.