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Education department touts savings from part-time workers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state Department of Education says it is saving money by bringing back former department employees to work on a part-time basis.

Information about the savings was provided Thursday to Senate Education Committee staff.

"I think it shows that the department has been judicious in the way that they staff," said Wade Linger, president of the state Board of Education.

"And I'm pleased that when they are able to bring back people with this kind of experience that they do, but it's in a way that's inexpensive and they get the best bang for their buck."

Since the release of a statewide education efficiency audit last year, the state Department of Education has been bombarded with allegations of administrative bloating and topheaviness.

Board members and superintendents have said they are leaving positions empty as people leave the department.

As early as June, then State Superintendent Jorea Marple said the department would save more than $1 million by leaving more than 30 positions unfilled.

Legislators and others have accused the department of rehiring those employees. Members of the Senate Education Committee repeatedly asked the department to supply them with the number of former employees who have returned to work on a contractual basis.

There are 18 former department employees currently on the payroll as part-timers, according to department data. They have been paid a total of $381,096 for the current budget year. If those totals were extended for the entire budget year, it would equal a little more than $1.5 million.

According to the department, those 18 people would cost $2.025 million in wages and benefits if they were full-time employees.

Linger said he thinks the practice is a good idea, and he hopes it's continued.

"As long as these experienced people are willing to come back and work in that kind of a situation where it's only as needed and we can get them for prices that make it worthwhile and saves money for the system, keeps more money available for money in the classroom for the kids, and I think we should."

In February, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin released his plan to reform education in the state. It includes work by the department and board as well as a voluminous piece of legislation. Teachers unions have attacked the bill for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it doesn't address staffing in the state Department of Education.

"Despite the fact that more than half of the education audit dealt with the bloated bureaucracy within the (state) educational system, there is not one sentence in this bill to deal with that issue," Judy Hale, head of the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, said Wednesday in a news release.

Linger said he doesn't think the savings cited Thursday proves there isn't bureaucratic bloat. But he does think it shows the department is doing the right thing in this instance.

Several of the people whose status changed are former highlevel administrators.

Jack McClanahan was deputy superintendent of Kanawha County Schools under Marple in the 1990s but later took a job with the state Department of Education. He had retired when Marple stepped into the role of state superintendent, and he returned as her deputy.

He now earns $575 a day in "system support," the most of any of the 18 former employees, according to department data. He has received $6,700 this budget year.

Ted Mattern, former state superintendent, is paid $500 a day for "system support" as well, according to the data. He served as superintendent after Steve Payne left and before Marple was hired.

Linger pushed for the board to employ its own assistant to help it write a response to the efficiency audit. In August, the department hired Donna Peduto to fill that role for $350 per day.

Although the report was released in the fall, she still is being paid as she helps Linger and the board work on reforms and ideas in the response.

Peduto has been paid $45,900 since August, according to the data. Her title is "superintendent liaison."

That is one of three new positions the board and department propose should become permanent. A liaison, director of operations and attorney specifically for the board - at a cost of more than $350,000 annually in wages and benefits - is included in the department's budget request for this year.

Linger says the focus should be on how much the person would make if they were a fulltime employee, called full-time equivalency, as opposed to their part-time rate. He said the amount paid compared to the services rendered is reasonable for an entity as large as the department.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.

 


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