WJ board to consider salaries and staff switch

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Administrative salaries and wrestling program changes will be on the Aug. 13 agenda for the Jefferson Local Board of Education.

The board met July 30 in a special work session to discuss the personnel matters, as well as other issues, in order to have recommendations ready for the board to vote on next week.

Following the work session, much of which took place in executive session, Superintendent William Mullett said the board discussion about administrative salaries was lively and frank.

“We always get honest feedback from the board members,” he said. “For the most part, the recommended increases are in the same range as the 3 percent the teachers received.”

The board also mapped out a possible resolution to a coaching issue in the high school wrestling program. According to the plan, Head Coach Mike Branham would spend this year as assistant wrestling coach, while Tommy Cochran, who was the assistant last year, would spend the year as interim head coach.

“Mike Branham has done an outstanding job in terms of his success with the wrestling program and in terms of teaching the techniques of the sport,” Mullett said. “But internal issues administratively have been concerns over the last couple of years.”

The most recent incident occurred at the state wrestling tournament this winter, he said. The state provided West Jefferson High School with one parking pass, for which Branham was responsible. The pass was duplicated, which is against Ohio High School Athletic Association rules. As a result, the state placed West Jefferson’s wrestling program on probation for one year.

“It was not our coaches who did it,” but Branham was responsible for keeping the parking pass secure, Mullett said.

The state probation does not affect opportunities for the wrestling program or the athletes.

“Probation means the state is giving you a big warning that if you want to stay in good graces with all that the state stands for, including participation in tournaments, you can’t have any infractions,” Mullett said.

The board’s plan to have Branham and Cochran switch places for one year is designed to address the state’s concerns and the district’s concerns while at the same time keeping Branham an active part of the program. The plan takes into account input from Principal Dave Metz and Athletic Director Rich Haskins.

“The only real change will be the administrative role, which Mr. Cochran will handle this year. That includes budgets, league meetings, and that kind of thing,” Mullett said. “If all goes as we expect, Mr. Branham will be head coach again the following year.”

Mullett said Branham has “a great deal of support,” especially from parents associated with the wrestling program.

“This has been a difficult situation to work through, but Mr. Branham in particular has… taken what’s in the best interest of the district to heart,” Mullett said.

The temporary switch in wrestling coach roles will be on the school board’s Aug. 13 agenda, along with recommendations for coaches for other winter sports.

Open Houses

The board tentatively set dates for the public to tour the newly renovated and expanded high school/middle school building and Norwood Elementary.

As of now, those open house dates are Sept. 10 for the middle school/high school and Sept. 17 for Norwood. Both open houses will run from 6 to 8 p.m.

While the majority of the construction was completed last school year, the board waited to schedule open houses until this year because of ongoing disputes with contractors over unfinished work and work that needed to be redone.

The last major hurdle was flooring.

“The tiles weren’t adhering properly for some reason, and as you looked down the corridors, you saw it bubbling up,” Mullett said.

The board held a walk-through on July 30 to check the floors in both buildings. Mullett said the problem has been resolved.

Two final projects the board hopes to complete before the open houses are installation of playground and exercise equipment in the middle school courtyard and installation of an electronic reader board on the front lawn of the middle school/high school complex.

Students with multiple disabilities will use the courtyard. The Jefferson Local School District is the county’s host site for programs for middle-school age students with disabilities. The Madison/Champaign Educational Service Center administers the program, which includes students from the Jefferson, Jonathan Alder and London school districts.

As is the case with the renovations and additions to the district’s two campuses, the courtyard and reader board projects fall under the Ohio School Facilities Commission funding.

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