Wyoming Valley West CFO steps down, board approves debt restructuring

KINGSTON — Wyoming Valley West School District Chief Financial Officer Joe Rodriguez is stepping down as of Dec. 31.

The school board accepted his resignation at Wednesday’s monthly meeting.

Seeking to free up cash in a budget that remains tight, the board also voted to restructure some long-term debt, making smaller payments now and larger payments later.

According to state records, Rodriguez has been in the district for 17 years. His salary last year was $103,708. He served as assistant chief financial officer for more than a decade before becoming chief financial officer in 2006. The board also voted to retain him as a consultant “at a rate to be determined”.

Most of the meeting was dominated by parents criticizing the council’s decision to stop transporting pupils to and from child care centres, with a child care center owner and six working mothers asking the council to reconsider the change, which should come into force in November. The council makes this decision to save money. Rodriguez said the district would save about $39,000 a year for each school bus it could eliminate from daily routes, and that the change is expected to eliminate one bus and possibly two.

Board Chairman Joe Mazur predicted that extra bus trips will be eliminated by streamlining bus routes once child care centers are no longer on the routes.

But those savings won’t come for months. To free up cash for future years, the board voted to restructure payments on two bonds issued in 2014. Rodriguez said the move won’t extend the term of payments, but the district will make smaller payments. for the next one. five years and larger payments thereafter. He said that should free up about $350,000 in the budget for the next five years.

Mazur noted that the district made another decision to save money: bring several special education classes in-house. School districts often contract out special education services if the number of students needing them is low, because it is cheaper to pay an outside agency—often the intermediate unit in Lucerne, locally—per student instead. than hiring new staff.

But large districts have often argued that when the number of special education students requiring similar services increases enough, it is less expensive to hire staff and do the work within the district. The Hazleton area and the Wilkes-Barre area, the two largest districts in Luzerne County by enrollment, have many in-house special education classes. Wyoming Valley West is the third largest district in the county.

According to state records, nearly 19% of Wyoming Valley West’s 4,572 students in 2017-18 were in special education.

On Tuesday, the board voted to formally change the school district’s data reports to reflect the decision, adding three autism classes to each of two schools, Chester Street and Third Avenue. Three Life Skills classes were added to State Street and Middle School, and four were added to High School. Four emotional support classes have been added to the high school.

Wyoming Valley West High School.

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