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September 24, 2013

Substitutes will help wrap up vo-tech nursing program

NEW CASTLE — The adult practical nursing program at the vo-tech school will end in February.

Two classes of nursing students, totaling 42 remain at the Lawrence County Career and Technical Center. About half will graduate at the end of this month, the other half in February.

Meanwhile, several of the program’s staff have resigned and the school’s operating committee has hired long-term substitutes to teach the courses.

The committee voted in the spring to disband the nursing program once existing students graduate.

The adult program, operated independently of the curriculum of the vocational-technical school, was sucking thousands of dollars out of the center’s budget and has prevented it from reimbursing some member school districts for enrollment differences over the past few years.

The center’s debt to the districts for the 2010-11 school year alone was $45,573. That supposedly has mounted since then, but repayment figures have been unavailable from the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years, pending audit reports.

Ending the practical nursing program was the only way to stop the bleeding, the committee agreed. Around the same time, amid the budgetary turmoil, the center’s director, Andrew Tommelleo resigned.

The committee contracted with Domenick J. Ionta, retired Union superintendent, to serve as acting director.

Then, at a special meeting earlier this month, the committee accepted the resignation of the assistant business manager, Chastity Williams.

In lieu of filling her position, which paid her $47,000 a year plus benefits, the committee entered an agreement with the Laurel School District for its business office personnel to fulfill Williams’ duties for $18,000. That will save $29,000 plus the cost of her benefits.

Last month, the committee accepted the resignation of Barb DeRosa as practical nursing secretary. Ionta said the school will not replace her. Her salary this year would have been $29,768 plus benefits, also money that will go back into the center’s budget.

Also resigning from the program were instructors Maria Sapienza, whose annual salary was $62,235; Tammy Dawson, who was being paid $48,918; and Allison Offie, who was receiving $58,787.

In lieu of hiring new teachers, the committee named Kathryn Kline and Margaret Strobel as substitute instructors at $30 per hour.

The resignations have left only two regular employees in the practical nursing program — Betty Tillia, the director, and a secretary. Both positions will end after the February graduation, Ionta said.

Meanwhile, he has been working with the committee to address the center’s growing debt to the school districts.

The joint operating committee last week voted to pay for a forensic audit of the school’s financial records.

The committee also is preparing to hire a director to replace Tommelleo.

It received a list of five candidates from the Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV, which is screening applications.

Several committee members, Ionta and Dr. C. Joyce Nicksick, superintendent of record, are in the process of interviewing the candidates with the goal of having a new director in place in November.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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