FOSTER, W.Va. — Renee Ritenour, 24, stood up in front of the five men Friday, and told them they spelled her name wrong on her termination letter.
But she wasn’t angry. This meeting, with only several people sitting in the audience behind her, wasn’t like Tuesday, when roughly 100 people filled the room here in the unincorporated community of Foster.
There were at least six West Virginia State Police troopers at that Boone County school board meeting, and some attendees angrily criticized the board about proposed position cuts. They were angry even after board members unanimously voted to rescind pay raises they’d previously promised their superintendent.
“I came on Tuesday, but there were too many people and I didn’t want to speak in front of them,” Ritenour said.
She told the board she graduated from Glenville State College Dec. 12, and accepted her Boone music teaching position, which she “really, really” loves, two days later. She said she was “really excited” to start her first job, even if it meant moving far away from her family in the Eastern Panhandle and her friends and boyfriend in Glenville.
She started to tear up as she talked about having to break her apartment lease. Superintendent John Hudson offered her job recommendations and board members said they knew her landlord, said his [the landlord’s] wife is a teacher and said they could probably help her get out of the lease.
The board then entered a short closed session, emerged and voted to eliminate Ritenour’s position and nearly 80 others at the end of this fiscal year. Behind them hung an old wooden clock in the shape of the county, showing the locations of schools. Many are now shuttered, and three more are set to close by the end of this school year.
Boone’s large number of position cuts and ensuing controversy over Hudson’s now-recalled pay raises, which were promised in the midst of the situation, are perhaps feeding the recent attention to teacher layoffs. Such layoffs seem to conflict with the continuing narrative of a teacher shortage…