PHS assistant principal axed

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital

The assistant principal position at Pawhuska High School is being eliminated as part of a plan by local school officials to cope with budget cuts anticipated in connection with continuing reductions in state funding.

Pawhuska Board of Education members approved the budget-related measure Monday during their regular monthly meeting.

Superintendent Landon Berry had recommended elimination of the position as part of a proposal for not re-employing the current PHS assistant principal, Joel Witcher.

“Basically, it’s finances,” Dr. Berry said Tuesday. “We’re attempting to deal with state funding losses that we will be having due to the loss of (nearly 80) kids on our ADA (average daily attendance) numbers.”

Berry said the district also is anticipating further school funding losses that will result from lingering federal sequestration issues and recently-announced reductions in state income tax rates. The longtime superintendent is nearing completion of his first year with Pawhuska Public Schools.

Witcher is a second-year administrator who also has served as the school district’s athletic director. On Tuesday, Witcher said he will be taking a similar position with Bristow Public Schools.

Berry said that he expects that the local AD position will be filled either from within the existing Pawhuska coaching ranks or through the hiring of a new head football coach.

The superintendent said applications are currently being taken for the football coaching job, which has been vacant since first-year head coach Scotty Gilkey was suspended late in the season last year. No decisions have been announced with regard to spring football practice sessions.

Prior to their decision regarding the assistant principal, board members met with Berry in executive session to discuss various personnel matters. The vote for eliminating the high school position was taken upon return to the public session and included “recitation of findings of fact upon which the decision is based.”

Board members voted in February to renew contracts for 2013-14 with all local principals and the district’s main administrative staff. At that meeting, renewal action was tabled on the contract with the assistant principal/athletic director.