CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Following a Washington Post story that challenges U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan's claims of the effect of sequestration on the Kanawha County school system, Superintendent Ron Duerring now says the statement given to the Post from his office was "misunderstood."
On CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Duncan said that because of the nearing sequester, there are already teachers receiving pink slips. Days later, after being pressed for specific examples of districts facing those problems, Duncan pointed to Kanawha County, saying Title I and Head Start teachers were being cut in the district.
"Whether it's all sequester-related, I don't know, but these are teachers who are getting pink slips now," Duncan said during a White House briefing Wednesday.
But, no Kanawha teachers have been laid off. However, 40 Head Start teachers and 70 teachers at Title I schools -- those with a majority of students who qualify for free- and reduced-priced meals -- have been given transfer notices, which are required by state law to warn teachers they may have to change positions.
Pam Padon, director of federal programs and Title I for Kanawha County Schools, told the Post following Duncan's statement that those notices would result in five or six layoffs "regardless of sequestration."
"The major impact is not so much sequestration," Padon said.
After the Post ran the story saying that some sequester claims by the Obama administration have been exaggerated, and reporter Glenn Kessler, "The Fact Checker," gave Duncan a score of four "Pinocchios" for his false claim, Duerring spoke up, saying Padon was confused and that the sequester is very much a factor in the transfer notices.
"I think it was taken out of context. What Pam was saying was that we knew sequestering was coming -- we knew that there would be a percentage cut," Duerring said. "All year we had been hearing that it was coming, so we had been kind of watching our money very closely so that when the cut did come, the reductions wouldn't be as bad next year.
"We understood that it was going to happen, that there would be a percentage cut in the budget, but we didn't know how much it was going to be. I think that's only good financial planning."
Sending out transfer notices is "the first step to putting people on notice that they may be losing their job or that there may be a discontinuation of a program," he said.
On Thursday afternoon, Duerring personally signed his first tweet ever on the Kanawha County Schools Twitter account that read, "Sequester would [be] terrible [for] Kanawha, WV students. We already put teachers on notice. May [lose] jobs [because] of senseless cuts - Supt. Duerring."
The rest of the account's more than 300 tweets have all been either direct links to news stories or special announcements concerning schools.
Duncan then posted the image of Duerring's tweet to his Twitter account, challenging the Post's claims, saying, "Possible WV layoffs tied to sequester after all."