Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

At the Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting Monday evening, Superintendent Terrence Beam informed board members that he delivered several RIF and transfer letters earlier in the month.

Each year, during RIF – Reduction In Force – season, Beam and the board evaluate the number of staff and look for ways to reduce in order to meet the required number of employees set by the state aid formula.

“Currently, we’re seven service employees over the state formula,” Beam said. “As you recall, we were ten over at the beginning of school, and we’ve been able to absorb some through retirements and some transfers. By making these cuts – these four service cuts – that will bring us down to only three over.”

Beam said his recommendation was to eliminate four service positions and two-and-a-half professional positions.

“We’re one-and-a-half over in professionals and we know we’re going to have to add a kindergarten teacher at Green Bank [Elementary-Middle School] next year,” Beam said. “That will put us two-and-a-half over, so we have to reduce two-and-a-half positions. That’s what my recommendation is going to be.

“That will make us even on our state aid formula on professionals and three over on services, which is an improvement,” he continued. “That helps with our budget and obviously we need as much help with our budget as we can get.”

On the subject of the budget, Beam said he attended a superintendents conference last week and got disturbing news concerning funding.

“We were told that it looks like we’re going to have an additional ten percent cut in our budget for next year,” he said. “They are going to ask the legislature if they can extend the personnel RIF and transfer dates farther than May 1 because counties can’t possibly make the budget if they cut another ten percent.”

Beam added that if the 10 percent cut is made, he may have more RIF and transfer recommendations.

“I hope there’s not because it’s the most painful part of my job, going around telling people that I’m going to have to lay them off for next year,” he said.

Beam also reported that he has configured a plan to address the issue of evacuation of Marlinton Elementary School.

At the last meeting, director of maintenance Ron Hall said the state fire marshal said it is imperative to replace the sprinkler and alarm systems at MES. Since both systems are not working properly, if there is an emergency, the school must be evacuated and closed.

Beam said his plan, while not perfect, will get the students to safety. In the case of an emergency, MES will move to Marlinton Middle School, along with Hillsboro Elementary School. MMS will move to HES to make room for the other students.

While it seems odd to move HES, Beam said that is part of the plan to keep the middle school students in one building and elementary school students separate from them.

Beam said he is also working on a plan for Green Bank Elementary-Middle School because its sprinkler system is also in bad shape.

A separate article on the evacuation plan will be in next week’s edition of The Pocahontas Times.

In updates:

• Jamey Weber announced the winners of the Young Writers Contest. School winners were: GBEMS – first and second grade, Alison Taylor; third and fourth grade, Wade Garber; fifth and sixth grade, Max O’Ganian; and seventh and eighth grade, Cheylin Woodruff.

HES – first and second grade, Asa Marks; third and fourth grade, Cailey Pritt; and fifth and sixth grade, Gavin Walls. MES – third and fourth grade, Harley Brown; and fifth and sixth grade, Lacey Stewart. MMS – fifth and sixth grade, Amanda Burns; and seventh and eighth grade, Silas Riley.

Riley was also the county winner in seventh and eighth grade. His story will be entered in the state competition. Riley read his story for the board.

• Director of student services Ruth Bland reported that preschool registration will be April 1 at Pocahontas County High School and registration will be open March 20 through May 1.

• Jeff Dorsey, of EcoLite International gave a presentation on replacing the lights in the schools with LED lights. Dorsey explained that the board could save a substantial amount of money with the lighting system, which would be installed for free by the company.

Dorsey said the company would take 80 percent of the board’s savings on its electric bill until the lights are paid off.

No action was taken on the the proposal.

The board asked Dorsey several questions and asked him to draw up a plan to be presented at the next meeting.

In miscellaneous management, the board approved the following:

• Lease Agreement between Pocahontas County Schools and Professional Business Products, Inc., a Xerox agency, to lease 10 copiers at a total annual lease amount of $22,998.96.

• Pocahontas County Schools submission of Major Improvement Project funding request for the Pocahontas County High School, in the amount of $925,443, effective for the 2017-2018 funding cycle.

• To transport Marlinton Elementary School fifth grade students, by charter bus, to Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg, Tennessee, May 3 through 5. All costs to be paid by fundraising.

• Jared Clemons and Tristen O’Steen to receive educational leave from March 29 through April 12 – a total of 11 school days – to travel to Cooper Mountain Resort in Colorado to compete in the National USASA snowboard/freeski competition.

• To place Policy KM – Visitors in the School on 30-day comment period.

• Patrick McComb to complete job-based work experience at Almost Heaven Group in Renick, effective for the 2016-2017 school year.

• Joshua Abbott as volunteer assistant track coach at Pocahontas County High School, effective for the 2016-2017 season, contingent upon proper certification.

• Shannon Arbogast as volunteer assistant softball coach at Pocahontas County High School, effective for the 2016-2017 season.

• Nicholas P. Cooper as volunteer assistant baseball coach at Pocahontas County High School, effective for the 2016-2017 season, contingent upon proper certification.

In personnel management, the board approved the following:

• Resignation Olivia Grimes as substitute teacher of early education at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, retroactive to the end of the day on February 24.

• Resignation of Morgan G. McComb, due to retirement, as custodian IV/sanitation plant operator at Pocahontas County High School, effective at the end of the day June 30.

• Employment of Stephan D. Mick, Jr. and Jeanette Sharp as substitute custodians for Pocahontas County Schools, effective March 15, for the remainder of the 2016-2017 school year, as needed, at state basic pay.

The next board meeting is Monday, March 27, at 5:30 p.m. in the Pocahontas County High School cafeteria. The meeting will begin with a public hearing concerning the 2017-2018 school calendar.

Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at sastewart@pocahontastimes.com