At the January 7 Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting, the board was left with more questions than answers concerning the Greenbrier Youth Report Center implementing its programs at Pocahontas County High School.
After discussing its concerns with superintendent Terrence Beam, the board voted against allowing GYRC to use PCHS as a central location to work with middle and high school students.
David Jonese and Samantha Lidel attended a previous board meeting to give a presentation about the programs they offer. Beam said he spoke again to Lidel after that meeting and invited her to attend the January 7 meeting to clear up any misgivings the board may have.
“I told her I thought the board probably believes the end game here is a good thing, but they’re just concerned about who is working with our students,” Beam explained. “We do background checks on everybody we use, and I said ‘I think they’re going to have some questions about this program.’”
Beam added that there was some miscommunication between GYRC and the board because he was informed that, although the board had not approved the request by GYRC to work at the high school, there were counselors meeting with students.
“Evidently [Lidel] went back and told [principal Joe Riley] that I said it was okay for them to use the Annex until the board made a motion,” Beam said. “That is simply untrue.”
Beam said he called Riley and told him to tell the counselors they had to leave because they did not have board approval to be there.
Riley also had concerns that he shared with Beam.
“It’s supposed to be totally after school, and we found out that before Christmas, there were some counselors up there and we didn’t even know who they were, but they were working with some of our students during school hours and that was a problem,” Beam said.
Board president Joe Walker agreed that he was worried about allowing individuals into the school who were not approved and have yet to go through the board’s required background check.
“We sure can’t have them walk in in the middle of the day, unannounced, and have access to our students,” he said. “That concerns me. With this, we have questions. They’re legitimate. We have a job to do. These kids are our responsibility, and we have questions, and they didn’t show up tonight to answer those questions.
“They may have done a background check on those people, then they should have no problem passing ours, is the way I feel,” he continued. “I think that’s absolutely necessary.”
While the board turned down the request from GYRC, Walker said the item could be revisited at any point if the GYRC is still interested in working at the high school.
• Director of technology Ruth Bland reported to the board about the use of personal devices on the school systems network. The board has received requests from school staff who wish to have access to the school’s WiFi network for their personal cell phones in case of emergency.
The teachers said that if there was a situation with an active shooter or intruder, it would be easier and more discreet to pass the information throughout the school through texting instead of using walkie-talkies or the intercom system.
At this point, staff at Hillsboro and Marlinton Elementary schools can use personal cell phones due to being in cell service areas.
Bland explained that the concern is that because the devices are personal and not school property, once they are connected to the network, everything on those devices is considered school property and is subject to the same scrutiny as the school system’s computers.
The other concern is that the more devices connected to the network, the more susceptible it is to viruses. Bland said Wood County Schools’ network was attacked by a virus and the servers were severely damaged.
The board said it is aware of the negative impact, but also understands the teachers’ concerns.
Walker said the board needed to make the WiFi policy an agenda item so a decision can be made.
• In his report, superintendent Beam recognized PCHS senior Hadden Mick, who was one point shy of a perfect score on the math portion of the ACT test. Beam said that as far as he knows, this is the closest a PCHS student has come to a perfect score.
Beam also reported that he has been in contact with Pat Campbell at Marshall University, who is interested in offering dual credit courses at PCHS next school year. He will keep the board updated on the progress of the plan.
Lastly, Beam said he received a phone call from a school in Japan. The caller explained that each March, the school brings a couple dozen students to visit schools in the United States. Beam said the school is interested in visiting Pocahontas County Schools this year and Beam shared his interest in making that happen.
“They usually have a partnership with Nebraska, and they take students to Nebraska in March, but the kids have gotten hooked on the song, ‘Take Me Home Country Roads,’ and they want to come to West Virginia and be in a school,” Beam said. “He said they wanted to find a rural school that they thought would epitomize West Virginia and they looked at Pocahontas County.”
Beam said he is going to work with the Japanese school to organize the visit and will keep the board updated on the progress.
• Student representative Sierra Rodriguez was welcomed to her first meeting of the semester and she shared several projects PCHS clubs are working on this winter.
The STEM club is doing Rube Goldberg experiments and are preparing for a robotics competition which will be February 1. The RAZE and SADD clubs will travel to Charleston February 3 to encourage ending tobacco use. The Citizens Club is planning a trip to the Pocahontas Center for Valentine’s Day where they will interact and paint with the residents.
The Citizens Club also plans to visit the Pocahontas County Animal Shelter.
In miscellaneous management, the board approved:
• the following individuals to travel to the National K-6 Literature Conference in Columbus, Ohio, February 8 through 11: Stephanie Burns, Kristi Tankersley, Katherine LaFluer, Nicole Rose-Taylor and Virginia Calhoun.
In personnel management, the board approved the following:
• Requested transfer of Sarah E. Hamilton from secretary III/accountant III at Hillsboro Elementary School to executive secretary/accountant III at the central office, at state basic pay, effective January 9, for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Term of employment is 124 days. Term of employment shall be 261 days each year thereafter.
• Employment of Kenneth H. Varner as substitute school bus operator for Pocahontas County Schools, at state basic pay, effective January 9, as needed, for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
• Creation of position itinerant licensed practical nurse/aide at Marlinton Elementary School, at state basic pay, effective January 30, for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Term of employment is 86 days. Term of employment shall be 200 days each year thereafter.
• Creation of position itinerant licensed practical nurse/aide at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, at state basic pay, effective January 30, for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Term of employment is 86 days. Term of employment shall be 200 days each year thereafter.
The next board will be Tuesday, January 28, beginning with a calendar hearing at 5:30 p.m., followed immediately by the regular agenda at the board of education conference room.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org