A number of Green Bank Elementary – Middle School tea-chers and parents attended Monday night’s Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting. The board had to decide whether or not to abolish two teaching positions at the school, one in fifth grade and the other in English/Language Arts/ Reading.
With a recent retirement and resignation at the school, the teaching positions at Green Bank have been the subject of several recent meetings. As Terrence Beam, Director of Federal Programs, explained at the June 16 board of education meeting, ever-increasing budget restraints have caused each vacated position in the county to be scrutinized.
Teacher and county American Federation of Teachers representative Anne Smith explained that for the first time in eight years, Green Bank has been able to avoid doubling up classes while also meeting the required Individualized Education Program (IEP) minutes and conducting 90-minute English/Language Arts and Math classes comparable to Marlinton Middle School.
“This is the first year in eight years we’ve been able to do that,” she said, “because we had that half-time position in Social Studies given back, and because we had our full contingent of people. Now you’re going to remove another one, and not just half-time this time, but full-time. So it’s going to affect a lot more than just twenty-four kids in a class or thirty-one kids in a class. It’s going to go throughout the whole middle school.”
Smith also indicated that if two teachers hadn’t left the school, there would be money budgeted for those two teaching positions.
“We want to move forward, but it seems that each step we take forward we take two more back. We’re trying to work with the central office, but the truth is we do not have the positions to cut. I ask you to let these positions pass. Take the gamble that you were already willing to take, and let Green Bank get back to the business of teaching our children.”
Green Bank Principal Ricky Sharp argued that making position cuts based on class size will create a revolving door, where teachers will be moved around each year based on how many students are in a class.
“The cuts that you’re making tonight are only short-term cuts,” he said. “They’re going to have to be replaced. The following year, you’re going to need two fifth grade teachers. You might only need one second grade teacher, so you move that second grade teacher to fifth grade, and it goes on and on and on. The kids suffer because the teacher’s not an expert in their field any longer. They’re not familiar with that curriculum, and they’re going to have to learn a new curriculum every year and get new materials together and everything else.”
Mort Tabor also spoke at the board meeting. With the abolishment of the other English/Language Arts/Reading position, Tabor will be the only person teaching that subject for sixth, seventh, and eighth grade at Green Bank. He spoke in favor of a consistent environment, where teachers feel like they’re part of a secure and respected team, making a contribution that counts.
“I think everybody wants to create and maintain a school environment that is consistent,” Tabor said, “where every kid can come and get the best education that we as a community and as a team can provide for them. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for you all to consider what you have to consider, but consider, more than anything, the kids. Consider the kids going to school every day whose livelihoods and futures depend on the education they get. Their communities depend on the education our children get.”
Ultimately, the board unanimously decided to keep the fifth grade teaching position. The English/Language Arts position was abolished by a vote of 3-2. The Board also agreed that, due to an incoming kindergarten class of thirty-five students at Green Bank, an additional aide would need to be hired, with a total of two teachers and two aides.
The board hired Gregory Ball as Principal of Marlinton Elementary School and Robert Miller as Principal, Coordinator of School to Work Program, Vocational Education Director, Distance Learning Facilitator and Alternative Education Coordinator at Pocahontas County High School.
The Board approved its contract with the Pocahontas County Parks and Recreation Board, effective until June 2015.
Superintendent Donald Bechtel gave special recognition to all the bus drivers and substitute bus drivers, who drove 284,149 miles between August and May this year. He also recognized the school’s mechanics, who helped to repair and maintain the vehicles locally.
The Board also said good-bye to Dr. Hanna Sizemore, as it was her last night as a board member.
“It’s been a really intense learning experience being on this board,” she said, “but I’m really glad I did it.”
Board President Emery Grimes told Sizemore that she has been a blessing. “I didn’t always agree with you,” Grimes said, “and you didn’t always agree with me, but we always ended up trying to do the best thing for the kids of Pocahontas County.”
The next board meeting will be Monday, July 7, at 7 p.m. at the board of education conference room.