After reviewing information and options, at the August 23 meeting, the Pocahontas County Board of Education approved to provide free meals to all students at all schools in Pocahontas County.
The option to offer free meals was first mentioned a month ago at a board meeting. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act provides meal services to schools which qualify for the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).
In July, the board heard from Tony Crago, coordinator for the West Virginia Office of Child Nutrition, and in August, by Rick Wilson, Director of the West Virginia Economic Justice Project.
Both presenters said three schools – Green Bank Elementary-Middle, Marlinton Elementary and Marlinton Middle – meet the requirements to receive free meals through the CEP. Crago reported that if Pocahontas County Schools chose to provide free meals to those three schools, the system would save money and receive a federal reimbursement.
If the school system chose to provide free meals for all five schools, it would equal a cost of roughly $27,000 to the board of education.
With all the information in front of them, the board members were tasked with the decision to offer free meals to three schools or all schools.
As they discussed the options, board president Emery Grimes asked treasurer Sherry Radcliff what the budget would look like for both options.
“If you do county-wide, it will cost us our sponsor contribution [student payments], plus $27,012.93,” Radcliff said. “If we do only three schools, we would get a savings of $29,871.87.”
Radcliff stated she budgeted $285,000 for food services. To pay for meals county-wide would cost the board $241,000. To provide free meals county-wide would cost an additional $27,012.93. Radcliff suggested starting the program with three schools and then adding the other two if it is fiscally feasible in the future.
“Most counties do what schools qualify to begin with to see where they were, how it works, get the bugs worked out of the project,” she said. “We are stewards of the taxpayer’s dollars and we know that we are low on funds now for, say, substitutes. We are cutting back for substitutes and I have a hard time not having teachers in the rooms that need to have teachers.”
As the board mulled over the options, it was clear it was a difficult decision to make. Superintendent Terrence Beam said he was unsure which option is right.
“I’m personally torn on the issue and I’m not really sure what the best decision is,” he said. “If we do all five now, we’ll be able to monitor the number of meals that we actually have and determine how many cooks we’re going to need, otherwise we won’t know. It’s a double-edged sword no matter how you look at it, and there’s good and bad to both of them.”
Board members spoke of their concern with implementing the program in just three schools being unfair to students in the other two schools.
Before the official vote, board member Joe Walker said it was almost a vote between what the public expects and what is financially responsible.
“I can take or leave either one, just like anyone else can,” he said. “The one thing that stands out to me is the three school thing is more predictable. The potential gain is more predictable. However, the public perception worries me if we don’t do all five, and that’s huge. We’re torn between what we think the public likes or looking at the financial side of it. It’s a gamble.”
In the vote, board member Rebecca Campbell voted to implement the program in the three schools; board members Steve Tritapoe, Grimes and Walker voted for all schools; and board member Jessica Hefner abstained.
“That was the toughest decision I’ve made since I’ve been here,” Walker said.
The program has been implemented in all five Pocahontas County Schools and students will be reimbursed for August meals for which they have already paid.
• Beam recognized the Durbin Bikers Association for its donation of $875 to the Positive Behavior Support Program. He said the board office will make a plan for how the funds will be used in the schools.
• Student representative Kayla Gibson said Pocahontas County High School is off to a good start and the school is happy with its new principal, Joe Riley.
“Our new principal, Mr. Riley, he’s awesome,” she said. “I wanted to mention that something that stands out to me is he talks and mingles with the kids, which I really like. Whenever we’re in the hallways, he’s in the hallways. He’s not just sitting in his office waiting for someone to get in trouble it’s really nice to have that interaction with an administrator and the students.”
• Ruth Bland, director of Special Education/Student Services/Transportation and Tech Coordinator said she has purchased several items with a technology grant she recently received.
Among the items are 60 Samsung Galaxy tablets for HES, MMS and MES, 50 laptops for GBEMS and PCHS and five interactive projectors for PCHS. Bland added she has more money to use and plans to purchase Smartboard licensing for three years.
Bland also picked up 40 refurbished desktop computers through Second Launch and the State Department of Education. Those computers will be used at PCHS. She is also receiving 11 laptops and 18 all-in-ones from the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine.
“Technology is moving right along,” she said. “We have submitted all of our bills for our eRate reimbursement and I’m looking at around $103,000 to be returned. [MES, MMS, PCHS and HES] all have a wireless access point in every classroom now. It’s been a long, hard road being able to get the funds to do that.”
• Ron Hall, Attendance/ Homeless Liaison, Maintenance and School Safety gave an update on the air quality test at the board office. He said Beam asked for an assessment of the building, which suffered some flooding in June and has many ongoing issues.
“We do have a lot of black mold in this building,” Hall said. “We have a lot of mold in general. We have leaky roofs. We had floodwater in here a month-and-a-half ago. We’ve got the roof patched for now, but it’s a temporary fix for a permanent problem, you all know that. There is no fixing this building without sinking in a bunch of money that I’m not willing to do.”
Hall said he reviewed the recommendations provided after the assessment and he and the maintenance crew will do the best they can to improve the building.
• Roger Trusler and Charlotte Slagle addressed the board with plans to take ninth grade students to visit Denmar Correctional Facility. Trusler said the program provided at the facility gives students insight into a future without an education. He hopes the visit will deter students from dropping out of school.
Trusler said the itinerant plan is to take the ninth grade and sponsors to the facility on October 20. He has talked to principal Riley and asked the board to consider approving the trip.
The trip was not on the agenda, so the board was unable to vote on it. Beam said he will put it on the next board agenda for approval.
In miscellaneous management, the board approved the following:
• Alexandra Dunbrack as volunteer seventh and eighth grade cheerleading coach at Pocahontas County High School, effective for the 2016-2017 season, pending the completion of the WVSSAC courses.
• For Brian and Lisa Friel, residents of Pocahontas County to enroll their children in Bath County, Virginia, schools for the 2016-2017 school year.
In personnel management, the board approved the following:
• Employment of Christina M. Smith as parent involvement coordinator for Marlinton Elementary School, effective September 23 through May 12, 2017, at $20 per hour, 150 hours, not to exceed $3,000.
• Resignation of Margaret Worth as teacher of alternative education at Marlinton Middle School, retroactive to August 9.
• Employment of Margaret Worth as academic interventionist at Marlinton Middle School, retroactive to August 15 through May 12, 2017, at $20 per hour, three hours per day, as needed, not to exceed $7,000.
• Resignation of Christina M. Smith as coordinator of teaching and learning (PreK-8) for Pocahontas County Schools, effective at the end of the day on September 22.
• Employment of Christina M. Smith as substitute teacher for Pocahontas County Schools, effective September 23 for the remainder of the 2016-2017 school year, as needed, at state basic pay.
• Employment of the following mentors, effective for the 2016-2017 school year, at a supplement of $1,000: Leah Shinaberry for Emily McLaughlin; Teresa Rhea for Daniel Mullens; Alesia Wayne for M. Erin Baldwin; Darlene Arbogast for Chloe L. Bland and Holly Cunningham; and Anne Smith for Stacy E. Landis.
• Employment of the following as homebound teachers for Pocahontas County Schools, effective August 25, as needed, at $20 per hour: Cheryl Jonese, Leah Shinaberry, Jean Srodes, Sean C. Rodriguez and David W. Vanorsdale, Jr.
• Employment of Diane Arbogast, Salania Evans, Kathleen Henry-Holzman and Virginia Bennett as substitute aides for Pocahontas County Schools, retroactive to the beginning of the 2016-0217 school year, as needed, at state basic pay.
• Employment of Salania N. Evans, Mary Lois McCutcheon, Anne Mitchell, Christine Rebinski, Eric J. Rose and Nicole L. Sattler as substitute teachers for Pocahontas County Schools, retroactive to the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, as needed, at state basic pay.
• Employment of Cynthia Defibaugh, Krystal Sisler and Rhonda Woodruff as substitute cooks for Pocahontas County Schools, retroactive to the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, as needed, at state basic pay.
• Employment of William M. Hardesty as substitute cook for Pocahontas County Schools, effective for the 2016-2017 school year, as needed, pending background clearance through West Virginia State Police, at state basic pay.
• Employment Pamela Bennett, Roger Irvine and Rhonda Woodruff as substitute custodians for Pocahontas County Schools, effective for the 2016-2017 school year, as needed, at state basic pay.
• Employment of Roger D. Irvine and Jamie C. Walker (emergency use only) as substitute maintenance for Pocahontas County Schools, effective for the 2016-2017 school year, as needed, at state basic pay.
• Employment of Keith Beverage, II, Silas L. Sattler, Daryl Shinaberry, William Lake Vaughan, David Vandevender, Jr., Evan Rose, Stephen Mick, and for emergency use only Ian B. Bennett, P. Duane Gibson, Gary T. Rose and Justin A. Taylor, as substitute school bus operators for Pocahontas County Schools, effective for the 2016-2017 school year, as needed, at state basic pay.
• Employment of William M. Hardesty as substitute maintenance for Pocahontas County Schools, effective for the 2016-2017 school year, as needed, pending background clearance through West Virginia State Police, at state basic pay.
• Employment of Jamie C. Walker as substitute mechanic for Pocahontas County Schools, effective for the 2016-2017 school year, as needed, emergency use only, at state basic pay.
• Employment of Diane Arbogast as substitute secretary/accountant for Pocahontas County Schools, effective for the 2016-2017 school year, as needed, at state basic pay.
The next board meeting is Monday, September 12, 6 p.m., at the board of education conference room.
Financial management and contract management will be in next week’s edition of The Pocahontas Times.