At the Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting Monday evening, the board deliberated over safety issues involved in allowing students to travel out-of-country for school-sanctioned trips.
The Pocahontas County High School Spanish class’ trip to Spain, scheduled for April 15 through 25, with three students and teacher Shirlene Groseclose, was on the agenda for the board’s approval.
Several board members shared their concerns stemming from a conversation held at a board meeting last year prior to Groseclose taking students to South America.
When Groseclose asked the board for approval for the South America trip, the board was worried because the Zika virus was in the news at that time. Then board attorney Bob Martin advised the board to not allow the students to leave the country.
Although there is not a virus causing concern in Spain, the board is still worried about liability if a student is injured or gets sick.
“Here’s the deal,” board president Emery Grimes said. “We have figured out that once they left this country, they didn’t have any insurance, so the Pocahontas County Board of Education was liable. We talked to Mrs. Groseclose about this, right? We talked to her with our attorney.”
While Grimes said the board did not have to vote and approve the trip in order for the trip to take place, there was a motion and second on the floor. The board voted and the motion failed with a 1-4 vote. Board member Jessica Hefner was the only affirmative vote.
Prior to the close of the meeting, the issue was mentioned again and the board was asked what would happen if Groseclose and the students went to Spain.
The way the motion was worded for approval, it seemed the board was against the trip and did not want the students to go. Grimes said that was not true.
“They will be going,” he said. “We explained this to Mrs. Groseclose last fall or last spring. Most schools now are not sponsoring those trips. They are going, they are going on their own.
“What brought this up was that Zika virus whenever they were going to South America, and we had our attorney at the time to really check into that,” he continued. “The insurance that they are buying will not provide them any coverage outside the United States, so that falls back on the Pocahontas County Board of Education. That’s the way we understood it. We don’t want that liability.”
Grimes added that the board is not against the trip, it just doesn’t need to vote on the trip.
“We’re not saying they can’t go,” he said. “Of course, they can go. We don’t have to vote ‘yeah’ or ‘nay’ for them to go.”
Superintendent Terrence Beam explained that he placed the item on the agenda for approval because, in the past, the board was required to approve all trips.
“We have a policy that says all out-of-state trips have to be approved by the board, have to go on the board agenda,” Beam said. “So that’s why I had it on the agenda. We can change that policy by this time next year where we won’t have to have that on there.”
For the trip in question, though, the board must still follow the policy. The board discussed talking to the new board attorney, but due to the timing of the trip, there is not time to do so before the students leave.
Beam told Grimes the board could rescind the action it took on the item and pull the item from the agenda.
With a motion from board member Tritapoe and a second from board member Joe Walker, the vote was rescinded.
“Let [Groseclose] know that we’re not saying they can’t go and let the parents know that we’re not saying they can’t go,” Grimes said.
In special recognitions:
• Beam and Pocahontas County High School carpentry teacher Duane Gibson announced that several students placed at the annual SkillsUSA competition last week. The Team Works team consisting of Drake Warder, Trey Miller, Braeden Hicks and Keith Harrah, placed first, and Trevor McPeak placed third in plumbing.
The Team Works team will travel to the national competition this summer. Gibson said he needs approximately $3,000 to cover the cost of the trip and he is asking local businesses and civic organizations to help sponsor the team.
• English teacher Jamie Weber recognized Hillsboro Elementary School third grader Asa Marks, who placed third at the State Young Writer’s competition. Weber said Marks will be recognized in May at the University of Charleston for her efforts. Marks read her award winning story to the board.
• Beam announced that PCHS math teacher Laurel Dilley was selected Teacher of the Year and Marlinton Middle School custodian Roy Shearer was selected Service Personnel of the Year. The individuals will be recognized in May at the Super Scholars event.
• High Rocks for Girls executive director Sarah Riley gave a presentation to the board to explain what the organization does for girls in Pocahontas County, as well as Greenbrier and Webster counties.
Riley said she knew there was some concern about High Rocks recruiting girls and she said she worked with MMS principal Dustin Lambert to create an opt out/opt in letter which will be sent to parents of all seventh and eighth grade girls to allow those parents to decide if they want their daughters to participate.
Riley also asked High Rocks board member and alum father Ray Creager to talk to the board about his daughter’s experience. Creager said he saw his shy daughter flourish after attending the camp and said he is thankful the camp was available to her.
The board said it supports High Rocks and agreed that the opt out/opt in letter was a good idea to allow parents to be more informed about what is going on in the school and the community.
In miscellaneous management, the board approved the following:
• School Calendar – 2017-2018 school year for Pocahontas County Schools.
• Out-of-season athletic practice at Pocahontas County High School, effective June 12 through June 30.
• Request of waive from WVDE for adoption of Spanish 1-4 textbooks until the 2018-2019 school year.
• To adopt the following textbooks for the 2017-2018 school year: Spanish 5: Spanish 5 Tejidos – Wayside Publishing and AP Spanish: Triangulo Aprobado 5th Edition – Wayside Publishing.
In personnel management, the board approved the following:
• Employment of Shonda Carr as teacher of preschool/preschool special needs at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, at state basic salary based on degree and experience, effective for the 2017-2018 school year. Term of employment is 200 days.
• Reduction in force of the following individuals’ extracurricular contracts, at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, funded by SPLASH or 21st CCLC grant, effective at the end of the 2016-2017 school year, per request of RESA, due to uncertain financial stability: Nikki E. Alikakos, Thomas W. Boothe, Holly N. Cunningham, Thomas K. Dennison, Alison C. Fegel, Cheryl R. Jonese, Lesa A. McCarty, Gregory Morgan, Amanda Ryder, Chad E. See and Anne M. Smith.
• Employment of Jeanette Sharp as half-time custodian III at Hillsboro Elementary School, at state basic pay, effective April 12, for the remainder of the 2016-2017 school year. Term of employment is 44 one-half days. Term of employment shall be 220 one-half days each year thereafter.
• Resignation of Michelle Y. Fehre, due to retirement, as Title I reading specialist at Marlinton Elementary School, effective at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.
• Transfer of Devan E. Simmons from teacher of multi-subjects at Hillsboro Elementary School to teacher of multi-subjects at Marlinton Elementary School, effective for the 2017-2018 school year, at state basic salary based on degree and experience. Term of employment is 200 days.
• Reduction in force of Susan L. Grant as teacher of multi-subjects at Marlinton Elementary School, effective at the end of the 2016-2017 school year, due to displacement by more senior employee.
• Resignation of Angela G. Irvine as custodian IV at Marlinton Middle School, effective at the end of the day on June 30.
• Reduction in force of Daniel E. Mullens as teacher of social studies at Marlinton Middle School, effective at the end of the 2016-2017 school year, due to displacement by more senior employee.
• Consent to change Lisa Dennison from coordinator of child nutrition/teacher at Pocahontas County High School, to coordinator of child nutrition/teacher of alternative education at Marlinton Middle School, effective for the 2017-2018 school year. Term of employment is 220 days.
• Employment of Sherri Mullens as substitute school bus operator for Pocahontas County Schools, effective April 12, as needed, for the remainder of the 2016-2017 school year, at state basic pay.
• Resignation of Tammy Wright as substitute custodian and substitute cook for Pocahontas County Schools, retroactive to the end of the day on April 7.
The next board meeting is Monday, April 24, at 6 p.m., in the board of education conference room.