At the December 21 Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting, superintendent Terrence Beam praised employees and shared disappointing news from the West Virginia School Building Authority.
First, Beam shared his appreciation for the school system’s employees who have gone above and beyond to make this school year as normal as possible for the students, despite continued issues with COVID-19.
“I’ve never seen such difficult times last so long,” he said. “This has just been two years of really a lot of stress for our employees, and I commend them for hanging in there and doing the best that they can under difficult circumstances.
“I know we do this pretty often, but we can’t do it often enough,” he continued. “I want to publicly thank all of our employees for everything they do – this time of year, especially. Things have been really difficult and words cannot express to them how much I appreciate what they do.”
Beam said the COVID-19 issues have led to teachers stepping in to cover classes while their coworkers are on quarantine, which adds to the already stressful task of teaching during a pandemic.
He added that teachers who do step in and cover classes during their planning period or duty free lunch period will be compensated for their time.
“I’m just not sure that word is getting out to all the employees,” he said. “I’m depending on my principals to deliver that message to their staff members. Let your employees know that we will financially compensate them for covering classes when they have to give up their free time.”
In a more somber tone, Beam delivered the news that the Needs Project submitted to the West Virginia School Building Authority was denied. This grant, if approved, would have been used to replace the roof at Marlinton Elementary School and provide air conditioning and electrical upgrades to MES, Marlinton Middle School, Pocahontas County High School and Hillsboro Elementary School.
“I want to apologize to the board and to our schools and to our students that the SBA did not approve our project,” Beam said. “I feel like I failed to convince them of our need.”
Board vice president John Burns disagreed and assured Beam that he did what he could to present the project to the SBA.
“I don’t agree with that,” Burns said. “I think you pointed it out very well.”
Beam said of the 26 counties that applied for funding, six were approved. Only one of those – Taylor County – was a grant project for a new roof. The others were for construction of new schools.
Determined to continue the fight for funding, Beam suggested the board apply for a Major Improvement Plan [MIP] grant from the SBA for the MES roof.
Beam also reported that board staff is still working on solutions to the substitute teacher shortage. Ten individuals with Associate’s degrees applied to go through the process, but two of those have dropped out and the remaining eight are taking a training course.
While that does help, there is still a need for substitutes, and Beam and the board office staff are seeking other options, including using principals as substitutes when needed.
Board president Sue Hollandsworth, who is a retired teacher and principal, asked if she could volunteer to substitute. Beam said he would look into the legality of a board member acting as a substitute and let her know.
Finally, Beam said he and director of attendance/maintenance/school safety/homeless liaison Ron Hall will travel to all the schools Friday, January 7, to pass out the Purple Star Awards – a recognition that the schools support military families in their communities.
The schedule is: Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, 9 a.m.; Pocahontas County High School, 10 a.m.; Marlinton Elementary School, 11 a.m.; Marlinton Middle School, 1 p.m.; and Hillsboro Elementary School, 2 p.m.
Beam said he asked principals to invite military families to attend and take part in the recognition.
A snow date of January 14 is in place.
• Adventure Pocahontas director Tracey Valach gave a report on the success of the Nature’s Mountain Classroom program thus far.
Valach was excited to say that the fourth and fifth grade programs went really well with 100 percent participation from both grade levels. The fourth grade focused on kayaking, snorkeling, art and West Virginia history. The fifth grade students learned to mountain bike, make rockets, and learned about healthy lifestyles and nutrition.
In December, nearly 200 students traveled to Snowshoe Mountain Resort and took ski lessons with the help of ski instructors and volunteers. They were outfitted with the proper attire and safety gear to make it a fun and safe day.
Valach reported that the program will pick up with the second grade adventures on February 24. The second grade students will learn about weather and creative writing, as well as hiking.
The board thanked Valach for her dedication to providing the program and for the update on all the adventures the students have been on this year.
In miscellaneous management, the board approved the following:
• A 63-month lease agreement with Xerox Financial Services, LLC, for eleven AltaLink C8155 H2 Office Finishers, including three-hole punch kit – central office unit includes fax kit, toner and maintenance – totaling $1,420.36 per month. Supplemental agreement with Professional Business Products to cover impression fees. BOE will pay .0062 per copy and schools will be responsible for color impressions at five cents per copy.
• The Three-year Student Teaching Letter of Agreement with Western Governors University and the Pocahontas County Board of Education.
In personnel management, the board approved the following:
• Resignation of Kelli M. Tallman, teacher of multi-subjects, at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, effective January 3.
• Unpaid suspension of Ashley Wilt-Smith, itinerant special education, classroom aide/bus aide for Pocahontas County Schools – suspension for three days, without pay – served on December 1-3.
• Requested transfer of Daniel J. Ahern as school bus operator for Pocahontas County Schools from his current run to a new run, effective January 3, 2022, for the remainder of the 2021-2022 school year, at state basic pay. Term of employment is 107 days. Term of employment shall be 200 days each year thereafter.
• Employment of Mary Sue Burns as STEM Instructional Coach for Pocahontas County Schools, effective January 3, 2022 through May 13, 2022, at $22 per hour, three-and-a-half hours per day, up to three days per week, not to exceed 45 hours or $990. Funded by Math4Life grant. Holidays are not part of this contract.
• Employment of Kathy L. Mason as head softball coach for Pocahontas County High School for the 2021-2022 season, at a supplement of $1,125.
• Volunteer coaches: Kenneth Beezley and Justin Taylor for fourth and fifth grade basketball at Hillsboro Elementary School; and Megan Luikart, Allie Luikart and Delania Luikart as basketball cheerleading coaches for Hillsboro Elementary School, for the 2021-2022 season.
The next board meeting will begin with a Local School Improvement Council meeting Tuesday, January 11, at 3:45 p.m. at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School. The regular meeting will immediately follow.
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