At the board of education meeting Monday night, interim superintendent Terrence Beam and treasurer Sherry Radcliff reported on the financial state of the county’s school system.
Radcliff was recently contacted by West Virginia Department of Education Executive Director of Finance Amy Willard, who is concerned with the county’s financial situation.
“She wants to put our county on a watch list,” Radcliff said. “We did not pass a levy. We’re in the black, so we’re not in the red. She felt because we had a $76,000 carryover this year compared to $200,000 last year, is an issue.”
Willard was also concerned that the board relies on the National Forest money, which is not guaranteed past this year. The state board is also making cuts which may cause the county to suffer even more.
“We just took an $85,000 cut, a one percent cut,” Radcliff said. “We’ve also been told there could be another three percent cut before the year is up. That’s a big chunk of money. It depends on what the state does. If they go in and tap into their Rainy Day Fund, then maybe they won’t do it, but it just depends.”
Radcliff said she is required to send a monthly report of the county’s financials to Willard.
“I told her I think we’ll be good this year, it’s next year that I’m worried about,” Radcliff said.
“She recommended heavily that we start the process of a levy.”
The news of the watch list came only a month after news that Pocahontas County Schools was shorted $1.3 million in state funding over the course of seven years.
“Mr. Beam, have you heard anything about them going to give it back to us?” board president Emery Grimes asked. “Is it gone forever? Do we need to put our lawyer to work on it?”
Beam said State Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano addressed the issue at a recent meeting with the county superintendents.
“He said, ‘I know the counties out there who got more than what they were supposed to be allotted want the answer to this question – are they going to have to give back their money – and the counties out there who were shorted are wanting to know if they are going to get their money,’ and he said the answer to both question is ‘no,”’ Beam said. “He said that the legislature would have to take up that action this winter during the legislative session if they want to try to change the funding process for schools.”
Radcliff added that the board office is looking for ways to “trim the fat,” and they are asking staff to do the same.
“We’re talking to the principals in the meeting tomorrow about smart things we can do, like turning heat down, not running water,” Radcliff said.
“Transported pupils will be one of those items. We have no policy to pay for transported pupils. We do not have to pay for transported pupils. That is something we are doing. Last year it was over eight thousand dollars we put out in transported pupil costs.”
The board could also save an estimated $86,400 a year if all employees remember to turn their computers off at the end of the day.
The board thanked Beam and Radcliff for the information and asked them to continue to keep them updated on the financial situation.
Beam addressed the board with his personal concerns with safety issues at all the county schools. He is worried the schools do not have emergency evacuation plans in place.
“I’ve never felt real comfortable with them because I don’t know how prepared the schools really are if an incident occurs,” he said. “I’ve sat down with [director of safety Ron Hall] and came up with some guides. We’re going to go through it with the principals, and we’re going to give them until November 1 to provide us with an action plan on exactly how they’re going to handle certain situations at their school and conduct drills at those schools with the kids so they know how to react in certain situations.”
Beam said it is much easier to react to an incident when a plan is in place, so he will have the principals and staff have a copy of the evacuation plan posted in classrooms so they can use it as a reference.
“That’s something that needs to be ingrained in the staff and be prepared for those incidents,” he said. “If something unfortunate does occur, you’re prepared.”
Beam also reported that the OEPA reports will be available November 12. Once they are delivered to the schools, they will have 30 days to address issues and make changes according to the OEPA suggestions.
OEPA stands for Office of Education Performance Audits. Each year, the OEPA board visits schools to evaluate operations and education practices. The board makes suggestions for changes and rates each school.
In miscellaneous management, the board approved the following:
• Proposal from the Pocahontas County Board of Education to the West Virginia School Building Authority, retroactive to September 30.
• For Robert J. Mann and Samara Mann to transport 33 members of the Pocahontas County High School marching band by charter bus to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, October 30-31. All costs will be paid through fundraising.
• For Scott Garber to transport four members of the Pocahontas County High School Forestry team by van to Louisville, Kentucky, October 27-31, to attend the National FFA Convention. All costs paid by vocational funds.
• For P. Erwin Berry and Michelle D. Wilfong to transport four members of the Pocahontas County High School FFA team by van to Louisville, Kentucky, October 27-31, to attend the National FFA Convention. All costs paid by vocational funds.
In personnel management, the board approved the following:
• Resignation of Joseph T. Arbogast as principal of Hillsboro Elementary School, effective at the end of the day October 16.
• Unpaid medical leave of absence of Sarah C. Brown, teacher of Title I at Hillsboro Elementary School, effective December 1, or upon exhaustion of her accumulated personal leave, for up to 12 weeks, as needed.
• Unpaid medical leave of absence of Shannon C. Anderson, teacher of early education at Hillsboro Elementary School, retroactive to October 6, or upon exhaustion of her accumulated personal leave, for up to eight weeks.
• Employment of Melissa Erin Baldwin as parent involvement coordinator for Pocahontas County Schools effective October 14, for the remainder of the 2015-2016 school year, at $20 per hour, 200 hours, not to exceed $4,000. Schedule to be determined by the director of federal programs but cannot be extended beyond May 16. Salary to be paid by Title VI funds.
• Employment of Phillip Anderson, William Brown, Cheryl Nelson and Anne Smith as substitute administrators for Pocahontas County Schools, effective October 14, as needed, for the remainder of the 2015-2016 school year, at daily rate of pay plus $25.
The next Local School Improvement Council/Faculty Senate meeting will be Tuesday, October 20, at 1 p.m. at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School.
The next board meeting is Monday, October 26, at 7 p.m., in the board of education conference room.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at email@example.com