Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

At the December 3 Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting, Pocahontas County High School science teacher Justin Dilley gave a report on his recent visit to Washington, D.C., where he testified before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee of Congress.

Dilley represented Pocahontas County in the discussion concerning funding from Secure Rural Schools (SRS) and Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT).

“The majority of the senators on that panel are from out west, so a lot of them are in favor of SRS and PILT funds because their states need it probably worse than what our county does,” Dilley said. “The one guy from Alaska that sat beside me actually said that the SRS funds for his county – if I remember right – made up a third of their school budget.

“It’s a highly important issue,” he continued. “Right now, the way it stands, the bill expired – so as of right now, they’re not coming back.

“To be honest, after that hearing, my hopes aren’t quite as high as they used to be. We’ll see what happens.”

Dilley said he felt as though there were several senators in favor of the funding, but admitted that the process to renew the bill is slow.

“The way it looks right now, I would think we would be lucky to see it next year,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll get anything for this year. Like I said, a lot of those senators were for it, but it’s kind of a wait and see thing right now.”

The board thanked Dilley for representing the county and for the update. Dilley said he will continue to provide updates as the process moves forward.

Former Pocahontas Coun-ty Sheriff David Jonese also attended the meeting and addressed the board about the work of the Greenbrier County Youth Reporting Center. Jonese is the program director.

Jonese gave background information on the program and said he would like to start providing services to students in Pocahontas County.

The YRC is for troubled students between the ages of 12 and 18 who are having behavioral issues and are on the path of juvenile delinquency. Jonese said the program is somewhat of a stepping stone between school and juvenile detention. The hope is that the students who come through the program will be rehabilitated and return to school and avoid the court system.

“We provide a variety of different services,” Jonese said. “It gives students an alternative to the alternative. If they don’t comply – in many cases if they are incorrigible or they have a drug problem – the court puts them on probation and they deal with it over and over again. When they make that mistake, they go to placement, a juvenile facility or a drug treatment facility.

“What we are is an intermediary,” he continued. “So if you have a problem, and you can’t get this child back on track, we have a whole series of resources right there. They come into our program – we do everything from therapeutic counseling to life skills training. We have group and individual counseling. We have case management. There’s a list of things that we provide for the students.”

Students who go through the program are treated from 90-to-365 days depending on the severity of their case and how well they take to the services offered.

In addition to helping students get back on track with their education, the program provides counseling and teaches students responsibilities such as washing clothes, doing dishes and cooking.

“We work with them on real-life things along with the requirements from the state,” Jonese said. “All of our therapy, all of our classroom instruction, everything is through Texas Christian University, so it’s all certified. All our instructors are certified to teach these things.”

Jonese said the program should not be seen as punishment, but rather as a second chance to get on the right track. While the students do have strict rules they must follow, they are treated like students and not prisoners.

“Our goal is to be the sources that stop them from getting sent to juvenile detention facilities,” he said.

In order to provide the services in the county, Jonese said he needs a facility close to the schools or on a school campus. He suggested using the auditorium at Pocahontas County High School as a centralized location.

The board thanked Jonese for the information and said the matter will be placed on the agenda for the next meeting, and the board will vote at that time as to whether YRC may use the auditorium to serve the students at Pocahontas County. 

In updates:

• Marlinton Elementary School kindergarten teacher Barbara Beard gave a presentation on the new Character Education program the teachers are implementing this year. Beard said several teachers attended the Explore Academy in Huntington over the summer and they learned about the Six Habits of Success.

Beard said the Six Habits of Success are respect, integrity, compassion, curiosity, cooperation and craftsmanship. These six habits are used in lessons to help students develop good character.

“Our lessons include things like high quality read aloud books and then we have big discussions after that,” Beard said. “We use poetry. We do a lot of role playing. We do games. We do cooperative challenges.

“Most importantly, we have in-depth conversations every day about how to be a good person. That’s the main point for me.

“I really want to make sure that this makes a difference in their lives,” she continued. “I want them to know how to show respect and carry that everywhere in their life, not just at school. I would like to see them do that at home. I’d like to see them do it everywhere they go.”

• During his presentation to the board, MES principal Phillip Anderson reported that MES has been selected as a pilot school for the Marshall University Autism Training Center program. Dr. Jim Harris and several of his colleagues will visit MES and help the staff with autism education.

• School nurse Jenny Friel addressed the board about her concern of being the only nurse for five schools in the county. Friel is stretched thin, spending only one day a week at each school and said that it is difficult for teachers to fill in for her when she is not at their school.

Friel asked the board to consider hiring at least two LPNs who can help share the load, stating again that she is concerned for the well being of the students and is afraid she is unable to manage the caseload alone.

In miscellaneous management, the board approved the following:

• Policy DJD – Expense Reimbursement.

• Crystal Kerr as volunteer assistant softball coach at Pocahontas County High School, effective for the 2019-2020 season.

• Kenneth Beezley as assistant volunteer basketball coach at Marlinton Middle School, effective for the 2019-2020 season.

In personnel management, the board approved the following:

• Employment of Nebraska N. Scotchie as athletic director at Marlinton Middle School, effective for the 2019-2020 season, at a supplement of $750. Position pending on sufficient number of players to make a team.

• Employment of Ernest “Ray” Hendrick as assistant 7th and 8th grade football coach, at Pocahontas County High School, retroactive to September 12, at a prorated supplement of $200.

• Employment of Kathy L. Mason as assistant boys basketball coach at Pocahontas County High School, effective for the 2019-2020 school year, at a supplement of $500. Position pending on a sufficient number of players to make a team.

• Employment of Kimberly Beverage as itinerant special education aide/classroom aide/bus aide at Marlinton Elementary School, at state basic pay, effective December 5, for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, term of employment is 121 days. Note: term of employment shall be 200 days each year thereafter.

• Employment of Daniel Ahern as substitute teacher for Pocahontas County Schools, effective December 5, for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, as needed, at state basic pay.

• Creation of position substitute truck driver for Pocahontas County Schools, effective January 2, 2020, as needed, for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, at state basic pay.

• Creation of position substitute custodian/sanitation plant operator for Pocahontas County Schools, effective January 2, 2020, as needed, for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, at state basic pay.

The next board meeting will be Tuesday, December 17, at 3:30 p.m. at Hillsboro Elementary School, beginning with a Local School Improvement Council (LSIC) session, immediately followed by the regular meeting.

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