BOE learns benefit of Blessings in a Backpack

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

At the board of education meeting Monday night, New Hope Lutheran Church pastor Jess Felici shared information with the board concerning the Blessings in a Backpack program.

Felici said church members are hoping to implement the program in Pocahontas County.

“Blessings in a Backpack is a national organization whose goal is to make sure that children in elementary schools who are eligible for free or reduced lunches are able to access food on the weekends,” she said.

“Children who come from homes who are eligible for free or reduced lunches frequently come from food-insecure homes.”

The program provides food for children for the weekends.

The goal of Blessings in a Backpack is to send a bag of food home every Friday – a bag of food that contains a healthy snack, an entreé and some breakfast foods, so you would look at things like oatmeal, granola bars and cans of ravioli or meals that a child could prepare for themselves, Felici said.

“The cost is about eighty dollars per child and so New Hope looks to partner with some civic organizations and some other congregations in the county.”

New Hope Church has startup money; with the help of other organizations, they hope to begin the program at Marlinton Elementary School and later branch out to the other elementary schools in the county.

“We think it’s an important program,” Felici said. “We think this is a need in our county. According to localschooldirectory.com, there’s seventy-three point nine percent of the kids at Marlinton Elementary School who qualify for free or reduced lunches. That’s higher than the other elementary schools in our county. We’ve chosen Marlinton as our focus for the pilot project, but the hope and the prayer is that this is something that could grow.”

Felici said the only “burden” the schools would face is actually handing out the bags on Fridays to the children who are eligible for the program.

“There are a couple of different ways that Blessings in a Backpack sets this up,” she said. “One way is with drawstrings bags, to get those bags so we have reusable bags, and we collect those every Monday and fill them, and on Friday, they are delivered back to the classrooms and teachers sneak them into backpacks during recess. The other option is to use grocery bags because you know what doesn’t make a kid stick out is carrying a grocery bag.”

When the program begins, a letter will be sent home to the parents where they will have the option to opt out if they choose not to participate. However, the parents don’t have to do anything in order to participate in the program. There aren’t any forms or permission slips to fill out.

The goal is to start the program for the 2016-2017 school year.

Felici said she wants to return to a board meeting later to speak more with the board about the program. Because she was not on the agenda for the meeting, the board could not take action to approve participation in the program.

Board attorney Bob Martin told Felici he would purchase the drawstring bags for the program if the church decides to use reusable bags instead of grocery bags.

The board thanked Felici for her report and looks forward to working with the church to implement the program.

In updates:

• Director of Special Education/Student Services/ Transportation/Tech Coordinator Ruth Bland gave interim superintendent Terrence Beam’s report in his absence.

Bland recognized the Pocahontas County High School girls soccer team for its win at sectionals. They move on to regionals on September 29 against Nicholas County. The boys soccer team also performed well at sectionals, but was defeated in the end. The football team is in a playoff berth and, if they defeat Cameron November 6, they will have the opportunity to have home field advantage in the playoffs.

The Warrior band qualified for ACC competition again this year and will celebrate with a trip to Hershey Park after they compete.

Bland also reported that the strategic plan was submitted to and accepted by the West Virginia Department of Education. The school system also went under the special education compliance monitor with favorable results.

In personnel management, the board approved the following:

• Employment of Lesa McCarty as project site coordinator Project: SPLASH, at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, retroactive to October 13, up to nine hours per week, for up to 25 weeks, plus additional planning/ meetings before program begins, at $23 per hour.

• Employment of Cheryl Jonese as counselor, Project: SPLASH, at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, retroactive to October 13, up to five hours per week, for up to 25 weeks, plus additional planning/meetings before program begins, at $20 per hour.

• Employment of Amanda Nottingham as homework help teacher, Project: SPLASH, at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, retroactive to October 13, up to nine hours per week, for up to 25 weeks, plus additional planning/meetings before program begins, at $20 per hour.

• Employment of Kimberly N. Shinaberry as project math tutor/STEM instructor, Project: SPLASH, at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, retroactive to October 13, for up to 25 weeks, plus additional planning/meeting before program begins, at $20 per hour.

• Employment of Gregory D. Morgan as performing arts instructors, Project: SPLASH, at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, retroactive to October 13, up to two and a half hours per week, for up to 25 weeks, plus additional planning/ meetings before program begins, at $20 per hour.

• Employment of Alison Flegel as visual arts instructor, Project: SPLASH, at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, retroactive to October 13, up to two and a half hours per week, for up to 25 weeks, plus additional planning/meetings before program begins, at $20 per hour.

• Employment of Anne M. Smith as special education teacher, Project: SPLASH, at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, retroactive to October 13, for up to five hours per week, for up to 25 weeks, plus additional planning/meetings before program begins, at $20 per hour.

• Resignation of Gregory P. Ball as principal of Marlinton Elementary School, effective at the end of the day on October 30.

• Employment of Cheryl Jonese, Jean O. Srodes and David W. Vanorsdale, Jr., as teachers of homebound instruction, effective October 28, as needed, for the remainder of the 2015-2016 school year, at $20 per hour.

• Employment of Paul F. Barb, Rachel Cain, Whitney Fedak and Dondi S. Stemple as substitute teachers for Pocahontas County Schools, effective October 28, or upon completion of the RESA Online Substitute Training Program, as needed for the remainder of the 2015-2016 school year, at state basic pay.

• Employment of Melissa Erin Baldwin as substitute teacher for Pocahontas County Schools, retroactive to October 20, as needed for the remainder of the 2015-2016 school year, at state basic pay.

The next Local School Improvement Council/Faculty Senate meeting will be Monday, November 2, at 1 p.m., at Marlinton Elementary School.

The next board meeting will be Monday, November 9, at 7 p.m., at the board of education conference room.

Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at sastewart@pocahontastimes.com

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