At the board of education meeting November 12, Pocahontas County resident and former head of the Rural School and Community Trust Rachel Tompkins gave advice to the board concerning the superintendent search.
Tompkins explained that her organization focused on the well being and sustainability of rural schools.
“I come from a family of teachers,” she said. “I am not a teacher or never been a principal or any of those things. What I have done is worked a lot on school policy, school organizations, school governments. I have participated in a number of superintendent searches and advised school districts on superintendent searches.”
Board member Dr. Hannah Sizemore contacted Tompkins and asked her to give her perspective on superintendent searches.
“I have three points,” Tompkins said. “The first one is, you will not do anything more important than recruit, hire and evaluate a school superintendent. It is the most important thing that a school board does. It’s not something you do every month or every year. It’s absolutely essential that you get someone that you’re comfortable with, that you trust and that you can move ahead with with the kinds of goals that you as a board have established.”
Tompkins said point two is to take the time to do the search right and to utilize assistance that is available.
“It’s probably worth the trouble to get some help doing it since you probably don’t have staff that has run a lot of searches and you yourself don’t have time to do that,” she said. “Getting some extra help makes some sense and spending a little bit of money doing it, to me, makes sense because it’s one of those decisions that has such a bearing on your school system and influences what happens on so many other things for such a long period of time.”
Tompkins pulls her third point from her extensive work throughout the country with rural school systems.
“There’s something I know about rural schools and that is there are dozens of talented people in rural school districts all across the country that would think coming to be superintendent of schools in Pocahontas County would be a terrific thing to do,” she said. “It’s an interesting place to work, a challenging place to work.
“There are people who love to live in rural places, choose to be there, want to be there, love school systems,” she continued. “So, the notion somehow of doing a search that’s broader than West Virginia or just the region around here is pointless, I think, is wrong. I think there will be talented candidates from other places.”
Tompkins drew inspiration from the recent search that Allegheny Mountain Radio board did for a new general manager. Serving on the board, Tompkins was part of the search and she suggested the board use similar search tactics including social media and national networking.
“The biggest cost comes in when you invite people in and they come from far away, and you need to pay their travel and their lodging,” she said. “The other thing I would say and particularly in light of recent events here is that the fire downtown has everybody focused on what we don’t have and what we’ve lost. I have to tell you having just recruited a new general manager to the radio station as a member of that board, people find this place a very attractive place to be.”
Tompkins suggested that although there may be candidates for the superintendent position in the county, the board should not limit itself from doing a search.
“You may have internal candidates and there’s always a question about why should we go off and search all over the place if we think maybe we have internal candidates,” she said. “I always tell people that internal candidates, if they’re worth their salt, feel good about being vetted through a process if they end up getting selected through that process because the board understands then that they’ve got somebody that has weathered scrutiny and a challenge from a variety of places.”
In regards to a timeline, Tompkins said the most important thing the board can do first is to make a list of goals it expects the superintendent to meet.
“I could tick off on three fingers the things that were our highest priorities at the radio station,” she said. “You need to be able to do that for whoever you want as superintendent. Not a list of ten things, but the three or four things that are absolutely essential to you and who you want to have as superintendent here.”
The board thanked Tompkins for her input and assistance with the superin- tendent search.
In the wake of the devastating fire which razed three buildings in Marlinton and left 13 residents without homes, Superintendent Dr. Donald Bechtel said the school system has worked diligently to assist a student who lived in the McK building.
“One of our students and her father lost everything,” he said. “She’s a ninth grader at the high school. This morning, we were able to begin activation of support for her and her family. Fortunately no one was injured in the tragic fire.”
Board president Emery Grimes shared his sympathies for the town’s loss.
“I have a lot of friends, their businesses got destroyed,” he said. “I feel devastated along with them. I think if there’s anything we can do as a board of education, we would be more than willing to step up and do anything for this community. I don’t agree with what they said, that Marlinton’s lost its heart. We’re still here. It’ll take time, but it’ll come back.”
• Bechtel announced that Spanish teacher Shirlene Groseclose was named the 2013 West Virginia Foreign Language Teacher Association Teacher of the Year. She was chosen by her state-wide peers for the award.
“Mrs. Groseclose is an exemplary teacher but more importantly, she makes the extra effort to share her time and talents with colleagues,” Bechetl said. “She’s a valued member of the executive board with her association and so we are extremely proud she teaches at the high school, at Green Bank and also at Marlinton Middle.”
• Service personnel president and cook Mary Dilley told the board she misspoke at the last meeting in regard to raises. She said she was informed that one cook was given a raise and went up a level in classification after 10 years of service.
Dilley said she thinks an employee should be considered for a raise after four or five years of service, adding that no one should have to wait 10 years for a raise.
• Maintenance supervisor Darin McKenney presented the board with an estimate for a security system at Pocahontas County High School. Due to the cost, he suggested that the board focus on a lock system for the doors and replace security cameras at a later date.
• County commissioner and bus driver Jamie Walker asked the board if there has been any progress on purchasing a generator for Marlinton Middle School to use in case of a disaster. The school system and county are working together to outfit the school as a disaster relief center.
The board asked McKenney to work with 911 director Shawn Dunbrack to get a generator for the school.
In financial management, the board approved the following:
• Grant awards, budget adjustments and bank reconciliation.
• Payment of vendor listing of claims in the amount of $29,679.64.
• Payment of vendor listing of claims in the amount of $273,324.11.
• Payment of vendor listing of claims in the amount of $33,678.07.
In miscellaneous management, the board approved the following:
• Green Bank Elementary-Middle School fourth grade students to travel to Washington, D.C. by charter bus, departing GBEMS on May 27 and returning May 30, with Cheryl Nelson, Marsha Beverage and Judy Kane as chaperones.
• Hillsboro Elementary Schools third, fourth and fifth grade students to travel to Williamsburg, Virginia, by charter bus, departing HES on May 29 and returning May 30, with Gina Hardesty, Shannon Alderman and Kristi Tankersley as chaperones.
In personnel management, the board approved the following:
• Employment of Lauren Brooke Dickenson as head girls basketball coach at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, effective for the 2013-2014 season, at a supplement of $1,500.
• Creation of position half time secretary II/accountant II at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, at state basic pay, effective December 4 for the remainder of the 2013-2014 school year. Term of employment is 129 one-half days. Term of employment shall be 220 one-half days each year thereafter.
• Resignation of Davina R. Agee as assistant girls basketball coach at Marlinton Middle School, retroactive to October 31.
• Employment of Kay Wiley as football athletic season coordinator, at Pocahontas County High School, effective for the 2013-2014 season, at a supplement of $1,000.
• Resignation of Carol B. Alderman as substitute teacher for Pocahontas County Schools, retroactive to October 31.
• Resignation of Michelle D. Jeffers as parent involvement staff for Pocahontas County Schools, retroactive to October 16.
• Employment of Kimberly D. Thompson as substitute aide for Pocahontas County Schools effective November 14, as needed, for the remainder of the 2013-2014 school year, at state basic pay.
• Pay on years of experience for non-board of education work Ian B. Bennett, chief mechanic for Pocahontas County Schools, 16 years of experience credit/year of employment for non-board of education work experience, retroactive to July 1.
• Pay on years of experience for non-board of education work Justin A. Taylor mechanic for Pocahontas County Schools, eight years of experience credit/years of employment for non-board of education work experience, retroactive to July 1.
The next LSIC/faculty senate meeting will be Monday, December 2, at 7 p.m., at Marlinton Middle School.
The next board meeting will be Monday, December 16, at 7 p.m., at the board of education conference room.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at email@example.com