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BOE recognizes students for heroic act

When a Pocahontas County Schools bus driver suffered a medical emergency while driving a bus filled with students, three Pocahontas County High School students leapt into action to help the driver and steer the bus safely off the road. The students, from left: Conner Spencer, Rachel Ames and Jason Browning, were recognized at the February 18 Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting for their swift actions. The students were honored by the board, as well as state bus inspector Dave Baber, far right. S. Stewart photo

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

At the February 18 Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting, three Pocahontas County High School students were honored for their bravery and swift actions during a medical emergency on their school bus.

Director of transportation Ruth Bland described the incident, which took place January 30, and explained that when a bus driver became ill and lost consciousness, students Rachel Ames, Jason Browning and Conner Spencer leapt into action to ensure the safety of the driver and students.

Ames calmed the passengers as Spencer caught the attention of a parent on the side of the road, and Browning checked on the bus driver and helped steer the bus off the road.

“The bus was still running on the side of the road,” Bland said. “The driver did come around, and Jason was able to steer the bus into the driveway and set the brake.

“The job that they did was absolutely courageous and heroic,” she continued. “They were so very focused on what they did. They saved the children. They saved the driver. I can’t ask for anything better in this world than students that will step up to the plate when there is a problem and solve it without even having an argument over who is in charge.

“They were all large and in charge. They did a fabulous job.”

Also applauding the students for their courage was state bus inspector Dave Baber, who agreed that the students’ actions led to a positive outcome to a bad scenario.

“It’s rare that I get to investigate or review an accident or incident that has this type of outcome,” Baber said. “If it was going to happen, it’s great that it happened like it did, where it did and the time it did, with these children that took charge on the bus.

“You couldn’t ask for anything better,” he continued. “It very easily could have been worse. The more you look at the video, the more butterflies you get. We really appreciate you – from myself and from my supervisor [Tommy] Young – who couldn’t be here. We greatly appreciate what you did.”

Bland and Baber presented a certificate of appreciation to each of the three students, as well as a key fob and bracelet with words describing the students’ actions.

Spencer’s key fob said “Vision – a strategy, a plan or a blueprint for achieving a desired outcome.” Ames’ said “Focus – to pursue something with total determination and concentration.” Browning’s said “Success – a person who achieves their desired goals or attaints prosperity.” The bracelets were inscribed “With courage, you can do anything.”

The board thanked the students for their efforts during the incident. 

Superintendent Terrence Beam added his remarks, with a little joke for Browning.

“When I observed the video, the first thing I noticed was how calm all three of them were,” he said. “It was like they were trained to do that. It was really nice to see. I wanted to tell Jason, we’re always short on bus drivers. If there’s a future there, you’ve already got experience.”

In updates:

• On behalf of the Marlinton Elementary School Local School Improvement Council [LSIC], Luci Mosesso addressed the board with concerns about the school’s playground. Mosesso said that once the former board office is demolished, the playground will be more exposed and lessen the safety of the students.

Mosesso added that the LSIC would like to make several upgrades to the playground, including new fence, new surfaces for the basketball and tennis courts and solar sails to provide a shaded area.

The LSIC plans to pursue grants to fund the upgrades, with the board’s blessing, Mosesso said, adding that Pocahontas County Parks and Recreation has committed to providing a match if the LSIC gets a grant.

The board told Mosesso the LSIC is allowed to pursue grants and said it was not a conflict of interest for the board’s grant writer, Laura Young, to assist the LSIC.

• Superintendent Beam gave a report on the recent visit from state fire marshal James Lewis. During his visit, Lewis said he noticed that Marlinton Elementary and Marlinton Middle schools both have issues with the electrical capacity, stating that they are maxed out.

Beam said he will share the marshal’s full report once it arrives.

Beam also shared the results from the regional science fair, in which several county projects placed first and will continue on to the state science fair.

Elementary school students Madalynn Landis and Jolene Workman; middle school students Eden Smith, Jasey Kramer and Willie O’Ganian; and high school students Max O’Ganian, Mason Solliday, Kyle Wayne and Sienna Bircher all won first place in their categories and will compete at the state level in the spring.

• During the matters of the board portion of the meeting, board member Sue Hollandsworth addressed the rumors about the athletic trainer position which circulated after the last board meeting.

“I’ve heard rumors that the board of education is, once again, hiding things, and creating jobs for specific people,” Hollandsworth said. “This has to do with Kristy’s [Tritapoe] presentation with the athletic trainer. According to this person – we already decided to do the job description so that the young man who did the presentation will get the job.
“He did not want the job,” she continued. “He wasn’t here for the job.”

Hollandsworth said she wanted the public to be aware that the rumor was false and that the board does not create job positions with specific people in mind.

In miscellaneous management, the board approved the following:

• 2020-2021 Pocahontas County Schools calendar.

• Non Traditional Instructional Day Plan – snow packets – for the 2020-2021 school year.

• The following as volunteers at Pocahontas County Schools for the 2019-2020 school year: Linda K. Burgess, Ellen M. Hershman, Teresa D. Kloeker, Kelsey Law, Ashley L. McCarty, Steven D. McCarty, Jr., Robert T. Must, Diane P. Sharp and Lee J. Wolfe.

• To change effective date of Policy-DJD-Expense Reimbursement Policy from December 3, 2019 to July 1, 2020.

• Teresa Mullen to transport up to six female students by private vehicle to Pierpont Community and Technical College in Fairmont, West Virginia Northern Community College for Culinary Arts in Wheeling and Indiana University of Pennsylvania – Academy of Culinary Arts in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, departing Pocahontas County High School April 2 and returning April 4. College trips are to be paid for with CTE travel funds and ProStart class funds.

• Tom Moats, Lonnie Armstrong and Shonda Carr as volunteer baseball coaches at Pocahontas County High School, effective for the 2019-2020 season.

In professional management, the board approved the following:

• Resignation of Stacy E. Landis as teacher of science at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, retroactive to the end of the day on January 31.

• Resignation of Doris E. Sharp, due to retirement, as cafeteria manger at Hillsboro Elementary School, effective at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

• Creation of position itinerant school social worker at Hillsboro Elementary School, at state basic salary, effective for the 2020-2021 school year. Term of employment is 210 days.

• Resignation of Dorthie Shamblin, due to retirement, as itinerant special education classroom aide/bus aide at Marlinton Middle School, effective at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

• Abolishment of position itinerant special education classroom aide/bus aide at Marlinton Middle School, effective at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

• Employment of the following as substitute aides for Pocahontas County Schools, at state basic pay, effective February 20, as needed, for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, contingent upon results of background check: Teresa Kloeker, Tiffany Long, Heather McNeill, Rebecca Peteete and Shawn Smith.

• Employment of Shawn Smith as substitute cook for Pocahontas County Schools, at state basic pay, effective February 20, as needed, for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, contingent upon results of background check.

The next board meeting is Tuesday, March 10, at 6 p.m., at the board of education conference room.

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