After interviewing three applicants for the northern district board seat at its September 10 meeting, the Pocahontas County Board of Education selected one of them to fill the seat left vacant by the resignation of Justin Dilley.
Board president Joe Walker said all three candidates – Jarrett McLaughlin, George Murphy and Jee Seymour – were very qualified for the position, but the board could only choose one. In this instance, that one was Jarrett McLaughlin, of Dunmore.
“A lot of different things passed through our minds and our conversations with you all,” Walker said. “I would like to say, on behalf of all of us, whoever the two are that aren’t chosen, we would certainly like to see you run for the board when the time comes next spring because we feel like all three of you certainly have things to bring to the table.”
At the end of the meeting, each board member welcomed McLaughlin and thanked him for offering to fill the seat left open by Justin Dilley, who resigned to teach science at Pocahontas County High School.
“I want to say thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve on the board,” McLaughlin said. “I hope I do it justice.”
The board all agreed they had confidence McLaughlin will serve the school system well.
Prevention Coalition hosting “Iceland Project”
Dr. Pat Browning addressed the board and extended an invitation to the upcoming “Iceland Project” presentation and luncheon hosted by the Pocahontas County Prevention Coalition.
Browning is the chairperson of the Coalition and gave a brief synopsis of the goals of the organization.
“We believe prevention works in substance abuse,” she said. “We get our data from SAMHSA which is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the United States government. They say in their studies that communities with strong coalitions have less substance abuse and also, for every dollar spent on prevention, you save eighteen dollars on treatment.”
As part of the Coalition’s continued efforts to fight substance abuse issues – especially in students – in Pocahontas County, the organization has invited Dr. Alfgeir Kristjansson, a West Virginia University researcher and social scientist at Reykjavik University in Iceland, to give a presentation Thursday, November 14, at 11:30 a.m. at Pocahontas County High School.
“Back in the 1990s, Iceland had a terrible problem with underage drinking,” Browning said. “It was practically a right of passage for kids to get drunk on their thirteenth birthday, and it was culturally accepted that kids would be kids. But, it just got out of control and kids were drinking and running around in packs, causing problems – car wrecks, drunk driving. Some went on to become alcoholics.”
Browning explained that the Icelandic government hired social scientists to study the problem and find solutions for the growing substance abuse issue. The scientists discovered that the children were bored and didn’t have much involvement with their parents.
“Icelanders, Dr. Kristjansson said, are workaholics and thought ‘well, if we spent a little quality time with our kids, that should be good,’ but from their studies, they realized that kids need a lot of quality time with their families, too,” Browning said. “When this data was collected and presented, the government got involved with helping to set up more structured after-school activities, weekend activities, curfews, getting parents more involved with their kids, have them watching other kids in the neighborhood. It was kind of like going back to the fifties and sixties when communities really looked out for the kids in the community.”
Browning said she hopes the program will make an impact and again invited the board to attend.
• English/language arts coach Stephanie Burns presented her goals for the new school year concerning the reading programs in the county.
Burns said the preschool through third grade teachers attended an Early Literacy Institute held in the county this summer which helped them address issues they were facing with helping their students reach their benchmarks.
Through implementing new programs and using level books, Burns said the teachers are very positive about how their students will do this year. They also plan to implement a new program where students will be in charge of their reading portfolios and will lead conversations with their parents about their progress.
This October, Burns will have a three-day series of grade level team meetings with elementary school teachers. The plan is to spend a couple hours following up on the progress of the new programs and see where there could be improvements.
• PCHS assistant principal Kristy Tritapoe gave an update on the school’s upgrades in the security system. Through a Homeland Security grant the school received last year, Tritapoe said the school now has 50 security cameras and more secure door locks.
Visitors must be buzzed in at the front door and all doors are locked during the day. All staff, including coaches have key fobs which allow them to unlock the doors. Tritapoe said the key fob system allows them to keep track of who is entering the school. She added that when a staff member transfers or retires, she is able to either collect the fob or deactivate it so the individual can no longer enter the building with it. This also works for coaches who do not need access to the school year-round.
For students who travel between the main building and the vocational building, Tritapoe said there is a number code they must enter into a keypad. The code is changed each week and the teachers have the code posted in their classrooms for students to access.
Tritapoe said she plans to apply for another Homeland Security grant to replace the doors at the school which are showing their age.
• Student representative Emmet Doolittle, a senior at PCHS, gave a report on the fall sports teams, which are all having a good season, so far. He added that he spoke to math teacher Jennifer Nail who said there is no funding this year for tutoring and asked him to mention it at the meeting. Dootlittle said he thought it was a good program that helped a lot of students and said he hoped the board could find funding to continue offering tutoring.
In miscellaneous management, the board approved the following:
• Travel requests – Green Bank Elementary-Middle School eighth grade students to travel by chartered bus to Virginia Beach, Virginia, May 19 through May 22, 2020. Trip to be paid for by fundraising; and Pocahontas County FFA students to travel by school bus to Morgantown to compete in judging competitions, September 10 and 11. Trip to be paid for with vocational funds.
• Memorandum of Understanding between Pocahontas County Board of Education and North Central West Virginia Community Action Association, Inc. – Head Start Program, retroactive to July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020.
• Marlinton Elementary School Local School Improvement Council to construct a bus stop shelter near the Pocahontas County Community Wellness Center.
• Victoria Warner as volunteer seventh and eighth grade cheerleading coach at Pocahontas County High School, retroactive to the beginning of the 2019-2020 season.
• Nevin Lucabaugh as volunteer girls basketball coach at Marlinton Middle School, effective for the 2019-2020 season.
• Marlinton Fire and Rescue to use the former Board of Education building at 926 Fifth Avenue, Marlinton, as a training facility prior to demolition of the building.
In personnel management, the board approved the following:
• Requested transfer of Nebraska B. Scotchie from teacher of mathematics at Marlinton Middle School, to principal at Marlinton Middle School, at state basic salary based on degree and experience plus equity – includes state minimum salary increment schedules – retro-active to August 5, through the end of the 2019-2020 school year. Term of employment is 215 days. Term of employment shall be 220 days each year thereafter.
• Employment/requested transfer of Sherman Taylor from teacher of social studies at Pocahontas County High School to teacher of social studies at Marlinton Middle School, at state basic pay, effective September 12, for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Term of employment is 177 days. Term of employment shall be 200 days each year thereafter.
• Requested transfer of Aaron L. Pugh from teacher of social studies at Marlinton Middle School to teacher of social studies at Pocahontas County High School, at state basic pay based on degree and experience, retroactive to September 3.
• Employment of Robert A. Sheets as mentor for Aaron J. Pugh, effective for the 2019-2020 school year, at $20 per hour, not to exceed 50 hours or $1,000.
• Employment of Lisa M. Dennison and Linda Wilfong as substitute teachers for Pocahontas County Schools, at state basic pay based on degree and experience, retroactive to September 3, as needed, for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
The next board meeting will be a Local School Improvement Council meeting, Tuesday, October 1, beginning at 3 p.m., at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School.