At the Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting Monday night, residents rallied to show support for school coaches, whose salaries were cut at the board meeting in March.
Retired coach and teacher Bob Sheets questioned the cuts and asked why they were made.
“I’m here because this governing body saw fit to reduce coaching supplements and I’m wondering why,” Sheets said. “I had a conversation with [board member Steve Tritapoe] and he said it was to save a teaching position. I believe that falls into the category of academic over athletic. Of course, I disagree with you on that because I think the development of young people is something that is not only in the mind but also in the body and when we have people involved in sports, they develop more fully.”
Sheets said he was informed that if the coaches cared about the sports, they would continue without compensation for the love of the sport, but he said the coaches should be compensated for their time and efforts.
“I’ve been told that these people who are doing these jobs will continue to do them because they enjoy doing them and they care about the kids,” he said. “Most people who are good at something and do it still would like to be compensated for it. You have diminished – I believe – their respect and their pride in doing that.”
While he understands the board is facing financial issues, Sheets said the manner the cuts were made did not sit well with the coaches and their supporters.
“I know your financial difficulties are a problem, but I’m here to tell you what these people do is important and the little nudge you give them to do it, has been greatly diminished and I haven’t been able to find anybody who has told me that you came and talked to them about this and the need to do this,” Sheets said. “You just did it. I don’t think that’s a good management style. I encourage you to rethink this – to reinstate that funding.”
Marlinton business owner Chuck Workman also spoke in support of the coaches and agreed with much of what Sheets said.
“When I think of the schools in general, one thing that jumps out to me is school improvement,” Workman said. “I think everyone of you guys wants to work toward improvement and nothing about this decision you guys made reminds me of improvement. It has everything but improvement written all over it.”
Workman cited studies that show students who are involved in extra curricular activities have higher grade point averages and better attendance. He also spoke about the condition of the sports equipment and how most items were donated or were bought with funds raised by the community.
“One thing that comes to mind is the football field at the high school,” he said. “It’s been there forty-five years and I don’t think the board has spent a nickel on the football field itself, other than maybe paying a person to mow it. The track was put in by William Dilley. The bleachers were put in by Kermit Friel with raised money. The baseball fields were donated and built. I think the board skirts a lot of the expenses that are really theirs in favor of letting the community do it and we do a lot of it.
“I think we need to pay these coaches,” Workman concluded.
Board president Emery Grimes addressed the issue, explaining that the cuts were made when the board worked on the 2015-2016 budget.
“We have to make this budget and do this ahead of time,” Grimes said. “If we don’t have the money in the budget for it, we can put it in later. So whenever we made this decision on these coaches, it was done with what money we had coming in that budget.”
The board was suffering financial issues mainly because the Secure Rural Schools funding, known as the forestry money, was drastically cut this year. The Pocahontas County funding went from $421,000 to $88,000 in one year. The board had to compensate for the loss and meet the deadline of submitting its budget.
In the past week, the board received good news, and more importantly – money.
“Since that time, [Senator] Jenkins’ office and [Senator] Manchin’s office called and said they put in for two years [of funding],” Grimes said. “We got $367,000. Whenever we did the budget we didn’t know that. I think we can go back and revisit if the board sees fit.”
Workman asked Grimes if they will revisit the coaches salaries.
“Yes,” Grimes said.
• Pocahontas County High School band director Bob Mann reported that the Warrior Band attended ratings last week, where it performed two songs for a group of music education judges. The band received a 1, or superior, on one song and a 2, or excellent, on the second song. The ratings averaged to an excellent rating, which is higher than the rating received last year.
Mann also reported the Warrior Jazz Band will perform live on WVMR, as well as Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Evening with the Arts event at the Pocahontas County Opera House. The spring concert will be Sunday, May 17, at 2 p.m.
In financial management, the board approved the following:
• Payment of vendor listings of claims in the amounts of $29,497.46, $44,051.88 and $41,773.11.
• Budget Adjustments, Bank Reconciliation for the month of March, Grant Awards and Revenue and Expenditures Summary.
• The budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2015 and ending June 30, 2016.
In miscellaneous management, the board approved the following:
• School calendar for the 2015-2016 school year.
• Pocahontas County Schools to adopt the following English/languages arts textbooks effective for the 2015-2016 school year: Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt for grades kindergarten through eighth and Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Prentice Hall for grades ninth through 12th.
• Pocahontas County Schools to adopt the following health textbooks effective for the 2015-2016 school year: McGraw Hill Glencoe for grades sixth through eighth and Pearson for ninth grade.
• Teresa Mullen to attend the High Schools That Work Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, July 15 through 18. All costs will be paid through the Family Resource Network Innovation Zone Dropout Prevention Grant.
• Pocahontas County board of education to join West Virginia School Board Association for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, at a cost of $1,875.
In personnel management, the board approved the following:
• Appointment of Donald K. Bechtel as superintendent of Pocahontas County Schools, effective July 1, 2015 for a term of one fiscal year, at an annual salary of $85,000.
• Creation of position teacher of Title I at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, effective for the 2015-2016 school year, at state basic salary based on degree and experience. Term of employment is 200 days.
• Requested transfer of D. Julian Rittenhouse from teacher at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School to teacher of Alternative Education at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, effective for the 2015-2016 school year, at state basic salary based on degree and experience. Term of employment is 200 days.
• Change in effective date of unpaid medical leave of Nicole Rose-Taylor as teacher of Early education at Marlinton Elementary School from April 20 to April 14.
• Resignation of Richard F. McLaughlin as teacher of music at Marlinton Elementary School and Marlinton Middle School, effective at the end of the 2014-2015 school year.
• Requested transfer of Abram J. Rittenhouse from teacher of health/physical education/social studies at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, to teacher of health/physical education at Pocahontas County High School, effective for the 2015-2016 school year, at state basic salary based on degree and experience. Term of employment is 200 days.
• Abolishment of position, cook – summer feeding program, effective for the summer of 2015.
• Creation of position cafeteria manager – summer feeding program, effective for the summer of 2015, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. per day, six hours per day, a total of 24 days, at an hourly rate of pay based on state minimum.
• Employment of Asaco Adkins, Reina L. Lopez, Peggy S. Owens and Rachel Wilson as substitute teachers for Pocahontas County Schools, effective April 29, or upon completion of the RESA online substitute teacher training and background clearance if not already completed, as needed, at state basic salary based on degree and experience.
• Employment of Diana L. Arbogast as substitute administrator for Pocahontas County Schools, effective April 29, for the remainder of the 2014-2015 school year, as needed, at state basic salary based on degree and experience.
The next board meeting will be Monday, May 11, at 7 p.m. at the board of education conference room.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at email@example.com