It was a night of celebration and planning at the board of education meeting Monday as interim superintendent Terrence Beam announced that the School Building Authority (SBA) approved funding the Pocahontas County Needs Project to renovate Marlinton Middle School and Green Bank Elementary-Middle School.
Beam traveled to Charleston Monday morning to be in the audience when the announcement was made.
“There wasn’t a place to sit down or to stand,” he said. “It was just everybody everywhere waiting to see who was going to get the money.”
A member of the SBA, Tom Lange, made a rural proposal to focus on the rural counties who are usually left out in the cold when it comes to funding.
“He said, ‘we’ve got counties out there who have one or two maintenance people, and they’ve got superintendents doing three or four jobs,’ and those kind of things,” Beam said. “He said, ‘sometimes, we forget about the little guys.’”
Pocahontas County was included in the nine-county rural proposal and received a $100,000 reserve grant.
The grant is only a fraction of what the board applied for – $17,488,097 – but it is, of sorts, a down payment on the full funding.
The Catch-22 of the funding is that the board must pass a levy to raise matching funds and if the levy does not pass, the $100,000 must be returned to the SBA.
“We’re going to have to be very careful on what we do with that and how we proceed,” Beam said. “We don’t want to get too far in advance here. We need to really think this thing through and present it to our public, and the avenues we’re going to take.”
The board attempted to pass a levy in 2014, but it failed. Public opinion was that the levy included funding for too many programs. The board has heard from members of the community that if a new levy was proposed and it focused on funding just the school facilities, they would vote to approve it.
Board president Emery Grimes said it is important to show the community exactly what the levy will entail in order to help get it passed.
“We need to let the people of Pocahontas County know what they’re getting for their money and get it out there, and really push this thing and try to get it passed because they’re actually getting money for passing the levy,” Grimes said. “It’s worth this.”
Beam agreed and said he is worried about what the future holds if the levy does not pass and the board has to return the reserve grant.
“What scares me is if they offer this money to us and we don’t pass our levy – then it’s going back down there,” he said. “Then we have to work with what we have and that’s just not enough for our schools. It just isn’t.”
In miscellaneous management, the board approved the following:
• To place Policy IE – School Calendar – on 30-day comment period.
• Equine Therapy for Marlinton Middle School students with Shayna Meadows Therapy and Wellness, LLC, at a cost of $1,000 for eight weeks. Service fees will be paid for by a grant from the Snowshoe Foundation.
• For Patrick D. Gibson to transport nine students, by rental van, to Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia, retroactive to December 14 and 15. All expenses paid by vocational funds.
• To relinquish Rita Fortney’s contract as speech/language pathologist for Pocahontas County Schools, effective at the end of the day on December 23.
• Cory McNabb as volunteer assistant boys basketball coach at Pocahontas County High School, effective for the 2015-2016 school year.
In personnel management, the board approved the following:
• Employment of Richard Hartzell as softball coach at Pocahontas County High School, effective for the 2015-2016 season, at a supplement of $650.
• Resignation of Sarah A. Eves as substitute teacher for Pocahontas County Schools, effective at the end of the day on December 23.
• Resignation of Mary Sue Burns, due to retirement, as teacher at Pocahontas County High School, effective at the end of the 2015-2016 school year.
The next board meeting is Monday, January 11, 2016, at 7 p.m., in the board of education conference room.