The 2017-2018 school years has been tough – with the nine-day work stoppage and more than a dozen snow days – students and personnel alike have had to quickly adapt to change.
The good news is, the professional and service personnel can end the school year on a high note, due to the fact that there will be no RIFs or transfers.
Each year, members of the board of education and superintendent Terrence Beam look at the personnel list and, if there are too many employees, Beam might have to RIF [Reduction in Force] or transfer employees to lessen the number of personnel employed by the board.
The West Virginia Department of Education regulates how many employees a school system can have by the number of students it serves. The state reimburses the board of education for the personnel, but if the board employees more personnel than the state regulates, the salaries come out of county funds.
“When I first took this position, we were fourteen positions over,” Beam said. “In other words, we had fourteen positions that our county funds were paying for. Now, we’re down to about two. We had to make these cuts in order to make our budget work. It wasn’t ideal. I didn’t want to make any of those cuts. I’d love to keep everybody in jobs and the good thing about that is, we only had one or two employees that actually lost their positions. Most of this was done through retirements or people leaving the area and we just didn’t fill their jobs.”
With regulating the positions over the years, it was possible to avoid RIFs and transfers this year, a feat Beam was happy to share with employees.
“We did transfer a couple people – well, they weren’t transfers – they were what’s called consent to change,” Beam said. “In other words, it’s an agreement between the employee and the school board. That’s all we had. It was less stressful. I’d had enough stress this year. I didn’t need any more.”
The employees didn’t need more stress either, and were happy with the news.
“They were very happy to hear it,” Beam said. “Of course, I always meet with the AFT, WVEA and school service personnel representatives every year and give them my outline of what I’m going to be doing, and we didn’t have to do that this year. I simply sent them an email and explained what the situation was.”
Although the school year is winding down, there are still more things on the horizon for Beam and the board. Beam has new ideas to share but wants to wait until after the election so the new board is in place to make decisions.
“I want the public to understand that I’m trying, at this point, to stay out of the political arena,” he said. “I haven’t made any major announcements or any major comments on any of the things that are on my mind because I didn’t want them perceived as trying to sway the election one way or the other.”
While he isn’t specific, Beam did say he has some ideas he thinks will benefit the school system, that he wants to share with the board.
“There are some decisions that are going to have to be made before the end of school – dealing with personnel and dealing with facilities and policies, and possible agreements that I’m looking to make,” he said. “The decisions I make are only going to be recommendations to the board. The board is going to have to make these decisions.”
One plan Beam has discussed and is open about is planning an open house at the new board location once everything is moved in and the office is in operation.
“I think the board is very receptive to this idea, that after the relocation takes place, we would like to host an open house and let people come up,” he said. “It would not be a board meeting. It would just simply be giving people an opportunity to come up and look at our new facility and become familiar with where it is and how it looks. I think people will be pleasantly surprised.”
Beam said he measured the distance from the entrance of the Old Buckeye Road to the building and it is four-tenths of a mile.
“When I was younger, I could run up there in two minutes,” he joked. “Now, maybe two hours.”
Beam also mentioned a visit he, Pocahontas County High School principal Joe Riley and board member Joe Walker made to the Fayette Institute of Technology, where they met with the CTE [Career and Technical Education] educators and gained some perspective on programs they may consider bringing to PCHS in the future.
“They have a fantastic, state-of-the-art program,” he said. “Of course, they have a lot of kids coming to it. They have five high schools that feed into their program. We saw a lot of good opportunities. We saw some things that we had not thought about offering our students.”
After the trip, Beam said he realized that was one of his favorite parts of his job – seeking new programs and possibilities to make education for students in Pocahontas County the best they can possible get.
“That day was how I need to spend my job,” he said. “I need to spend my job trying to seek opportunities and ideas and things from other schools that we can bring to Pocahontas County to help our students.”