A storm has been brewing for months and at the board of education meeting Monday night, it cracked wide open as the service personnel aired grievances about decisions made by the board concerning supplements, and raises given to some, but not all service personnel.
Service personnel president Mary Dilley acted as spokesperson for the group and explained why they were addressing the board.
The issues began this summer when the new chief mechanic’s and mechanic’s rate of pay was based on their years experience at previous jobs. Although the board did not vote on the supplement, the mechanics were given credit for their years experience by former Superintendent C.C. Lester.
“I want to make a note that I do know that this is legal to give anybody years experience,” Dilley said. “I also want to say that those guys are doing a good job. They’re just in the middle of something that shouldn’t have been unless it was out here in the open. This is nothing personal against anybody, it just needs to be brought before the board and I think approved as a supplement or years of experience out in the open so everybody knows what everybody’s getting.”
Dilley said the move made by Lester has caused bad blood among the service personnel, causing individuals to feel like they are less important to the board because they have never received experience credit or supplements.
“All staff members, professional and service in every school work hard,” Dilley said. “One position should not be better than the other in term of supplements. If you give one secretary a supplement, then you should give all secretaries a supplement. No one person is any better than the next person. Based on these past few months, I would have to say that some employees are more important than others. In thirty-four years that I have worked, cooks have never received a supplement or a raise from our board office directly. We have only been awarded raises from the state department. Other departments, however, have received supplements/raises from the board office directly. Is this a fair practice and how would you feel if you were on the end that never received a supplement, overtime or compensation time?”
Board lawyer Jason Long explained that Dilley is right about experience credit and supplements.
“Experience credit is something that can be given discretionarily to service personnel for non-board of education work, but you need to be uniform in it,” he said. “In other words, if the board of education gave experience credit in the cook classification for work that was done by a cook who previously worked at Denmar, then every cook would be getting experience credit.
“In this particular situation, I believe experience credit was given to the chief mechanic and mechanic,” he continued. “If the board of education hires another mechanic, which I would anticipate it would not, but if you hired another mechanic, that mechanic would have to get experience credit, as well. You have to be uniform in the classification.”
Mechanic Justin Taylor addressed the board and asked what would be done with the experience credit. He said he and his family have been through a rough few months because of the way the situation was handled.
Board president Emery Grimes said the board was unaware about the mechanics receiving experience credit until it was brought to the board’s attention by Dilley. He said the issue will be on the next board agenda to be voted on to make the action legal.
“We just want you to be honest with us,” Dilley responded. “I’m not here to argue over those guys or argue over anything. It needs to be fair, out in the open. It needs to be passed. If you vote to do it, that’s fine, but we need to have it voted on because it’s never been voted on.”
Director of transportation Ruth Bland reported that the new mechanics have saved the board of education money with the experience they have. In past years, buses were sent to White Sulphur Springs to be serviced at Heritage International. This year, the bus repairs have all been in-house, except for warranty work.
• Read Aloud director Sally Adkins informed the board that the program is entering a new year in the schools and volunteers have been placed in four of the five schools. She added that the Pocahontas County program has received recognition for its work.
“Pocahontas Read Aloud program was recognized by the state office in 2013 as a Program of Excellence because of the progress we have made here,” she said. “We started in 2008 with Laura Young at the Family Resource Network and we’ve had steady growth through the years.”
Adkins said Read Aloud is working with the SPOKES program to educate parents about reading to their children. The program is also partnering with Lions Club International through its Read Action Program.
Read Aloud PSAs recorded by Melodie Wallace at WVMR have been distributed throughout the state to help recruit volunteers.
• Director of Federal Programs Terrence Beam informed the board that there is new legislation in regards to the school calendar which will cause some issues in the 2014-2015 school year.
To ensure that every school has 180 days of instruction time, the legislature has made changes to the current calendar policies. Beam explained that the schools must have time built into the calendar to not only make up snow days, but two hour delays and early dismissals, as well.
Faculty senate days will remain in the calendar but ISE days for teachers will be eliminated. Also, teachers will no longer be paid for snow days, which will become out-of-calendar days. The schools will need to use out-of-calendar days to make up snow days, regardless of how many there are.
For instance, if the school system has 20 snow days, the days will be added to the end of the year, making students attend school until late June.
Each individual school will also make up time. Beam said if one school, for example, Marlinton Elementary School, is closed for a week due to flooding, that school will get a week longer than the rest of the schools in the county.
Beam said a calendar committee will design several sample calendars and have public meetings to discuss which calendar will best serve the county.
• Superintendent Dr. Donald Bechtel recognized the Pocahontas County High School marching band, which competed in the Atlantic Coast Championship at Central Dauphin in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The board provided $2,000 for the trip and the band managed to raise $4,500 in one week in order to attend the competition, as well as take a trip to Hershey Park.
In financial management, the board approved the following:
• Grant awards, budget journals, carry-over and budget supplements.
• Payment of vendor listing of claims in the amount of $21,913.99.
• Payment of vendor listing of claims in the amount of $44,847.33.
• Payment of vendor listing of claims in the amount of $22,335.68.
In miscellaneous management, the board approved the following:
• The Pocahontas County High School FFA Chapter to travel by rental van provided by Mitchell Chevrolet, to Louisville, Kentucky, for the National FFA Convention, leaving PCHS on October 29 and returning to PCHS on November 2.
• Carl Kelk as AmeriCorps volunteer to facilitate the Farm2School program for Pocahontas County Schools, effective for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.
• To transport Green Bank Elementary-Middle School students, by school bus, to Virginia Safari Park, Natural Bridge, Virginia on the following dates: November 5, kindergarten through second grade; November 6, third grade through fifth grade; and November 7, sixth through eighth grade.
• To submit waiver to the West Virginia Department of Education to allow the Pocahontas County board of education to establish the legal age for a student to drop-out of school as 18-years of age.
• To place the revision of Policy FK – Integrated Pest Control Management on 30-day comment.
In personnel management, the board approved the following:
• Employment of Thomas E. Plumley as athletic director at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, effective for the 2013-2014 season, at a supplement of $750.
• Employment of Shane Jones as boys basketball coach at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, effective for the 2013-2014 season, at a supplement of $1,500.
• Employment of Allen Taylor as assistant boys basketball coach at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, effective for the 2013-2014 season, at a supplement of $1,000.
• Addition of supplement Dr. Donald K. Bechtel, Interim Superintendent for Pocahontas County Schools, addition of monthly supplement in the amount of $1,200, retroactive to October 16, 2013 until such time as position of Superintendent is filled, but cannot be extended beyond June 30, 2014.
The next LSIC/Faculty Senate meeting will be Monday, November 4, at 7 p.m., at Marlinton Elementary School.
The next regular board meeting will be Tuesday, November 12, at 7 p.m. in the board of education conference room.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at sastewart@poc ahontastimes.com