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Superintendent of Schools answers your questions

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

Superintendent Terrence Beam asked to have a question and answer session with the help of The Pocahontas Times, as another means of providing information to the public.

Questions were submitted to the newspaper by parents and members of the general public and reporter Suzanne Stewart presented them to Beam. His answers have not been edited.

Question: Mr. Beam – a comment was made at Meet the Candidates night at the McClintic library on April 08, 2016. The comment was that the Pocahontas County Board of Education and our schools/teachers are divided, basically in constant disagreement.  

How can our children/youth progress with their education if this is happening?

Answer: When you have two sides pulling against each other and the kids are in the middle, there will be – I have no doubt that what the teachers and administrators feel is best for the students, that they truly believe that. I have no doubt that the board of education has those same feelings. It’s a difference in opinion in how we need to progress.

I think the board of education is more interested in us trying some different things and trying to move in a different direction and in many cases, the teachers are more grounded and want to stay the course on what they feel has been successful.

It’s just a different way of looking at things – if we are making the progress we want to make and if we are making it fast enough.

You’re right, the students are kind of in limbo, they don’t know, I hope we haven’t forgotten about their best interests because that is why we’re all here is to look out for their best interest and I think there is just a difference of opinion as to what direction we need to be moved in.

Follow-up question: How can we bridge this negativity to make it positive between the two entities that should always be working together? 

Answer: I think the board is taking a major step in that direction. I have to give them kudos for being willing to sit in front of staff and have the back and forth discussion about where we are as a school system and what we need to do to improve.

We’ve had one meeting with the high school. We have a meeting Monday night with Hillsboro. Then the following Monday we have Marlinton Elementary School and the following Monday after that, Green Bank and the following Monday after that, Marlinton Middle School.

So we’re going to get to all five schools before the end of May and for them to go out there and ask – one of the questions that they’re wanting to ask, and it wasn’t asked at Pocahontas County High School meeting because it never got to that point – it was the discussion all focused on a couple topics and that’s all they talked about. But the board, I know, wants to know from the schools themselves, why they’re not trusted.

They want specific examples as to why they don’t trust the central office or the board of education and we want to be able to convey to them our concerns about their schools.

Sometimes you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. When you do that, you’re going to step on toes, you’re going to hurt feelings, you’re going to create some tension. But sometimes, that’s the only way to move forward is to get things out in the open and talk about it.

I’ve had board members come to me, I’ve had people in the central office come to me and say, ‘they say we’re not trusted up here,’ well I want an example. I want specific examples.

For instance, we’re in discussion with the high school right now about their schedule and I’ve been in this office, I think this is my seventh year, and I honestly can’t remember, and if I’m wrong I’m sure someone will call my hand on it and that may be true, but other than the schedule, I can’t think of another topic involving the high school and the way they run their high school that we have disagreed with, or that we have questioned.

We’re working on this graduation rate, dropout rate and in my opinion, it’s tied to the schedule. I think that we have kids dropping out because of the schedule. I think that, like I’ve said in the paper before and with Tim on the radio, this is not just a high school problem. This is a county problem.

It is probably a nationwide problem, but, to our extent it’s even worse for us because our graduation rate is lower than a lot of counties. There’s only like five or six counties in the state that have a worse graduation rate than we do.

That’s not good. So we have to look at all areas of that. Everybody wants to put the blame on, ‘we’ve done it this way’ and they’ll say, ‘they didn’t do their job down there,’ then they say, ‘the parents didn’t do their job.’ We can make all the excuses in the world. That doesn’t solve the problem. We’re trying to find ways to address the problem.

The fact that the board is willing to sit down with the staff and be an open target for the criticism that they know could very easily occur, I think is a step in the direction of trying to get those two sides together. But, it’s a two way street and everybody can’t be defensive. Everybody has to understand we all have wants and we need to try to work on those things.

Question: Is there an architectural plan for school renovations if the levy passes?

We are recommending on the ninth of May an architect for our project, which I’m not going to announce that name until it comes on the board agenda for confidentiality reasons.

We did interviews this week and we came up with a firm we’re going to work with and they’re going to start immediately in designing our project – what it’s going to look like. They will be going out to the county meetings, the community meetings. They’re going to have a 3-D picture. It’s not going to be like a blueprint. You’re going to really see what it’s going to look like on the inside, what the building is going to look like on the outside.

We’re looking at something a little more drastic for Green Bank than we had originally planned because that school would actually have fewer students. We have one wing that is just in terrible condition and we actually think we can save money by making some changes to that addition rather than renovating it, maybe eliminating part of it.

We’re up to our knees with this kind of stuff. I know people keep wondering what’s going on with the levy. We’re going to have all this ready and be able to present it at one time, so that when we go to the different communities, we’re doing the same presentation and everybody is hearing the same song out of the same songbook.

We don’t want to have something at Marlinton and then go to Green Bank a month later and things have changed in between, and then we have to explain why it’s different now. We want to do the same thing.

They [the architectural firm] told us in about a month they would be able to get the plans together and share it with us. We’re going to have a committee. We’re going to form a committee with interested parties. And there will probably be different committees maybe for Marlinton Middle School, that building, and one for Green Bank. So the stakeholders who live in those communities will have some input on how this is going to look. We think that’s important, too.

It isn’t something that Ron Hall and the architects and I decide. It’s not going to be like that. We’re going to get as much feedback as we can and it may lengthen the process a bit, but we want to get the process right.

If you have a question for superintendent Beam, submit them to sastewart@pocahontastimes.com or The Pocahontas Times, c/o Suzanne Stewart, 206 Eighth Street, Marlinton, WV 24954

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