Suzanne Stewart\r\nStaff Writer\r\n\r\nWith the new year fast approaching, Pocahontas Coun-ty Superintendent of Schools Terrence Beam continues to focus on creating an open dialogue with employees and community members, and finding ways to improve the school system.\r\n\r\nThere are many things \u2013 good and bad \u2013 that are on Beam\u2019s mind, but one that stands out is the most recent decision by the board of education to purchase the former Moose Lodge in Buckeye and relocate the board office to that property.\r\n\r\nThe decision has met with some opposition, but Beam said \u2013\u00a0at the end of the day \u2013 the move is what the board thinks is best for the school system.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe\u2019re spending money that we couldn\u2019t spend any other way, and now we\u2019re going to be able to save flood insurance money plus a lot from the cost of heating this building,\u201d Beam said of the current office building. \u201cThis is a two-story building that\u2019s huge and it\u2019s not heat efficient whereas this will be much more efficient. It\u2019s a one-story building and it will save us money in the long run.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe board closed on the purchase last Friday and Beam said the plan is to be moved into the new building by next summer.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe\u2019re going to hire a young man to do renovations to our building,\u201d he said. \u201cWe don\u2019t know how long it will take him. Even though we will use our maintenance guys to install the heating system, the schools will have to come first. If there are issues at the schools, they\u2019re going to have to work on that.\u201d\r\n\r\nFor the transition, Beam said the board office employees will take turns moving their offices into the new building so that there will always be people at the office. They also plan to use their own time to paint their offices and to move their belongings from the old building to the new.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt would be an easier transition to do it in the summertime when there are no students in school and half of us could keep working while the other half move their offices,\u201d Beam said. \u201cThey\u2019ve talked about getting Day Report possibly to come in to do some of the painting and stuff, but if not, the people that work in this office, on their own time, are going to paint their own offices.\u201d\r\n\r\nAs for the current board office building, Beam said there is a decision that needs to be made about its future.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt would cost us more to demolish it than it\u2019s worth,\u201d he said. \u201cI don\u2019t think you\u2019re going to see us demolish it. It\u2019s just my personal opinion. We\u2019ll be letting the [Cub Scouts] know and the [Pocahontas County] Art Guild and all the people with offices in the building that we\u2019ll be cancelling the insurance on it and cancelling the heat at a certain point. We haven\u2019t decided when that is.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe board is always looking for ways to save money and Beam said there are a few new state and federal policy changes that have made way for possible savings or new revenue to the board.\r\n\r\nOne policy in particular is regarding the number of professional personnel the board receives funding for from the West Virginia Department of Education. Much like the state aid formula for students, the professional personnel rules have changed in a manner that will benefit Pocahontas County.\r\n\r\nThe state aid formula regulates how many students the school system receives funding for. For many years now, Pocahontas County has received funding for 1,400 students although the student body is fewer than that.\r\n\r\nUsing that formula, the state department determines how many professional personnel a school system should hire. For instance, a school system with 1,400 students could be told it is allowed to hire 100 professionals and the state will provided funding for those 100 professionals.\r\n\r\nBeam explained that if a school system was allotted 100 professionals and only hired 98, the state would only fund 98 positions. This year, the formula has changed.\r\n\r\n\u201cNow, you are funded for the entire one hundred, so if you\u2019re able to cut positions through attrition \u2013 if people leave and you can say, \u2018we can tighten our budget here and not lay people off, and we simply won\u2019t rehire positions\u2019 \u2013\u00a0let\u2019s say you hire ninety-five positions, the other five you\u2019re funded at about $75,000 a head, then you have a $350-, $375,000 excess that you can put in your budget,\u201d Beam said.\r\n\r\nThe state does not require the extra funding to be used for professional personnel, so the money could be used in the general fund for other costs.\r\n\r\nWhile it is not a popular system with teachers and principals, Beam said it is important to look at all positions and see, when a teacher retires, if there is a way to combine that class with another instead of replacing that teacher with a new employee.\r\n\r\n\u201cFor instance, at Hillsboro, we cut a teacher that would have had eight kids in their class,\u201d Beam said. \u201cWe don\u2019t have the luxury of affording that anymore, and if you look around the state, other counties have split grades. I think this year, they have sixteen split grades in Nicholas County. Now that the state is giving us this flexibility not to have to go up to that total number \u2013 you\u2019ve got to remember, we\u2019re being funded for 1,400 kids, not 1,000, so we\u2019re already getting about twenty teachers more than most counties get for the number of kids they\u2019ve got.\u201d\r\n\r\nWith that flexibility, Beam plans to be responsible and look at ways to combine classes or positions to better help the school system as a whole.\r\n\r\n\u201cI\u2019m not saying go out here and lay off a bunch of people,\u201d he said. \u201cWhat I\u2019m saying is when someone leaves this school system, don\u2019t fill that job automatically. If you absolutely have to have it \u2013 and there will be some jobs that you absolutely have to have \u2013\u00a0but there\u2019s some you can say, \u2018let\u2019s transfer this person who only has twelve kids this year into this position and save us $75,000.\u2019 That\u2019s what you\u2019ve got to do.\u201d\r\n\r\nOther sources of revenue have also come open \u2013 both new and old. Beam said he recently received correspondence from Senator Shelley Moore Capito and Senator Joe Manchin who are both fighting to continue funding of the Secure Rural Schools program \u2013 locally known as the forestry money.\r\n\r\nBeam also recently met with Denise Campbell, former West Virginia Delegate and community liaison for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Campbell requested to meet with Beam to discuss progress of the project and possibilities of funding for the school system.\r\n\r\nAs for other future endeavors, Beam said he plans to continue to be open to the public and welcomes questions from concerned individuals.\r\n\r\n\u201cI love answering questions,\u201d he said. \u201cI hate just shooting from the hip because it seems self-serving. I would rather answer the questions that are on people\u2019s minds.\u201d\r\n\r\nTo submit a question to Beam, send it to email@example.com or Suzanne Stewart, c\/o The Pocahontas Times, 206 Eighth Street, Marlinton, WV, 24954, and this reporter will ask the questions for a future article.