By Stephen Smoot
As the school year winds down and a surprising number of Pendleton County track athletes qualified to compete at state, the Pendleton County Board of Education met for the second time in the month of May.
Board president J. D. Wilkins opened with the customary prayer, saying that “we ask You to bless the graduates this weekend.”
The first order of business lay in personnel moves. Barbara Whitecotton, who most recently served as principal of Franklin Elementary School, but also was Hardy County school superintendent, accepted a position as Pendleton County’s school improvement coordinator.
The board also made another move of note. Although Pendleton County girls’ varsity coach Micah Bailey took the squad to the state tournament, he tendered his resignation, which was approved in the previous meeting. Donnie Kopp received appointment to the head coaching position with Dan Miller hired to lead the junior varsity.
- P Mowery, chief financial official for Pendleton County Schools, revealed the budget. He requested approval of a $17.6 million budget for the 2023-24 school year. Funding comes from state and local taxes, as well as federal grants. He also reported that over the past four years, the school system has been able to save $50,000 per year for a total of $200,000.
Additionally, the estimated levy returns for the county schools increased by $200,000. “When property values rise, this happens,” Mowery noted.
Charles Hedrick, superintendent, then stated that “you have my recommendation to approve the budget, which they then did.”
The board then discussed bus replacement. At this point, federal policies have created an issue where traditional heavy vehicles have become scarce. The ordered bus may take a year to arrive.
In addition to a new bus, the board also purchased a new set of radios for the fleet at a cost of $100,000. Funding sources will reimburse the county up to 95 percent of the total cost in two years. The payment agreement allows them to be paid in four.
Mowery then revealed county-by-county statistics on school system pay rates. Fifteen counties in the state, including Pendleton, do not have a levy that adds to salaries. The highest teacher salaries are seen in Monongahela. Their teachers earn a base pay of almost $61,000. Pendleton teachers receive $55,270. Support staff in Monongahela receive $3,790 while the 15 counties with no levy get $3,207. Mowery explained that the cost of living differences makes the gaps between counties much less significant than they appear.
Next the board discussed facilities upgrades, starting with the new alternative education building. Travis Heavner explained, “Hopefully next week, we’ll get to take out that old building.” Students will be moved to an empty classroom for the remainder of the year.
Half of the new building is ready, but transportation issues continue to bedevil the project. “We are at a standstill trying to find someone to get the building,” Heavner said. A recent issue that emerged lies in the height of the building. Many standard trucks combined with the size of the structure, combined together have too much height to exit the prison gate at Huttonsville. The margin is a mere two inches, which may require a creative solution to shipping.
Responding to a suggestion that the board employ firms that sell and move homes, Heavner said they “can’t move it because of insurance purposes. They can only move what they sell.” He stated that the project may not be done until mid-July.
Finally, the board heard an update on the COPS grant that funds security equipment in the schools. Eventually, the system will enjoy district wide paging, new intercoms in all four schools, upgraded access control, and camera systems.
“Security cameras will be upgraded in all schools and the bus garage,” Heavner said.