By Stephen Smoot
Last week, the Pendleton County Board of Education held its second meeting of the month. After opening with a prayer by J. D. Wilkins and the public comment segment of the agenda, the board heard a presentation from Kenna Champ and Pat Alt.
Champ, secretary of the service personnel organization, petitioned the board to consider providing attendance incentives and also retirement bonuses to school service personnel that the state currently provides to classroom teachers.
Under West Virginia State Code, after July 1, 2019, “a classroom teacher who has not utilized more than four days of personal leave during the 200-day employment term shall receive a bonus of $500 at the end of the school year.”
State law also mandates that classroom teachers “who provide written notice . . . on or before March 1 of the school year of their intention to retire from their positions at the conclusion of the current school year” receive a $500 bonus.
Alt shared the potential benefits of extending the bonuses to service employees. She said, “If that were offered, they would only take off days when absolutely necessary.” Alt also added that “service personnel positions are hard to fill these days,” and that it would “offer some incentive” and “boost employee morale.”
After J. P. Mowery discussed the financial report, Travis Heavner gave an update on facilities. First, he informed the board that Franklin Elementary School would soon receive new school zone lights. The concrete had been poured and the lights themselves should arrive this week.
Next, Heavner said that the new alternate education building, still at Huttonsville prison, may be coming to its new home soon. After an exhaustive search, L and N Enterprises of Randolph County has the proper equipment to move the building out of the prison gate and to the high school campus.
He then said that the COPS grant funding security improvements in the schools “is 95 percent done.” Delays prevented work until late July, but security cameras have been installed, intercoms updated, and access locks updated. Heavner also stated that the system was trying to get identification badges for school system employees put together in October.
A few “hiccups” remained in finishing the COPS program installation, but he expected to have these worked out soon.
Betty Kimble, board member, asked Heavner about teacher concerns with possible mold and mildew in some of the ventilation system at Pendleton County Middle/High School. He explained that “the humidity sensors were not installed right,” and that the sensors were rerouted and others installed to prevent humidity build up.
Furthermore, some condensation lines did not get sealed properly, allowing water to drip out. Lines have since been resealed to prevent further problems.
Prior to the superintendent’s report, detailed elsewhere in this week’s paper, Charles Hedrick and the board approved a memorandum of understanding between Pendleton County Schools, the West Virginia Department of Education, and Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College.
The MOU covers the “Grow Your Own” program that provides an early pathway from high school to a degree in teacher education. It states that “all parties to this MOU share the goal of collaboration and collective responsibility for developing high quality teacher candidates and in addressing the critical teacher shortage.”
Hedrick noted that nine students currently had taken advantage of the program at the high school, adding that “we could potentially have these students graduate with degrees in education and come back and teach.”