By Ken Bustin
The Pendleton County Board of Education made short work of a fairly short agenda at the March 1st meeting.
All members were present when President J. D. Wilkins called those assembled to order at the prescribed 5:30 p.m. start time.
Moving quickly through the opening exercises – the Pledge of Allegiance and a short prayer – Wilkins turned attention to the minutes of the previous meeting. A motion to approve them as written was swiftly made and seconded, and it carried with all in favor.
Staff recognition was at the top of the agenda, and he called on Superintendent of Schools Charles Hedrick to speak. Hedrick reported that Shelley Crites, the director of the Vo-Tech Center, had succeeded in obtaining a Career & Technical Education grant for $15,000, for a Career Discovery Lab for grades 7 and 8.
Turning next to personnel, the Board voted unanimously to accept the resignation of Marcia Somerville, a homebound teacher.
There were seven candidates for regular school position, whose hiring required Board approval, and four confirmations needed for Summer Success Academy staff. Hedrick recommended approval of: Rod Cooper as head volleyball coach; Chad Propst as middle school head baseball coach; Jay Hartman as middle school assistant baseball coach; Lea Jones for an itinerant special education position at Franklin Elementary School; Roger Kelley as an elementary health and physical education teacher at FES; Josie VanMeter as a long-term substitute custodian at PCMHS; and Alyssa Morgan as a substitute aide. For the Summer Success Academy, he likewise recommended employing Robin Simmons as an itinerant aide; Elizabeth Warner as a Community in Schools coordinator; and John Swecker and Sam Harper as bus drivers. With a unanimous vote, the Board concurred with his recommendations.
With another unanimous vote, J.D. Heavner, Charles King, Jr. and Stephanie Hull were approved as both volunteers and chaperones at PCMHS.
A planning period was approved for Rebecca Heavner with all voting in favor.
There were no leaves of absence to be considered.
Having dispensed with personnel matters, the Board moved on the agenda’s next item, finances. J. P. Mowery, business manager, presented the Board with the bills to be paid, and gave a short overview of the highlights in the list.
The new computer program, Board Docs, on which the Board had received training prior to the previous meeting, was responsible for a $2,700 charge. Clothing purchases for students in need were included in the period’s disbursements. Mowery explained to the Board that, while the school system itself couldn’t purchase clothing for students, the Community in Schools program did not have the same restriction, and these expenses were being passed on and accounted for through that mechanism.
Updating view boards accounted for an item in the period’s disbursements, Mowery said, explaining that new technology had made the new purchases a substantial improvement over existing boards being used in the system.
A new freezer at North Fork Elementary School (NFES) was another significant one-time expenditure he highlighted, as was refurbished playground equipment at Brandywine Elementary School (BES). Other notable purchases had included a new roof top unit platform which had been fabricated by Mountain Metal, to allow safer access to heating and cooling units located on the roof of the school.
Replacing an engine in bus #5410 was a large expenditure, Mowery noted, explaining that, although under other circumstances it might not have made good fiscal sense to replace the engine in an older bus, this project would be 95% reimbursed, so its eventual cost would be only a fraction of what the initial outlay had been.
Overall, there were $611,188.34 in payables, Mowery said.
After thanking Mowery for his report, the Board voted unanimously to accept it.
There were budget transfers to be made, as well – from Fund 11, the General Fund. Though there was an increase in the budget of $213,300, Mowery explained that all of the funds were being transferred from other accounts which had unused balances.
Overall, he said, things were in good financial condition. We are “still very solid,” he concluded.
Mowery said that the ECF grant for broadband expansion although still pending, had changed the completion date for any construction to be undertaken from June 30 to June 30, 2023. Previously, the delays in obtaining approval had been the cause of concern that contractors would be able to complete the projects on time.
Tim Johnson, facilities director, reported next to the Board. He reported that the Halos had been installed – 17 units were now in place. He was now “meeting with the IT guys to get them online,” he said.
Johnson was pleased with the sensitivity of the units. He said he had walked into a bathroom and slapped a wall, causing the alarm to go off. There would be some tweaking and adjustment to be done, he theorized, but thought they would work out well.
The split heating and cooling system for the server room, “Verizon room,” and special education area had been installed. Once the system was running, Johnson said one of the ladies who worked in the Verizon room expressed her satisfaction with the result, telling him that it was “the first time she had been warm in a long time.”
Following up on questions posed at an earlier session by board member Betty Kimble, Johnson reported that handrails for the bleachers at NFES were in the process of being fabricated. He was still researching the availability of a cleaning machine that could run down the rows between seats on the bleachers which Kimble had mentioned to him last month.
A stop sign which was very difficult to see had prompted a decision to paint the word “STOP” on the pavement at the troublesome intersection at PCMHS.
There advanced construction planning item on the agenda had nothing new to report.
Moving to old business, Hedrick reported to the Board that he was recommending that they post three afternoon activity bus runs for the next school year. Board member Sonny O’Neil asked why they were not going to start this year, and Hedrick responded that this could be done, if the Board directed it. “I work for you,” he said, promising to make a strong effort to implement it this year, but hesitating to promise that it could all be gotten in place that quickly. A motion, second and unanimous vote approved his recommendation.
New business brought a discussion of the Youth League Sports Program which had been recently implemented. O’Neil commented that he believed it had been “a very successful first year.” He said that he had observed that “the kids had fun” and that he had been very pleased by the outcome.
The six-month attendance report showed FES once again taking top honors, with 94% attendance, reported Johnson, attendance officer. He predicted that BES’s standing “will probably go up.” There had been “two court complaints and one dropout,” he said. In answer to a question from a board member, Johnson said that absences due to COVID did not count in the reported statistics.
Curriculum director Travis Heavner’s report reiterated satisfaction with a good first year for the Youth Sports League. To facilitate use by younger students, the baskets needed to be adjusted. Those at FES could be lowered, but their counterparts at the PCMHS would need “hang-ons,” he said.
Heavner said the Summer Success Academy had already registered 80 students, and he expected there would be more before the close of the registration period. Last year, there had been 130 participating, and he expected a similar number this year. The Community in Schools coordinators were making telephone calls to reach out to prospective students.
Registration forms for enrolling students in pre-school were now available.
Heavner said that on a day when multiple schools had been doing concurrent online testing, only 12% of the bandwidth was being used. Ahead of time, school officials had worried that the bandwidth might not be sufficient when all of the schools were using it at the same time, but that the “Chromebooks seemed to use much less bandwidth.”
Moving to the superintendent’s report, Hedrick told the Board that there were new COVID guidelines, but that the new directives had been reduced from 11 pages to only a single page, which he distributed to the Board. The single page color flyer now says simply, “Don’t feel well? Stay home. If you have the symptoms below, let your family and teachers know,” and lists cough, fever and sore throat as the conditions for which people needed to watch out. Many schools had now dropped the mask requirement totally, Hedrick said.
Reporting on the final item on the agenda – the conference/meeting update – Hedrick said that he would be attending a conference in Charleston the following week.
Its business concluded, the Board voted unanimously to adjourn.
The next regular meeting of the Pendleton County Board of Education is scheduled to be held on Tuesday, March 15, at the Board of Education Annex at 5:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend.