By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
To continue to abide by the Stay at Home Order set forth by Governor Jim Justice, the Tucker County Board of Education met Monday evening via ZOOM to address business. Board President Tim Turner called the meeting to order with all members present. There were no delegations or presentations for this meeting, bringing the agenda to reports.
Facilities Director Jonathan Hicks took the floor to update that board on what is going on at the three schools. A $20,000 grant was secured to go toward the TVEMS dishwasher that is estimated to cost around $32,000, which Hicks is in the process of soliciting bids for. “I also applied for another grant, the Homeland Security Grant, in the amount of about $178,000 that will be for new cameras at all three schools as well as access entry updates,” stated Hicks. Board member Cathy Hebb asked if the grant received by TVEMS that is undergoing construction now didn’t include a modified entry way, which Hicks confirmed it did, so they will be getting a secured entry regardless, but as part of the grant for the cameras it was requested to include electronic access entry at all three schools. Regarding the construction at Tucker Valley, the only remaining work on the roof is the flashing and soffit around the exterior, the intercom system is approximately 80% complete, the fire alarm system is installed and operating, and the front canopy work will begin as soon as weather permits. The HVAC unit is approximately 90% complete and expected to be done ahead of schedule, on par for June 30 at this time.
During fund allocations, $50,000 was set aside to replace or repair doors, especially at DTEMS and some at TCHS. A grant was sought to assist in this cost, however it has been announced that this grant will not be awarded until fall. The desire was to receive the grant in conjunction with the funds set aside by the board to complete the work while students were out of school for the summer months. Hicks suggested that the $50,000 be utilized to do this work over the summer months for the worst doors at DTEMS and secured entry with hopes the grant will be received to complete the project at a later time. All board members agreed to move forward.
Turner asked when the custodians would be working on the facilities doing activities such as waxing and painting. Hicks informed the board that the custodians typically do this after returning from summer break in July, however given the circumstances some of these tasks have already been completed or are underway. He continued to state that the maintenance workers are working on an as needed basis and are still mowing. Turner expressed concern about the condition of the exterior of the Career Center, stating, “It looks like a junk yard back through there, it’s an awful mess.” Board member Jessica Wamsley said she too has heard complaints from the public, two in the last week, about the condition of the outside of that section of the building. Hicks assured he would talk to TCHS Principal Stephen Cosner to address this concern.
To conclude his report, Hicks stated that food preparation for the weekly distributions have been taking place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and then being delivered or picked up on Fridays. To date, volunteers have been assisting in these tasks; however, the Governor’s Office recently announced the desire to have this service continue throughout the summer. As a result, Hicks and Superintendent Alicia Lambert have been in contact to discuss how to move forward to fill that need. Speculation is one to two cooks will need to be hired for the summer months.
“Typically in the summer, we feed anywhere from 60 to 100 kids, we’ve been feeding right now anywhere from 600 to 700 kids each week, so it’s a substantial difference what we’ve done in the past and what the expectation is this summer,” said Hicks. Brief discussion followed as to how this could be constructed moving forward and what the state is doing to assist in the accommodation of meals to public school students.
Information items began with employees eligible for the three step pay increment. Lambert made the board aware that Trina Carr has received the certification necessary, which qualifies her for this program.
TCHS graduation followed with Lambert, along with some of the Graduation Committee consisting of Lacey Evans, Carrie Shahan, and Anita Helmick also on the meeting to explain how this event would be constructed. Lambert began stating that a parade type ceremony was initially suggested, however that request was denied. After much deliberation, another plan was developed with Lambert stating, “The Graduation Committee has worked very closely with the Health Department to make sure that this plan will work, and right now it’s kind of the most stringent it could be, if regulations loosen up we will have a little bit more room with it as well.” The plan is to commemorate the graduates on Saturday, May 29 as originally planned at the football field, but it will begin at 11 a.m. “My understanding is that this could last up to five hours,” she said. “Basically the desire was to give the kids as close to a traditional graduation as they could and allow them that opportunity to walk across the stage and receive that diploma,” Lambert added. Each of the 58 graduates can have multiple cars of attendants accompany them to the ceremony however, as of now only four individuals will be allowed to get out of the vehicle in addition to the graduate as it is their turn to cross the stage. “They will be required to wear masks, and physical contact is prohibited,” Lambert said. Hand sanitizer will be available and the restrooms will remain closed. After your graduate has crossed, the vehicles will be directed to follow the graduation procession and will not be permitted to sit in the parking lot or continue watching the event. The entire event will be streamed on Facebook.
The stage will be covered by a tent in case of inclement weather, and awards will be handed to the graduate along with their diplomas. A photographer will be at the other side of the track where families can exit and have photos taken if desired. “They will group students in half hour increments in groups of five and each student will have a police escort to the football field,” Lambert said. Only one board member, the superintendent, principal, and vice principal will be allowed on stage while the graduates cross while maintaining a six foot distance between each other.
With the gathering sizes being increased, there’s a chance more people can be on stage or out of the vehicles, but that will be made known at that time.
The Tucker County Board of Education Building was on the agenda for discussion items with guests Dave Clark, Executive Director of the Woodlands Development Group and Steve Leyh, Executive Director for the Tucker County Development Authority. Clark began stating that the preliminary plan is to renovate the current Board of Education building to accommodate 10, moderate income apartments on the top floor and the ground floor housing those who are there now and other commercial entities for a monthly rental, with the board’s approval. This idea is based on what has been determined as the needs of the community.
To accomplish this project, the projected budget is approximately $1.2 million. “The board would stay in their offices, free of charge, have that space, in exchange for converting the building over to a different ownership so that this project to go forward,” stated Clark. Communication has been in place with the City of Parsons with an offer for them to take over control of the gymnasium, which they expressed interest but not until a later date. Leyh added that upgrades to the building would include an elevator and sprinkler system, which is included in the budget. Hebb asked about the corridor between the gym and the main building being inaccessible to handicap individuals and asked if that would be addressed, which Clark assured it would be made handicap accessible. In order to move forward, he stated a letter of interest would be needed to search for funding sources for the project.
“Initially the Development Authority, we pitched the idea to them in February before this (the Coronavirus) happened, they agreed to at least continue to look at the idea to explore it,” said Leyh, however further discussion has ceased due to the circumstances. “I’m confident we can work out some arrangement,” continued Clark. His goal is to bring a full proposal back to the board in the near future.
Special Education Director Kim Lipscomb revisited the state evaluation report and suggestions on how to address their findings. “One of their recommendations was that we needed additional staffing at the high school,” she began which would be geared towards continuing services for students. “What that essentially means is that they want us to have a resource room at the high school where we offer pull out classes for special ed for math, reading, science, and social studies for kids who cannot handle the classroom in the general ed setting,” she added. It was noted that some of the students transferring into the county have those services at their previous school and need to continue to have those at TCHS, even though Lipscomb stated to date they have been “fairly successful moving them into the general ed setting and being able to service them there.” However, the state department does not feel that is suitable.
Lipscomb attempted to utilize the current staff to meet these needs, though discovered that was not going to work. For these reasons, she requested the approval from the board for the additional staff be added to TCHS.
Finance Director Tracy Teets added to the report by Lipscomb explaining that the budget for the 2020-21 school year has this position built into the funds. Currently there are four special education teachers at the high school, one servicing a self-contained classroom and the other three rotate throughout the classrooms as co-teachers. Brief discussion commenced about the classrooms needed and being utilized now and how another teacher and a resource room would be incorporated.
Lambert took back over to explain how the school nurse and counselor positions were removed and revitalized with the current staff and the options available to add an additional school nurse to assist in servicing all three schools.
Options include a Certified Registered School Nurse to a License Practical Nurse and certifications therein. Salary ranges were considered within this discussion in order to fit into the budget with explanations offered by Teets as needed. Turner added, “The legislators wanted to know, were counties hiring counselors and school nurses like they said they would based on the funding,” which was what the extra funds were intended for. The postings will be provided to the board prior to going public to be reviewed and approved.
The proposed budget was next on the agenda, which Teets explained typically warrants a special session for approval, but given the circumstances she requested the approval be made during the next regular session. The members have already received the proposal to review between now and their next appointed meeting. Teets took a moment to highlight some of the changes or main points. “So each year, as you know, we have a lot of salaries that we pay out of federal funding and every year that federal funding either increases or decreases,” she began. In addition, salaries change which alters the number of salaries that can be paid via federal funds annually. “Looking at next year,” Teets continued, “There’s going to be 1.43 FTE positions that were previously funded out of federal programs in the current year that we’re in that we won’t be able to pay out of the federal programs for next year.” This additional amount will be paid out of state aid, which Teets confirmed still will not put the schools over their limits.
Teets continued discussing the condition of the county vehicle and the potential need for an additional vehicle which could be utilized by either a maintenance worker or a general use vehicle. $20,000 was included in the budget for the purchase of a vehicle in the instance the board decides to act upon that. “I included three additional positions for a nurse, counselor, and the special education position at the high school,” she continued as she explained the formulas she used to estimate their salaries to use in the budget. Turner recalled contributing $500 to each of the county public libraries which are heavily utilized by the students, especially Mt. Top which also serves as the DTEMS library. He asked the board to consider allotting $1,000 to go towards the libraries. “It would really help the kids out a lot, and like I say, Davis Thomas (Mt. Top) is our school library,” he added. All members were in full support of this suggestion.
Consent agenda items followed with the approval of the April 21 regular meeting and special session minutes. Bills were approved as presented before moving into personnel.
Superintendent Alicia Lambert then made recommendations for the employment of the following professional positions: Tara Dilly, fifth grade teacher at TVEMS, Jonna Burnside, third grade teacher at TVEMS, Emily Thompson, interventionist at TVEMS, Shanna Suesli, kindergarten at DTEMS, Christine O’Brien to fifth grade at DTEMS effective August 19, 2020, and David Koritko, TCHS principal effective July 1, 2020, pending background check and certification as necessary. Turner asked if the recommended principal had any principal experience, with Lambert responding, “He has a vast array of experience,” though not in a principal capacity. Koritko has served as a director of curriculum, director of National Youth Science Center, a teacher, a grant writer, and much more. Hebb was impressed with his resume and experience with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). All board was in favor of the recommendations made by Lambert.
Lambert also recommended the transfer of James Gilbert to interventionist at TVEMS, effective August 19, 2020. Vice President Daniel “Chopper” Evans made a motion to approve with a second by Hebb and all in agreement once it was confirmed Gilbert was properly certified to fill the position.
Under service personnel, Lambert recommended the employment of the following: Trina Carr, kindergarten/bus aid at TVEMS, Donna Bolinger, special education aid/bus aid/autism mentor at TVEMS, Lois Lambert and Jane Leard as 205 day secretaries at TVEMS, Doris Bunnell and Roxcella Owens as 205 day secretaries at TCHS, and Gwenn Rapp as 205 day secretary at DTEMS. The board was in unanimous agreement.
New business consisted of the first reading of the early graduation policy. Hebb brought attention to the wording relating to when students must be in school to be considered for valedictorian or salutatorian, which Lambert will be looking into. Other than that section, the board agreed it was laid out significantly better and easier to understand.
He concluded this in depth meeting of the Tucker County Board of Education which is set to meet again on Monday, 18 at 4:30 p.m. via virtual method until further notice.