By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Board member Cathy Hebb asked Superintendent Lambert what was keeping Tucker County students from returning to school with the cases much lower now than when the decision was made to go remote. Lambert responded, “Right now I’m just kind of watching to see the trends. The fear is that we’re going to probably have to operate a lot in blended to keep our numbers down.”
Board member Jessica Wamsley agreed while physical and educational health is important, the mental health of everyone involved seems to be a concern. Board member Chris Gross mentioned that the county is green according to the map, though Lambert advised she focuses more on the original map which has Tucker County listed as gold. “It’s a misleading calculation,” she stated. Hebb asked how many staff was currently in quarantine, Lambert the final few will be released later on the week.
“My hope is that we can look at going back to five days a week as we get into December,” Lambert continued. The goal was for Davis Thomas Elementary Middle School to return the week prior; however, the state declared it an outbreak and prevented that from happening.
Wamsley raised concern about the inconsistencies with the blended model as a result of the schedule. “The most complaints that I’m getting really is it’s too rigorous,” said Lambert. Wamsley offered some examples of issues that she has noticed along with concerns that have been brought to her from other parents. Lambert agreed she wants the students back in school full time, both as a superintendent as well as a mother, though she fears the school will be shut down quickly if that is to happen.
Gross asked who is responsible for deciding as to if and when school returns to five days per week. Lambert said it was a combination of the state and the Health Department, but added, “I guess, right now, technically you could say it was my choice, but if you wanted to overrule my choice, you have the power to do that.”
Hebb offered her opinion on the schedule, stating, “I think we should be in school full time,” and made a list of what she felt were valid reasons to not be in school five days a week. That list consisted of excessive staff quarantines, outbreaks, and a high number of active county cases, all of which she acknowledged as good reasons to be on a blended model. However, none of those seem to be an issue at this time and of the parents Hebb has spoken to, they feel their children should be in school. “For me, it’s not a valid enough reason that we’re going to stay blended because it might happen, we’ve got nothing right now to keep us out,” Hebb added, “Every day they’re out, they fall behind.”
Board Vice President Daniel “Chopper” Evans asked about Election Day and Veterans Day leaving one group of students only receiving one day of in person instruction and if they would be sent on Friday to make those days up. Lambert stated that was considered but the way the schedule worked, it was a different group of kids out for each of those holidays and it made it an even schedule.
Hebb then suggested sending the students back to school full time the week prior to Thanksgiving which would allow a full week off afterwards to see how it went. “I think we need to wait until December,” responded Board President Tim Turner. Lambert announced to the board that a Thanksgiving themed packet will be sent home with the students to complete the first three days of the week of Thanksgiving that will be required to be turned in, which was built into the schedule due to the postponed starting date.
Wamsley brought up concerns again for the mental health and education of students, especially the upperclassmen as their SAT scores are coming in lower than their PSAT scores taken the year before as a result of not being in school. Another issue she had was moving forward a month at a time basis and the feeling of inconsistency among the students and teachers has been expressed to Wamsley.
“Well the feedback that I’m getting back from the teachers is that they feel better in a blended model, that they feel more comfortable in a blended model,” Lambert responded, saying they also like working in the smaller groups giving students more individualized attention. Wamsley stated that miscommunication is still a large factor because she is being told from teachers and parents the opposite of what Lambert and others are being told. Lambert stated her biggest concern is returning to school and quickly being shut down requiring school to return to a full remote delivery.
There were three notices of intent to home school acknowledged by the board, all of which were students of DTEMS. The consent agenda items were approved with a motion by Gross and Evans consisting of the October 19 minutes and payment of bills.
Lambert recommended the approval of the resignation of April Waybright, substitute aid, effective as of November 2, 2020, which passed. She also brought forth the recommendation to hire Ross Boggs and Erin Pregley as a substitute teacher, Mallory Hardy as a substitute nurse, and Louise Skonier as a long term substitute pending release from Hampshire County Schools for the Intervention Specialist Itinerant position. Hebb made a motion to approve the new hires with a second from Evans and all in favor. Under service personnel, Lambert suggested Erin Pregley be hired as a substitute secretary, Ashley Wilfong as a substitute secretary and substitute LPN, Kathy Simmons for a substitute LPN, and Ryan Smarr for a substitute bus operator, which all passed the board vote.
Continuing with personnel, Lambert sought approval to hire Brian Zirk as head girls basketball coach at DTEMS, Scott Lycliter as a volunteer assistant boys basketball coach at TCHS, Dale Lanserberry for volunteer assistant girls basketball coach at TVEMS, and Chris Gross as volunteer assistant girls basketball coach at DTEMS. Gross left the room for the recommendation and vote, which passed unanimously after a motion by Evans and a second from Wamsley. A request was made by Miranda Grace, special education teacher and interventionist at DTEMS, for unpaid FMLA leave for approximately 12 weeks or released by a physician to begin on or around January 21, 2021. Hebb and Evans made the motions to approve with all in favor.
It has been discussed at a former meeting to consider creating a new position of Athletic Game Administrator. Lambert stated that the principals of TVEMS and DTEMS are not in favor of the position, though TCHS principal David Koritko has not yet been contacted on the matter. Athletic Director Jonathan Hicks told Lambert that he did not feel the position was needed as he only had a few scheduling conflicts for the upcoming sports season. The board discussed the benefits of the position if an individual was needed to attend a game alongside that school’s personnel in case a situation arose that their assistance was needed. Hebb stated she felt the principal’s opinions should be highly considered when considering this with all in agreement. Lambert suggested that this position be created to serve on an as-needed basis and paid per game attended. A new posting will be developed and emailed to the board for review before a vote at the next meeting.
A proposal was made to purchase one, 2022 Blue Bird 77-passenger school bus for $106,054. Finance Director Tracy Teets explained that a new bus is purchased each year for the fleet and the funds used will come from the state aid. Gross made a motion to approve the purchase of the bus with a second from Evans and all in favor.
The next meeting of the TCBOE will be on Monday, Nov. 16 at 4:30 p.m. The public is welcome to attend. Masks are required.