By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Still by virtual platform, the Tucker County Board of Education are working to close out a less than normal school year and prepare as best they can for what may be to come. Board President Tim Turner called the meeting to order with all members present.
Prior to the regular meeting, a special session was held to offer discussion opportunities for the 2020-2021 school year budget. Finance Director Tracy Teets was available to address any concerns that the board may have. There were no questions, comments, or concerns for this topic; therefore, the special session was adjourned.
The regular meeting moved directly into informational items with a brief introduction of new principal at Tucker County High School, David Koritko. “I just wanted to say hello to everybody and tell you how pleased I am to be coming over to Tucker County,” he began. Koritko spent the day at the high school, meeting a majority of the staff, and was pleased with a warm reception. He, like the board, is hoping to meet in person soon, as he added, “I think it’s important that we all are working together so I just wanted you to learn a little bit more about me and be able to say hello.” Board member Jessica Wamsley welcomed Koritko and board member Cathy Hebb added, “We’re looking forward to meeting you and getting to know you.”
Discussion items included that of the Board of Education Building as it was discussed last meeting with representatives of the Woodlands Group and Development Authority. “I assume next meeting we will have that on the agenda as an action item,” said Turner. Superintendent Alicia Lambert added, “I just wanted to give the board members time to digest the information that you received at the last meeting and then come back with any kind of questions that you had or any clarifications that you wanted to make.” She continued, “I will be happy to talk to Woodlands and the Development Authority about that and see what we can do moving forward.” Board Vice President Daniel “Chopper” Evans had a question relating to what the TCBOE share of the utilities would be since currently the building is all calculated on one bill and the gymnasium on another. Unfortunately, at this time there is not an estimate on what that cost will be. With the assumption that the board meetings will be relocated to another room in the future, Turner requested that the room be equipped with a speaker phone option that could allow a member to participate by phone if need be. “I know right now our bylaws don’t allow that, that would require a change in the bylaws,” he confirmed. Some counties allow board members to utilize this option a maximum of two times per school year, which is something the board may consider. Lambert will be in touch with Woodlands Group and the Development Authority to discover how to move forward on the project.
There were no attendance exemptions at this time, bringing the meeting to consent agenda items. This covered the minutes from May 4 and payment of bills which approved with a motion by Evans and a second by Wamsley and unanimous agreement.
Personnel began with a recommendation by the Superintendent to accept a resignation from Vickie Smith, physical education and health teacher at TVEMS, from one of her half time positions effective at the end of the school year. Wamsley made the motion with a second by Hebb. Within extracurricular resignations and retirements, Lambert recommends accepting the resignations of Valerie Eye, cheer coach at DTEMS, and Jeffrey “Buck” Helmick, assistant football coach at TCHS, both effective May 19. All members were in favor. Extracurricular employment, it was recommended to hire three summer cooks for the Energy Express program in addition to Laura Bennett who held a position last year. Those individuals are Jenny Lipscomb, Mary Ellen Brown, and Robert Bennett, all limited to a maximum of two days per week and effective June 3 through August 14. Hebb made a motion with a second by Evans and all in agreement.
The proposed 2020-2021 school year budget followed on the agenda to be approved as presented. A motion was made by Hebb with a second by Evans. No discussion followed with a unanimous agreement to accept.
The second reading of the early graduation policy was conducted with Lambert pointing out a change made since the last meeting. “Only students who complete all eight semesters of high school are eligible for the designation of valedictorian or salutatorian, and that is both in the early graduate junior portion and early graduate senior portion of the policy,” she stated. Hebb also expressed concern, saying “There’s another honor that’s given that’s not mentioned either and it’s the top 10, and if those students aren’t eligible to be the valedictorian or salutatorian they probably shouldn’t be in the top 10 either.” Lambert will be making the requested adjustments and thanked everyone for their hard work on the policy.
The first reading of the Tucker County Schools Open Enrollment Policy appeared next, with Lambert explaining, “This is a newly required policy for the state that has to be in effect on July 1.” She said, “Student’s don’t have to apply to their exiting county anymore to get permission to transfer into your county, and basically if you have room, you have to take them.” Wamsley verified that if room isn’t available, they can’t be permitted to enter, which Lambert confirmed is correct, only if ample space and resources.
The board moved into the creation of new positions, beginning with that of two full time school nurse (BSN) one at TVEMS and the other split between TCHS and DTEMS, a full time school counselor at TVEMS, and a special education itinerant full time at TCHS. These positions will be for the 2020-2021 school year and were approved unanimously with a motion by Hebb and a second by Evans.
Another new position for a full time counselor was also on the agenda, but received more discussion with Hebb stating, “I still maintain that it would be better served being served half time at Davis Thomas and at the high school seeing as how the money did not come through for the PRO officer at the high school.” Gross added that when TCHS Principal Stephen Cosner provided his list to the board of items he felt the school needed and could benefit most from, a school resource officer was very high on his list. Gross said, “He (Cosner) said, ‘They need a lot of help with discipline,’ and I do tend to agree that they do need help and I kind of favor split myself if we’re not going to do a security officer because that was top thing on his priority list.” He also shared his concern that when new positions are formed, it seems as though they begin to be intended for one specific area and end up taking on several additional tasks. The example he used was that of the interventionist which began to be focused primarily on third grade and now they are working with first through eighth grade. At the conclusion of the discussion, Turner asked for all of those in favor of creating the position as posted with Evans, Wamsley, and Turner voting for and Hebb and Gross voting against.
Hebb asked if the students who received awards such as math field day and social studies fair would be recognized by the board. Lambert responded that they had hoped restrictions would be lifted so it could be done in person, but if that is not the case they will be recognized during a video conference meeting.
The board members discussed the graduation procession to determine who they would maintain social distancing and keep the numbers manageable. DTEMS is planning a drive through style recognition for their graduating eighth graders on May 21, but Lambert noted more information will be provided to the board.
The Tucker County Board of Education will meet again on Monday, June 1 at 4:30 p.m. Until further notice, meetings will take place via virtual media.