The Tucker County Board of Education, Superintendent Campbell, along with the Administrators held several “town hall” style meetings this past week. The meetings were to meet with the public and gather information about what Tucker County residents would like to see happen at the local schools.
Meetings were held three different nights, the first at DTEMS, the second at Canaan Valley Fire Department, the third at TVEMS. Each meeting saw between 25-35 attendees. Kelly Stadelman moderated the sessions with Superintendent Dr. Campbell presenting an informational presentation along with fielding questions about parents concerns.
Operating on a shoe-string budget the Board is holding these sessions hoping to garner support for a possible levy and if said levy were to be presented, what the residents would like to see the money used for.
Tucker County Schools are the second largest employer in the county, second only to the hospitality industry in the resort areas. It employs 100 teachers and administrators and 62 support staff. Current enrollment is 1,028 students, a number which has remained relatively steady over the last few years. Though not the smallest county in student enrollment, Tucker County has the smallest staff of central office administrators in West Virginia most of them doing the job of several positions.
“We are operating right where the state says we need to be (the amount of teachers the state will fund),” said Dr. Campbell.
There is no benefit to us as a county to reduce the number of teachers. We don’t get to save the money and use it elsewhere, the state simply reduces what they fund us for.
Dr. Campbell said: “What we’ve had to look at over the last several years is what areas we can cut.”
The county has already trimmed the budget by reducing teaching positions down to “0” over what the state funds.
“Some of the other areas we’ve had to look at cutting are after school programs, summer school, and sports related travel”, said Dr. Campbell.
Programs like High School Football and Boys Basketball are able to sustain themselves through ticket sales, concessions, etc. But other athletic programs are having to support themselves through fundraising. In the past the school system has been able to supplement travel and other costs of these programs. Now for some sports, the students have to not only maintain their academics, train and compete athletically but also constantly fund-raise to support the sports program.
Not only have the sports programs been affected by the current revenues but the buildings are beginning to show their years. Administrator Jonathan Hicks noted that all lighting fixtures will be obsolete in five to seven years, new HVAC units are needed, and the Auditorium at the High School needs some structural ‘shoring-up’.
Even though the evening was intended to gather information about what residents wanted for the school system, Dr. Campbell fielded several questions about the recent bomb threats at the High School and the school’s safety policy. Dr. Campbell commended the staff and students for their quick action and patience during that time. He also addressed the fact that it was not the Board of Education’s decision to keep the students at the school and on buses. The bomb threats had made the school a crime scene and the State Police ordered that students be held on site.
During the evening, attendees were asked to contribute to a “wish-list” of what they’d like to see for our school system. Each of the meetings saw many wonderful ideas contributed, some of the top things named that would require the passage of a levy were: gym/cafeteria for DTEMS, improved athletic facilities at all the schools, and more technology .
Other ideas were presented that didn’t necessarily involve money but increased parental and community involvement.
The Board plans to gather this input and develop a levy proposal and come back in the spring to talk to the public again.
“We’ve made it a goal to be very transparent “, said Dr. Campbell.
Attendee Linda Nelson thanked the presenters with, “I can never remember someone saying, what do you want, what do you need.”
Attendee Diane Beall mentioned the number of Tucker County graduates that have returned to work for the school system.
Out of 55 Counties in West Virginia, Tucker County is one of only eleven counties that do not have an excess levy for its schools. The increased revenue that a levy could provide would go a long way to achieving some of the things that the community would like to see for its schools. Do we invest in better things for our children with the hopes that it will better the community at large- or are we satisfied with the status-quo?
The Board of Education encourages anyone who didn’t get to attend the meetings to go to the Tucker County School’s website and take a moment to fill out the online survey.