By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
There was several in attendance and big decisions were to be made at the Board of Education meeting recently. Following the Pledge of Allegiance, Tracy Hardy spoke on behalf of the staff of Tucker Valley on their thoughts and concerns over the potential relocation of the Pre-K students to the Tucker Valley School. “We would like you to consider what is best for the children as the move will affect the already crowded bathrooms, the future loss of the library, and possibly the computer lab”, Hardy read.
Mentioned in lieu of the relocation of the Pre-K were modifications could be made to the current student housing such as a ramp for handicap accessibility. “We would like to ask the board to create possibly a feasible plan prior to the move to make sure that we have looked at all situations,” she continued. Speaking for herself, she expressed concern for the moving process that will take place regardless of the combination of the Pre-K and the existing TVEMS, which is happening thanks to the SBA grant of $4.2 million to replace the school’s HVAC system, a new roof, lighting upgrades, and a new fire alarm system. This is the main reason behind the push to move the Pre-K for the 2019-2020 school year so as to have both projects done within the same timeframe and the classroom moves happening all at the same time.
Kim Falls, President of the Faculty Senate, addressed the board on their feelings about this potential move. She expressed they are very concerned about the HVAC process and when and how they will be clearing out rooms to allow for that work to be done. “I know in other county’s they’ve had situations where school hasn’t been able to open in these situations,” she expressed. “Whatever the decision is we will do it and Tucker Valley will come to the table with whatever we need,” she confirmed. Per Board of Education policy, they refrained from commenting and holding discussions on the topics until they are addressed further in the agenda.
Recognitions and Presentations were next on the agenda, beginning with Tucker County Schools Superintendent Alicia Lambert stepping forth to congratulate Kelly Underwood on her recertification as a Nationally Board Certified Teacher. “She is one of the only current National Board Certified Teachers in our county, and that is a huge undertaking on her part and something she should be very proud of and we are very proud of her,” exclaimed Lambert. Underwood received a standing ovation as she stepped forth to be presented with her certificate. “It is a tremendous accomplishment,” smiled Cathy Hebb. Underwood briefly described what it required to become nationally certified, which included video analysis, testing, working with target students, and a lot of diligence. “The process itself makes you a better teacher”, stated Underwood.
Jonathan Hicks, Tucker County Athletic Director, recognized the 2018 TCHS Football Team on their successful 7-3 season and trip to the playoffs. The team boasted three All-State players and Hicks was very proud to point out that on three separate occasions, he received reports from the officials on their delight for the sportsmanship this team exhibited. Several of the players were present to receive their certificate and receive well deserved recognition.
Next on the agenda was a report from county Attendance Director Amber Kyle. She presented the board members with attendance statistics from the three county schools. Currently there are 1,006 students enrolled in the Tucker County public school system, which is down from a previous 1,015. Of those, Davis -Thomas houses 202, Tucker Valley 489, and Tucker County High School 315. Kyle broke down the attendance rate for the first semester with the following percentages: Davis-Thomas 93.14%, Tucker Valley 93.99%, and TCHS at 91.86%. It was noted that a large portion of the lower percentage rate for TCHS is due to two students who are currently in the court system with 67% and 31% attendance rates. Fortunately, the court system was strongly supportive of the school and these students are attending school regularly. This brought the total attendance rate for Tucker County schools to 93%. “One of our large problems is chronic absenteeism”, Kyle explained. “Those are those students who have the doctor’s excuses, that have the parent notes, and have those unexcused absences and leave early or come in late and that is a huge issue,” Kyle stated. She also provided statistics for chromic absenteeism per each school with Davis -Thomas at 20%, Tucker Valley at 16.16%, and TCHS with 28.34%. This issue is being addressed by the superintendent, Kyle, principals, teachers, and involving the parents for those with significant absences.
Teresa Brusak, TVEMS Principal, reiterated some of Kyle’s points regarding attendance. She also explained she has been initiating evaluations for the past few weeks including a walk-through, classroom visits, and IPI coding, or the level of child engagement. Depending on the teachers tenure dictates how often these evaluations must take place. These evaluations have no effect on teacher evaluations, but they offer a summary at the end of the month for each teacher to receive valuable feedback regarding things they administration liked as well as some ideas they could try to implement in their classrooms.
The board continued through the agenda reviewing transportation reports, approving former meeting minutes, payment of bills, budget adjustments, acknowledgment of notices of intent to home school, and TCHS senior job shadow site requests. All of these were reviewed and approved.
The main agenda item for the evening was the discussion and voting of whether to relocate the Tucker Valley Pre-K from their current location at the Tucker County Board Annex to integrate within the current Tucker Valley Elementary Middle School, currently housing Kindergarten through eighth grade. Board of Education President Tim Turner opened the floor for discussion within the board members and each one took the time to express thoughts and/or concerns and ask questions if need be. They were asked to do their own research to come to a decision over the previous two weeks so to cast an informed vote for or against this motion. Vice President Daniel “Chopper” Evans had a question about the possibility of ramp installation to solve the ADA compliancy issues the current location possesses. Hicks explained to meet these guidelines, the ramps require one foot of length per one inch of drop. The current stairwell that drops down towards the gymnasium is roughly 30 inches in height and would require the ramp to begin well beyond the classrooms in the hallway to be long enough to drop that elevation.
Chris Gross stated he would have liked to have seen a more comprehensive plan to settle a lot of unanswered questions and concerns, such as the costs associated with shutting down a steam system as the one in the annex. Another point mentioned is that there are still concerns with the extensiveness of the HVAC and roof project and the feasibility of including another major component at the same time with integrating Pre-K to TVEMS. Hebb had spent a lot of time contemplating this decision and decided to take to the Pre-K herself and speak with the teachers and aides to get a feel for their stance. She developed a chart and statistics breaking down her findings and presented them to the board for review.
Upon completion, Turner announced the time to vote for or against the move to take place for the 2019-2020 school year. The vote passed 3-2. The Tucker Valley Pre-K will be relocating to TVEMS. Wamsley noted how important throughout this process it will be to remain completely transparent with everyone involved to allow for this to flow as smoothly as possible. “Be completely clear on the plan. I would like to see something in writing before the last nine weeks happen,” she requested, to which Hebb agreed. The goal is to select an architectural firm on their next meeting, on February 4, which will allow for several of these concerns and questions to be addressed. Preschool Director Kim Lipscomb allowed, she will have numbers available at that meeting to determine how many classrooms will be needed for the upcoming pre-school students, to which Evans expressed concern by himself and public comment about losing the library to accommodate them. Lambert assured it has never been mentioned that the library will be removed from the school and it is not their intentions. Turner reiterated the fact that the Board Office is not in compliancy with ADA regulations, which is a federal code that fines can be associated with and it would not be economical to revamp that building to meet those codes.
There was a motion to go into Executive Session, where no action was taken. Under employment, Turner was asked for a motion to hire Issac Kahler as a substitute teacher for the remainder of the school year. There were no motions made, therefore the recommendation died. Elva Snyder, substitute secretary, and Charles Dennis, substitute custodian, submitted resignation/retirement notices, both of which were approved, as well as the approval to hire Mary Ellen Brown as a substitute aide for the remainder of the current year. Evans exited the room while the board discussed and voted on Josh Evans’ request to resign as the TCHS baseball coach, which was approved, as well as changing Dale Lansberry’s status to retroactive as the basketball coach at TVEMS. The baseball coach position will be posted very soon with upcoming baseball season.
Two new positions will be posted in the near future, one for a grant funded Academic Coach to serve in a full time capacity at TVEMS, and the second for a Title I, extra-curricular position to be funded on a stipend basis. The December 2018 Financial Statements were reviewed and accepted, followed by the calendar of events. This concluded the meeting for the evening and it was adjourned. The next Board of Education meeting will take place on Monday, February 4 at 4:30 p.m. at the TCBOE.