Board of Education gives the greenlight to six new positions after twice tabling the matter

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Board of Education has officially approved a handful of new positions recommended by Upshur County School administrators.

At Tuesday’s Upshur County Board of Education meeting, members addressed and ultimately approved six new positions for the 2021-2022 school year after the matter had been tabled at two previous meetings.

The six positions are a transitional specialist at Upshur County Schools; a PALS coordinator at Upshur County Schools; wellness and conditioning coordinator; a science, technology, engineering, art and math teacher at French Creek Elementary School; an office manager at Buckhannon-Upshur High School; and a third assistant principal at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School.

The Personalized Alternative Learning settings, or PALS, transition specialist will work with students in an alternative learning setting to effectively prepare PALS students for returning to their home schools with the ability to function as a productive member in the public-school setting.

The PALS Coordinator will work with students in an alternative learning setting to include PALS classrooms at the elementary, middle and high school level; transition programs; and alternative learning settings for admission to and exit from the programs.

The wellness and conditioning coordinator is responsible for establishing and maintaining a wellness and conditioning program for all students in Upshur County. They will work with the county wellness team and county physical education teachers and curriculum to emphasize lifelong health and wellness – including staff and student wellness. For Upshur County athletes, the coordinator will work on improving athletic performance, reducing athletic injuries and teaching lifelong fitness and movement skills.

The science, technology, engineering, art and math teacher at French Creek Elementary School will be responsible for providing appropriate instruction to elementary school students and ensure that they meet the learning objectives and standards for the appropriate grade levels. This person will integrate science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics into the elementary curriculum and the candidate must hold an art certification.

The position of office manager at Buckhannon-Upshur High School will aid in all phases of the operations at the front desk. This position was originally presented as a professional position, but during Tuesday’s meeting, it was announced this position would be filled as a service personnel position.

“The office manager at B-UHS, we have decided to make that a service position as it is currently,” Upshur County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sara Lewis-Stankus said.

The final position for consideration was the addition of a third assistant principal at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School.

During Tuesday’s BOE meeting BOE Vice President Katie Loudin said she had read through all the position descriptions.

“I am still lacking a little bit of clarity between the PALS coordinator and the transition specialist,” Loudin questioned. “Can someone speak to that?”

Upshur County Schools Director of Secondary Curriculum Melinda Stewart said the coordinator is the person who helps identify students for the PALS program, ensures appropriate placement with teachers, sets up the appointments with the families, does the paperwork and starts the process.

“Once the student is in the PALS program being successful, then we will involve the transition specialist who will take over,” Stewart said. “They will then work to transition that student out to their school. The transition specialist will spend time in their school with them in making that transition.”

Stewart reported that because of the number of students in the PALS program, it is a challenge for just one person to take care of those duties –
especially when it often takes time to make that transition back to their home school. She said currently, there are approximately 160 students in the program; however, Stewart noted that in the last year-and-a-half, Upshur County Schools has enrolled up to 300 students in the program.

Wilkerson made the motion to accept the new positions and Loudin seconded the motion. BOE members voted unanimously to add these six new positions.

Before Tuesday’s BOE meeting, Upshur County Treasurer Jeffrey Perkins said the addition of the six positions amounts to approximately $300,000 annually.

“We have had positions throughout the year where people have left and retired,” Perkins explained. “Instead of filling those positions, these six different positions are being added. It’s not a one-for-one and it is not a complete new system – it is different positions, not necessarily additional.”

During the delegations/public comment part of Tuesday’s BOE meeting, special education secretary Rachelle Skelton said she was representing all the secretaries in the Upshur County Schools.

“We want to thank you guys for the decision you made to leave that (the office manager at B-UHS) as a service personnel position,” Skelton said. “We thank the board members for listening to us, allowing us to voice our concerns and we thank the administrators for choosing to do that. That makes us very happy.”

Skelton said she wanted to make a few comments, saying that the secretaries are the face of the Upshur County School System.

“We are at the front desks at your schools, your facilities and we represent each department at the Board Office,” she said. “The secretaries who are currently employed have over 250 years of experience combined. That should speak volumes to you all about the quality of women you have who have who have been dedicated themselves for a number of years. We just want to thank you again for making that a service person. It opens up the opportunity for some that are on the list and opens the opportunity for any of these ladies who would want to move forward into another position.”

According to a previous story, at a special session of the Upshur BOE May 17, BOE members heard about each proposed position from school administrators, principals and program directors; however, the BOE voted to table the vote until Tuesday’s meeting and asked to receive printed copies of each of the proposed position job descriptions. At that meeting, BOE Vice President Katie Loudin said she would “like to see the job descriptions and review what the specific qualifications are in writing and see where they would be located. I also want to see the responsibilities of the conditioning coach (coordinator.)”

Prior to the special meeting on May 17, BOE members tabled adding the positions at the May 11, 2021 regular meeting. BOE member Kristi Wilkerson asked that the vote for the additions be tabled during that meeting, too, and she said her reason was that not all BOE members were present at the May 17 meeting and she did not think it best to vote without all BOE members being “present and able to weigh in on the issue.”

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