BUCKHANNON – Last month, Upshur County Board of Education members heard from Sheriff David Coffman and Lt. Mark Davis about the Drug Abuse Resistance Education — or D.A.R.E. — program and gave a thumbs up to reimplementing the program in Upshur County Schools. At the Aug. 6 BOE meeting, Student Services Director Jodie Akers said the school system had received funding for the first year of the D.A.R.E. program.
“We have been fortunate to receive funding for our officer to attend D.A.R.E. training and money for all of the booklets for our first year,” Akers said. “We received funding through the Family Resource Network in Harrison County. They had some additional prevention funding and so we reached out to them. They have already worked it out with the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office.”
In other school board news:
* BOE President Tammy Samples said she wanted to remind folks that school is beginning soon and wanted to remind drivers to be safe around students and buses.
* Special Education Director Melinda Stewart told BOE members they had the open house for the P.A.L.S. program at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School during the day last Tuesday. The P.A.L.S. program is the Personalized Alternative Learning Schools.
“It was wonderful,” Stewart said. “We had nearly all of our families here – those who could not come were rescheduled. They came in and toured the classrooms, met the staff and learned a little bit about our program. They are all extremely grateful and the kids are saying they cannot wait to start school.”
Following the conclusion of the BOE meeting, Stewart led a tour of the new P.A.L.S. classrooms for school board members and those in attendance.
* Scott Preston, Clerk of the Works for projects at Tennerton and Hodgesville elementary schools, gave a report on the progress at each school. Preston said work began at Tennerton Elementary on Monday, August 5.
“The contractor is putting in five push piles to stabilize the foundation,” Preston said. “There will be another 10 push piles put on the southeast corner of the gym.
The push piles are hydraulically pushed into bedrock. Once that is accomplished, it is locked to the footing of the foundation so the foundation cannot move anymore.
Preston said the biggest part of the project is to direct water away from Tennerton Elementary School. A huge amount of soil will need to be displaced around the school to ensure there is proper drainage.
At Hodgesville, Preston said the project is also on schedule and includes removing ceilings and installing duct work, fire suppression systems and new air conditioning.
“Coupled with that is a 30 by 36 addition to the school, for Pre-K, the principal and secretary office and a new entrance way that is safer,” Preston said. “The sanitary system is installed and complete. We put in a French drain. Every classroom had craftsmen working in it at night, and now it actually looks a school.”
Preston said the gymnasium was dusted and painted – he recommended the gym ceiling be dusted every five years or so.
“Maybe we can put that in the maintenance plan,” he said.
* George Carver, Business Manager for Upshur County Schools, asked BOE members to consider what the employee attendance incentive plan will include this year. The recently passed Omnibus Education Bill includes an incentive for classroom teachers who miss four days or less. The prior Upshur County plan included all school personnel along with classroom teachers.
“A complicating factor we now need to address is the Legislature through the Omnibus Education Bill changed the code section that relates to sick days and sick leave, and added a $500 incentive bonus for classroom teachers only,” Carver told the board. “This is for four or fewer personal leave days. Things you need to think about are, do we continue with our own incentive or just go with the state’s? Or do we want to go with both of them – and if we go with both of them, do we extend it to all employees out of county funds in addition to the existing incentive?”
Carver said the decision on the employee attendance incentive plan did not need to be made during Tuesday’s meeting and suggested it be addressed during the September 24 meeting.
School board member Dr. Greenbrier Almond noted that the Upshur BOE was ahead of the game with the program.
“We started this program and then they are matching our thinking,” Almond said.
“The Legislature asked for a copy of our policy when they were considering this bill,” Carver added.
* After unanimously approving all of the personnel recommendations on the agenda, BOE Vice President Katie Loudin asked what positions still need to be filled before the start of classes.
“I think we will have the social studies positions covered,” Assistant Superintendent Dr. Debra Harrison said. “We have a very qualified person for the special education position at Tennerton and Washington District. They are a former employee and want to come back. We are working on the science position, and we have a couple of long-term substitutes. We have folks to fill those positions and I think we are going to be okay.”
Loudin said she feels everyone is excited for the new school year.
“I think with our team up here (the BOE) and our team in the back (school employees and staff), we are on the right path,” she said. “We have a lot of innovative strategies in the hopper and I cannot wait to see how some kids’ lives are transformed this year. It’s just bigger and better for Upshur County this year and I am excited. Thank you all for your hard work.”
The next Upshur County BOE meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, August 27, at 7 p.m. at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School.