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Upshur County Board of Education Treasurer Jeffrey Perkins at Tuesday's Upshur BOE meeting.

New Communities in Schools facilitators, replacement buses included in Upshur County Schools’ proposed 2022 FY budget

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Board of Education met three times on Tuesday, April 20 – in the early morning hours for a special workshop for budget planning, in a reconvened regular session to approve the levy rates and in regular session following the reconvened meeting.

During the early morning budget workshop, BOE members discussed a proposed balanced budget for fiscal year 2021-2022, which Upshur County Board of Education Treasurer Jeffrey Perkins said had expenditures and revenue totaling about $43 million, or $43,580,240. Perkins said that was similar to the 2020-2021 fiscal year budget with a reduction of just $635,914. While levy rates for school systems are approved on April 20 of each year, proposed budgets for the upcoming fiscal year must be approved and submitted by June 30 to the state.

Perkins said the levy rates that were approved during Tuesday’s reconvened meeting were exactly the same as the past year; however, the reduction is the result of the difference in property values owned by businesses and industries with fewer oil and gas companies now in the area. Perkins said with fewer oil and gas businesses lowered the amount of income generated by taxes.

As far as major purchases anticipated by the Upshur County BOE, Perkins said Upshur County Schools hopes to invest in replacing four school buses as well as adding one additional bus.

“New positions that will be added for the 2021-2022 school year include three additional Communities in Schools Facilitators – bringing a total of six Communities in School staff positions,” Perkins said.

Upshur County BOE Vice-President Katie Loudin said she was proud of the budget Perkins and his team put together to serve the students and employees of Upshur County Schools.

“We have prioritized academic excellence, innovation, capital improvements and technology to support all levels of operation,” Loudin said. “We are working our way off of the state financial watchlist through the diligence of our team. We have been responsive to systemic needs necessitated by the pandemic this year around technology, sanitation, HVAC improvements and school nutrition.”

Loudin said she anticipates the new budget year looking more ‘normal’ while retaining the innovations and lessons learned through weathering the pandemic.

“Ultimately, none of this would be possible without the voters of Upshur County supporting our students through the excess levy renewal, and for that, I am most grateful. We have work to be done and I think the new budget clearly reflects our priorities,” Loudin said.

On April 17, 2021, Upshur County Schools posted three new positions for Community in School Facilitators – one to cover Hodgesville and Tennerton Elementary Schools; one to cover Washington District and Union Elementary Schools; and one to cover Rock Cave and French Creek Elementary Schools. Melinda Stewart, Upshur County Schools CIS Contact said they are happy to announce the addition of the three new positions.

“Through additional grant funding, we are able to offer these services countywide,” Stewart said. “We currently have site coordinators at Buckhannon-Upshur High School, Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School and Buckhannon Academy Elementary School. With the addition of these three positions for the upcoming school year, we will be able to serve the six other elementary schools.”

Stewart said the current three facilitators have worked with numerous families in the communities to secure food, clothing, medication, family services, medical services and even furniture and appliances.

“They have been liaisons between families and our schools,” Stewart said. “These individuals have built relationships with school staff, families, students and community agencies. What a blessing they have been in coordinating necessary services for families in their time of need! It is wonderful when we are able to help meet the basic needs of families in our community, while ensuring the education of our children.”

Stewart said the CIS facilitators will impact the future of the school district, community, and most importantly, the individuals in them.

During the meeting, Stew art reported the Upshur County graduation rate for 2020 as reported by the West Virginia Department of Education was greater than the West Virginia State rate of 92.1 percent. She said the Upshur County rate was 92.9 percent. Stewart also shared that while the students will still be tested, West Virginia has received a waiver on the accountability standards due to the pandemic.

“We are asked to share information with families and to identify where supports and additional resources are needed. We still have to report attendance, but the accountability piece is put on hold until next year,” Stewart said.

Also, during Tuesday’s BOE meeting, Facilities Director Tim Derico and Upshur County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus shared they were not successful in securing funds during the recent School Building Authority presentations. At a BOE meeting in March, Stankus and Derico told BOE members they were going to do a presentation; however, they had said they were not too hopeful because there were so many submissions for new school buildings which they would be competing against for SBA funding.

“Yesterday, we were beat out by eight new schools during the SBA competition,” Stankus shared. “There were lots of counties moving in the direction of consolidation with new schools, so that is what the SBA funded to the tune of $87 million.”

“One thing I pulled from that information, most of them took bond money or large amounts as matches for the funds,” Derico added. “Some had up to 50 percent of the project funds in their coffers amounting to up to $15 million.”

Finally, BOE members heard a report by Kayla Yocum, Technology/Digital Communications Specialist for Upshur County Schools. Yocum said they are looking to further support their school improvement specialist with some observational robots which will follow the specialist around the classrooms automatically, allowing for the recording of lessons and participation in some streaming activities.

“It is a SWIVL robot and it connects to an online cloud, similar to (Microsoft) Teams,” Yocum said. “Students or teachers can participate – they can log on and participate in the recorded session or it can be streamed. The instructor wears a device and as they walk around the classroom, the robot knows to connect to that device they are wearing and it follows them. If they move to a different white board, the robot will move with them or if they point to a chart, those participating in the session will be able to see everything that the students in person are able to see.”

Yocum said the robots will be used in professional learning opportunities and for reflective practices.

“They can record themselves when they are teaching and meet with our school improvement specialist as a coach to further improve their teaching practices, not only for remote purposes, but also in their classrooms as well,” Yocum said.

Yocum also shared the plans for the collection, inventory, updating, charging and sanitation of the one-to-one devices throughout the grade levels.

Check back with My Buckhannon to see which students, teachers and volunteers received Upshur Stars.

The next regular meeting of the Upshur County BOE is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 11 at Buckhannon-Upshur High School.

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