BUCKHANNON – Two of the main business items discussed during Tuesday’s Upshur County Board of Education meeting at Washington District Elementary School were a direct result of provisions of House Bill 206 – the Omnibus Education Bill.
First, BOE members voted unanimously to approve creating a position for an itinerant social and emotional learning specialist.
The person to fill the position would work two to three days a week. In addition, she or he would be required to have a degree in education, social work, psychology, counseling or a related field and would lead in evidence-based strategies to support a coordinated and effective school climate, classroom management, social-emotional learning, restorative practices and behavioral interventions processes, according to BOE materials.
Upshur County Schools Business Manager George Carver let BOE members know Upshur County schools will remain on the West Virginia County Financial Watchlist because there is not enough surplus money in the fund balance.
BOE President Dr. Tammy Samples asked if the funds for the position would be provided by House Bill 206.
Carver said HB 206 provides additional funds for this type of position. BOE members voted to approve the new position.
Also, BOE members were updated about the proposed employee attendance incentive program for the 2019-2020 school year.
“Two things changed with HB 206,” Carver told BOE members. “First, in the past, each 200-day school employee had 15 sick days allotted, and three of those were set aside as leave-without-cause days, meaning they could use them for purposes other than illness. If they didn’t use the three sick days, they could carry them over to the next year.”
Carver said HB 206 changes the amount of leave-without-cause days from three to four.
“The second part of that is classroom teachers who have not used more than four personal days are entitled to a $500 bonus at the end of the school year,” Carver said. “That part of the bill is funded by the state.”
Carver said the change leaves out non-instructional teachers and service personnel.
“At the last meeting you said you needed more information in order to make a decision about that,” he said. “We have a program that pays a $400 incentive to all personnel for missing a certain number of days or less or accumulating personal leave for years of experience.”
Carver said in 2019, the BOE paid an incentive to 122 employees who were eligible for the incentive at a cost of $56,200. He said he projects that with the state money for the $500 incentives and extending that to other personnel meeting the criteria, the cost would be an additional $34,000.
Superintendent Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus said when Hoppy Kercheval did an interview with State Superintendent Dr. Steven Paine on teacher attendance, Upshur County was recognized as in the top third in the state for teacher attendance.
BOE members voted unanimously to approve the teacher attendance incentive program.
Jody Akers, director of Student Services, shared updated information about the 2018-2019 graduation rate for Upshur County Schools. She said the overall number of students who did not graduate in Upshur County that counted against the graduation rate was 26.
“We had one of the lowest dropout rates last year,” Akers said. “There were only 12 dropouts for the 2018-2019 school year – the lowest in more than 16 years.”
She said there were seven students from the 2017-2018 school year that were added in the graduation rate calculation.
“Six of the 12 from last year should have graduated,” Akers said. “We still have three seniors that are considered fifth-year seniors who are working on their diploma. Unfortunately, they get counted against us. Then, there were some students on a modified diploma and three students I placed under miscellaneous.”
Akers said one had transferred out of county to another county, but never enrolled in that county, so that counts against Upshur County’s numbers. Also, one student was in a residential facility and received their TASC, the test assessing secondary completion, and one student attended the Mountaineer Challenge Academy but did not complete their TASC test.
“That brought our total to 26 students and brought our graduation rate down lower than what we expected,” Akers said. “That brought our graduation rate down to 90 percent.”
The next regular Upshur County BOE meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5 at Buckhannon-Upshur High School at 6 p.m.