Community, Town Meeting

Board of Education begins 2023 with busy meeting

The Braxton County Board of Education conducted their first meeting of 2023 on January 10.

Superintendent Dr. Rhonda Combs gave board members updated regarding several ongoing issues. She stated she has started personnel discussions for the next school year. She will be meeting with directors and principals soon to discuss reduction in force possibilities. 

She informed the board that Director Linda Sears has started work on the summer learning program. 

She also updated that work on the next phase of the ESSR funding has started with work being done by Director of Finance Ginger Altizer and Director of Federal Programs Kim Dennison.

Dr. Combs stated the strategic plan for the school system is in the process of being revised.

Director of Student Affairs and Safety Tim Via is still working on the school safety process and will be presenting the job description and posting for the security guard position at an upcoming meeting.

Dr. Combs also discussed the need for a position at Little Birch Elementary. The position was removed during cuts last year and needs to be reinstated in order to comply with federal guidelines. Currently, the school system is looking to separate the second-third grade split class at the school into two classes. 

Board President Evelyn Post emphasized the need to move quickly with the filling of the position in the best interest of the students.

Director of Head Start Christina Bailey spoke to board members during the first reading of Policy 5410: Volunteer Policy. One of the major changes was the clarification of background checks being completed on all volunteers as it wasn’t clear in the previous policy. Dr. Kenna Seal asked about the availability of CPR/First Aid training for volunteers. Director Bailey noted it could be made available if volunteers would be interested. The board approved to place Policy 5410 out on comment on a motion by Lisa Ratliff.

The board discussed the LSIC presentation schedule for all schools. The board decided to have two schools present at regular board meetings from February to May at the board office. The board is looking into options of having “town hall meetings” at individual schools to meet with staff, parents and students for discussions of their schools. 

Kevin Gregory liked the idea of “town hall meeting” and looks forward to the opportunity to go out and meet with schools. He also noted he had met with Dr. Combs and Director of Finance Ginger Altizer to get a better understanding of the school system’s budget. He would like to discuss future plans for the upcoming three to five years.

Lisa Ratliff noted the lights are working now at Frametown Elementary. She also plans on attending the upcoming Family Math Nights scheduled at various elementary schools.

Dr. Kenna Seal discussed the need to develop a policy on the filling of vacancies in the middle of the school year. He voiced his concern of the lack of continuity in classrooms and the effect on students. Dr. Combs stated there may be some legality on holding postings or trying to restrict movement of staff into vacant positions. 

In regular action, the board approved the following consent agenda items on a motion by Dr. Kenna Seal: December 20 meeting minutes; transportation requests; treasurer’s report; budget transfers and supplements; and payment of bills. Larry Hardway questioned the higher water bill at Davis. Superintendent Dr. Combs stated that Facilities Director Brenda Wells keeps a check on the utility bills, but she would follow up with her about it.

On a motion by Kevin Gregory, the board approved the following service and extra-curricular resignations, Shirley Skidmore, bus operator, retirement with official last date of work as January 10 and Nathan Smarr, $1 wrestling coach, BCMS, to correct incorrect employment listing from December 10 agenda.

Kevin Gregory also moved to approve the following professional, service and extra-curricular employment recommendations: Andrea Vidal, substitute teacher, Kassidy Heavner, substitute teacher, Jessica Pierson, principal, Little Birch, Mary Rose, from bus operator bus #34 to bus #23, Billy Rose, bus operator, activity run-Davis to Frametown, Nathan Short, $1 wrestling coach, BCMS, and Joshua Skidmore, $1 boys basketball coach, BCHS.

All fundraisers were approved as presented on a motion by Dr. Kenna Seal.

The board approved the contract between Braxton County Schools and Best Life Therapy LLC for occupational therapy for the remainder of the school year on a motion by Dr. Seal. He questioned the need for the contract and the possibility of filling the position directly instead of through a contract with an outside company. Director Christina Bailey stated that the previous occupational therapist resigned from the position in December, and she has been unable to find someone to fill the vacancy. She stated she had children that needed to be served and no one was qualified in the school system.

Other items approved by the board on separate motions were the Memorandum of Agreement between the West Virginia University Extension Service (WVUES Braxton County), Braxton County Board of Education and Braxton County Middle School; acceptance of bid received from Hooten Equipment in the amount of $12,639.08 for a new steamer at Frametown Elementary School; approval of Individual School Audits (FY2021-2022) and Corrective Action Plans; and approval for Sutton Elementary, Flatwoods Elementary and Braxton County High School teams to attend the Model Schools Conference, June 24 – 28, 2023 in Orlando FL to be paid by federal funds. 

The request to provide funds for the Grow Your Own/future educators students to attend the Educators Rising State Conference and Competition in March, to be held at Canaan Valley was approved on a motion by Larry Hardway. The total cost for registration and lodging for the 14 students will be approximately $200.00 per student. The GYO program coordinator, Sharon Desper, will also be seeking donations and other fund-raising opportunities to help fund this competition.

The discussion regarding the BCHS-Fairmont (Pierpont) addition and possible actions to utilize the area was tabled until the next meeting. Board President Evelyn Post has asked former Superintendent Carolyn Long to speak to board members about the original agreement from 2003 but she was unable to attend due to a death in the family.

The board went into executive from 7:21 pm until 7:38 pm for a discussion on a legal matter. After reconvening the board approved the terms of the Confidential Mediation Settlement Agreement and Release of All Claims in the matter of Williams v. Braxton County Board of Education and David Dilly, pending in the Circuit Court of Braxton County, West Virginia, Civil Action No. 19-C-34.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:50 pm. The next regular meeting is scheduled on January 24 at 6:00 pm.