Recently re-elected for another four-year term, Bobbi Farrell was chosen by fellow board members to serve as president for the next two years. Steve Chancey was once again elected vice-president.
One of the first acts of the new president was to honor retirees Rhonda Baisden, Rowena Mullins, Deborah Stalnaker, Cecil Creel, Curtis Casto, and Carol Burch who was unable to attend.
It was noted that “a lot of years of experience is going out that door.” All were hailed as being excellent at their jobs and difficult to replace.
The challenge to the upcoming school year is one that no one foresaw. Once again, how school will be conducted was the main discussion topic for board members Farrell, Chancey, Ben Mize, Dan Barnette, and Jim Frazier.
At the July 6 meeting, no official directive had been received from the West Virginia Department of Education. (Note: Re-opening guidance was issued 7/8/2020; for details go to wvde.us/school-system-re-entry)
Superintended Blaine Hess informed the board that preliminary plans were being developed for school re-entry. Meetings have been and will continue to be conducted with principals, parents, and teachers to address concerns.
Virtual school is an option that is receiving the most attention.
“We did a phone survey on July 2,” Hess said. “We sent 4,000 calls and receive 1,600 responses back. We did have some glitches but were surprised to find that 40-percent of parents were considering virtual school.”
That percentage was higher than expected. Hess said that it will be a challenge to provide this service for so many, but he’s confident it can be managed.
“This will require a coordinator that will be dedicated to that program,” he said. “The students who opt for virtual school will still be public school students. We will be monitoring closely their progress and any other issues that may arise.”
Brochures outlining virtual school, along with the responsibilities that fall on the students and parents, have been mailed to homeschool students.
“Home school parents are not part of our calling system,” Hess explained. “We wanted to get the information and options to them so they can decide what they want for their children in this upcoming year.”
Hess pointed out that students could enroll in virtual classes the first semester and switch to in-person for the second. Once a student enrolls in virtual school, the commitment is for that full semester.
“These classes will be rigorous, just as difficult as the traditional classes,” he said. “The students will be up to speed when they do come back.”
The virtual classes are not to be confused with the distance learning conducted when school ended abruptly in March.
“These are classes that are being taught just like in the regular classroom,” Hess said. “The hardest part is the need for reliable internet service. That is something parents will have to realize. Phone calls will be made soon to encourage any that are interested in virtual classes to enroll so we’ll know the numbers we have to plan for.”
The county’s annual strategic plan was reviewed with an explanation from Assistant Superintendent Jay Carnell.
The two main goals of the plan are to provide support services for students and address academics.
With the addition of two counselors and two psychologists to the program last year, Carnell said there were some good results.
“I foresee more social and emotional needs needing to be addressed this year,” he said. “In academics, we improved in math but lost some ground in English and language arts. We were still above the state average, but we want to do better than that. Programs such as Project Lead the Way and Model School will still be offered to our personnel.”
In other business, board members approved:
• Revisions to the Strategic Plan
• Dan Barnette to serve on the Roane-Jackson Technical Center Administrative Council and Jim Frazier to serve on the WVU Extension Service Board through June 30, 2022
• Bowles Rice LLP as the attorney of record for the board
• Purchase of four school busses from Matheny Motors
• Contract with United Construction Company, Inc. for $39,982 for Ripley High School Annex repairs
• Contract with Grae-Con for $50,153 for sidewalk and entry area replacement at Ripley High School Annex
• Contract with Start to Finish Construction Company for $79,395 for the renovation of visitor restrooms at Memorial Stadium
• Contract with United Construction Company Inc for $734,460 to complete improvements, including site drainage, parking lot, lighting, sidewalks, brick building façade, entry canopies, ticket booth, electrical upgrades, and fencing at former Ravenswood Middle School site
The board went into a 15-minute closed-door executive session to consider personnel issues.
In personnel matters:
• Employments: Julie Banton, Itinerant special education multi-categorical with autism; Samantha Hope Sharps, 1st-grade teacher Henry J. Kaiser; Alexandra Miller, girls basketball coach Ripley Middle; Bradley S. Dawson, assistant football coach Ravenswood High; Ripley High: Victoria Crise, boys assistant track coach; Jason Cunningham, boys track coach; Krystle Cunningham, authorized certified coach cross country; Thomas Bailey, authorized certified track coach; Eric Staats, itinerant music teacher/band director; and Edward D. Smolder, approval as authorized certified football coach
• Other: Established three Communities in Schools Student Support Specialist positions to be funded by a West Virginia Department of Education grant; approved job description for Communities in Schools Student Support Specialist
A special session of the board to address financial and personnel matters were conducted on July 9 and will be reported in an upcoming edition. The next regular meeting of the board will be at 7 p.m. on July 21 at the administrative offices.