School re-entry main topic of the Board of Education

Suzette Lowe
Jackson Newspapers

At the June 29 board meeting, recently re-elected board members Bobbi Boggess Ferrell and Steve Chancey were sworn into office. Ferrell, in her second term, and Chancey who has served on the board for over 30 years, were given their oaths by Circuit Judge Lora Dyer.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Ferrell and Chancey joined board members Jim Frashier, Ben Mize, and Dan Barnette in discussing the most pressing issue facing Jackson County Schools, re-opening in August.

Superintendent of Schools Blaine Hess outlined various options, noting that until the West Virginia Department of Education releases its recommendation, no final decision can be made.

“I know this is frustrating for both parents and teachers,” he said. “We want to get the answers to them as soon as possible.”

A survey for re-entry options will be made available soon said Hess. One choice that parents can consider is a virtual school. (Note: a telephone survey on July 2 was conducted.)

“This is an option offering a strong curriculum,” he said. “The student would not be homeschooled, but would still be enrolled in the public school system.”

Brochures explaining virtual schools will be sent to each home school, elementary, middle, and high school student. Those interested in this alternative will be asked to contact the Director of Secondary Education, Jim Mahan.

Virtual school classes will be taught by educators hired by the West Virginia Department of Education. Hess explained that some of those teachers may be from Jackson County but there would be no guarantee.

Another issue involves extending the option of virtual classes to elementary students. Hess has been in discussion with the education department about the challenges.

“There’s no doubt that more supervision, more hand-holding in a sense will have to be done if this is extended to the younger grades,” Hess said. “We would hire an additional coordinator under Mr. Mahan to focus on virtual schools, particularly in elementary. The CARES act would pay for this position.”

Hess pointed out that self-motivation and organization is an issue with virtual classes.

“These classes are not easy, in no way a piece of cake,” he said. “They are rigorous and will have standards that must be met.”

County student cell phone policy was discussed due to a request for a waiver received from Ripley Middle School. The board approved the request that would require students to keep cell phones in their lockers.

Both high schools and Ravenswood Middle allow cell phones before and after school, along with lunchtime. If a teacher requires the phone for instruction purposes, permission can be granted. High school principals can also adjust the policy as needed without board permission.

Mahan presented the board with the results of drug testing from the school year. Students enrolled in co-curricular, extra-curricular activities, or who drive to school are randomly tested. A parent can also request their child be included in the pool for testing.

Due to the shortened school year, fewer tests were administered. A total of 1,030 students were tested, with 12 being positive. Parents were notified and any proper action was taken.

The board went into a closed-door executive session at 8:05 pm for the purpose of the annual evaluation of the superintendent (see information box).

In other business, board members approved:

• Continuing to provide breakfast to high school students at no charge for the 2020-2021 school term

• Agreement with Custom Services Industries, LLC for asbestos abatement at Gilmore Elementary I the amount of $6,844.

• Agreement with the city of Ravenswood for a Prevention Resource Officer at Ravenswood High and Ravenswood Middle not to exceed $40,152.60.

• Request of Brandi Poff to send her children to Ripley Middle and Ripley High

• Memorandum of understanding with Coplin Healthcare for dental, primary care, and mental health services for the 2020-2021 school term

• Changes to Virtual School Policy 2370.01 (the full policy with changes can be found on the board’s website,

• Board meeting dates for the 2020-21 school year


• Retirements: Gail Benford, library media specialist, Ripley High School effective July 1, 2020;

• Resignations: Kathy Simmons, substitute teacher, effective July 1, 2020; Delores Jenkins, substitute bus operator, effective July 1, 2020; Jason Jackson, assistant football coach Ravenswood High effective June 23, 2020

• Employments: Teresa Martin, 3rd grade teacher Gilmore Elementary; Tamara Clarkson, staff development trainer; Cynthia Kay, cook III half-time, Ripley Elementary; Mica Casdorph, paraprofessional/aide/autism mentor Henry J. Kaiser; Dani Sinnett Hupp, Henry J. Kaiser; Franklin E. Howerton, softball coach Ripley Middle; Ravenswood Middle: Eric Anderson, baseball coach, Barbara Parsons, archery coach, Cara Williams, assistant cross-country coach; Ravenswood High: Sonja Butler, assistant boys soccer coach, Michael Schnell, assistant girls track coach, Delaine Carter, girls soccer coach, Barbara Parsons, archery coach, Jason Anglin and David Sullivan, assistant baseball coaches, Cara Williams, assistant basketball coach, Andrew Wise, assistant boys basketball coach; Nancy McCoy, assistant girls soccer coach; Ripley High: Krystle Cunningham, girls track coach, Brian J. Anderson, assistant junior varsity football coach, James Pierson, girls assistant soccer coach; Alex W. Huffman, assistant track coach; Substitute bus drivers: James C. Abshire Jr., Caleb Anderson, Christina Barker, Michael Hatcher, Michael Morrison, Buddy L. Reynolds, Michael A. Stearns

• Transfers: Christopher L. Swiney, from assistant principal to principal Ravenswood High; Jeanette Bowlby from teacher of music and band director Ripley High to itinerant teacher general music/band; Gwendolyn Richards from 2nd grad to 1st grade Fairplain Elementary; Thomas A. Wilkinson Jr. from custodian III to custodian IV Ravenswood High; Ashley Cato from custodian III Cottageville Elementary/Ravenswood Middle to custodian III Ripley Elementary; Sara Cato from cook III half-time to cook III Ripley Elementary; Tina Miller from cook III half-time Ravenswood Middle to cook III half-time Ripley Middle; Barbara Fields from custodian III to custodian IV Ripley High

• Rescindment of board action: Elimination of teacher Title I half-time Cottageville Elementary (May 7, 2020); Transfer of Melissa Harbin to Title I teacher half-time Ravenswood Grade (May 21, 2020); Employment of Kerigan Gandee Title I teacher Ravenswood Grade (May 21, 2020) and subsequent re-employment to 5th grade teacher Ravenswood Grade; Transfer John R. Simon from multi-categorical special education teacher to multi-categorical/physical education Ripley High

• Other: Summer program employments can be found at

The next meeting of the board, as required, was at 7 p.m. on July 6 at the administration office. Coverage of that meeting will appear in the July 10 edition of the paper.

Jackson County Schools Press Release

June 30, 2020

 The Jackson County Board of Education completed the annual evaluation of Superintendent Blaine Hess at its June 29, 2020 meeting. Mr. Hess is completing his 14th year as Superintendent of Jackson County Schools. Following an evaluation conference with Superintendent Hess, Board President Bobbi Ferrell released the following statement regarding the Superintendent’s evaluation:

”As a Board we feel extremely blessed to have Blaine Hess in Jackson County. He meets and exceeds all expectations of a wonderful superintendent.”

Mr. Hess was recently named the 2021 WV Superintendent of the Year. In addition to his responsibilities as Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Hess is the past president of the WV Association of School Administrators and recently re-elected to the Executive Committee for the American Association of School Administrators.

Roberta P. Ferrell, Board President

Bobbi Boggess Ferrell, assisted by Ferrell's daughter Lacey, was administered the oath of office by Circuit Judge Lora Dyer.