Board considers adding software to all busses; gives favorable evaluation of superintendent

Suzette Lowe

The Jackson County Board of Education is dedicated to improving safety for its students. That is the premise behind the proposal brought before the board by Superintendent of Schools Blaine Hess.

The board gave approval for Hess to move forward with any further research needed to incorporate the Zonar program on the county’s school busses.

Hess explained that utilizing Zonar would enable the addition of a GPS system on every bus, turn-by-turn instructions for substitute bus drivers and electronic pre-trip inspections which would then populate a work order for mechanics to address any issues.

Two additional measures would be addressed. Students would use a swipe card when they got on the bus which thus enabling a child to be found if he got on the wrong bus. In addition, parents could download an app that would allow them to know when the bus is approaching and if there were any delays or alerts.

“By incorporating Zonar, an additional level of comfort would be added,” said Hess. “I believe this would be a wise investment of funds.”

The initial cost of $110,000, which would include the software, I-pads and any other equipment necessary, would be reimbursed by approximately 92 percent through the state school aid formula.

Hess also informed the board that reduction of class sizes is moving forward in the belief that this will help with any student learning loss that occurred during the pandemic. He also hopes to add additional positions to address social and emotional health.

Revisions to the virtual school policy were approved upon the third reading. Virtual school will be an option only in homebound instruction, alternative education settings or in the case of special circumstances, approved by the superintendent, where regular school attendance is not possible.

Board members Jim Frazier, Ben Mize, Dan Barnette and Steve Chancey welcomed new member Bea Isner to her first meeting. Isner was appointed to serve the unexpired term of former board president Bobbi Ferrell. She will serve through June 30, 2022.

Executive Secretary Lily Sears swears in board member Bea Isner at the June 3 meeting.

In her remarks to the board, Isner praised the Ripley and Ravenswood High graduation ceremonies.

“They were handled with great skill,” she said. “I was especially impressed because this was the first year for each principal at their respective schools.”

Also receiving praise and recognition from the board were the robotics teams from Ripley High School.

Under the coaching of Melissa Lough, the two teams, 27183-R and 27183-V, placed first and second respectively in the state robotics championships. Ironically, they competed against each other for that top honor. Ultimately, 27183-R went on to place ninth in the 2021 Remote VEX Robotics World Championships.

After each team member explained his role in the robotics preparation and competition, Jim Frazier, president of the board, said, “You have brought a great honor back to Jackson County.”

State champion Ripley High robotics team, along with the team's award-winning robot Spud McLugnut, was honored by the Jackson County Board of Education. Pictured are Board President Jim Frazier, Superintendent Blaine Hess, Coach Melissa Lough, Trey Starcher, David Kelley, Cayden Adkins, Wesley Hopper, Jarrett Lough, Matthew Moore and Andrew Sarver.

The board, after recessing for a reception to honor Dr. Keith Burdette who will be taking a position as superintendent of Mason County and Isner as new board member, the board convened into executive session to conduct its annual evaluation of Superintendent Hess whose contract is in effect until June 2023.

The statement released at the conclusion of the evaluation said in part, “after reviewing the goals established by Mr. Hess, all board members are in total agreement that [he] has done an exemplary job of meeting goals established by the Jackson County Board of Education.”

In other business, board members:

  • Approved agreements with the cities of Ripley and Ravenswood for prevention resource officers at Ripley and Ravenswood high schools and Ravenswood Middle School.
  • Approved several contracts including West Virginia Paving for Ravenswood Grade and Ripley Middle for $6,400, Sayre Excavating & Trucking LLC for an ADA compliant sidewalk at Ripley Middle for $6,300 and Jr Fencing Specialists for various projects for $9,300.
  • Learned that random drug testing at the middle school and high schools was conducted with 274 students with four positive results for marijuana, all first offenses which will require counseling and notification to parents.
  • Learned that Hess and some teachers will present the proposed plan for expenditure of the American Rescue Act funds to the West Virginia Department of Education.
  • Approved the following parental requests for out-of-county students to attend Jackson County Schools: Jessica and Jeremy Crites (Putnam County), Zacharey Lockhart (Mason County) and Nichole Boggs (Roane County).


  • Retirement: Barbara Heckert, science teacher, Ripley High.
  • Transfers: Sandra Southern, special education teacher, Ripley Middle, to Ripley High; Dwayne Merritt, special education, Ripley High, to director of attendance, Central Office; James Hayman, special education teacher to assistant principal, Ravenswood Middle; William Smithson, third-grade teacher, Ravenswood Grade, to itinerant art teacher; Kelli Hall, counselor, elementary alternative education, to second-grade teacher, Ripley Elementary; Kimberly Boggess, bus operator, route #44, to route #26; and Mark Lemley, bus operator, route #15, to route #10.
  • Employment: Amanda Shaffer, special education teacher, and Sarah Kiser, second-grade teacher, Ripley Elementary; Emily Hunt, half-time vocational agriculture; Kristin Reed, social studies teacher, Ripley High; Alexis Adkins, second-grade teacher, HJK; Deborah Ryan, special education teacher, and Victoria Allinder, third-grade teacher, Evans; Brianna grimes, English teacher, Ravenswood High; Eric Hupp, first and second grade resource teacher, and Rachel Heis, third-grade teacher, Cottageville;
  • Employment (continued): Autumn Hall, third-grade teacher, and Stormy Cavender, cook III, Ravenswood Grade; Hannah Fraley, first-grade teacher, and Michael A. Hupp, third-grade teacher, Fairplain; Christina Barker, bus operator, special education; Joanna Freshour, substitute teacher; and Richard H. Gobble III, certified football coach, Ripley Middle.
  • Resignations: Kendra Braden, kindergarten teacher, HJK; Andrew Bourgeois, technology education, Ravenswood High; and Dwayne Merritt, head football coach, Ripley Middle, girls and girls tennis coach, Ripley High.

For additional positions to be filled and personnel items, visit

The next meeting of the board will be Tuesday, June 29, at 7 p.m. at the central office.