After Retirements and Resignations, BOE Struggling to Fill Positions Before Schools Open
The Pocahontas County Board of Education’s July 6th meeting was a saga of vacancies in the school system and the struggle to get them filled before school opens in August.
Erwin Berry, who is retiring from a long career as the Agriculture Education Teacher -or AG-ED Teacher- at PCHS spoke to the board members. Berry said his goal throughout his career has been to see his AG students have the skills to run successful AG businesses. He accomplished that by understanding the difference between school projects and running an enterprise. He had his students maintain business record books, showing profits, losses, expenses and inventory
In an effort to find his replacement, he has tried to recruit like-minded AG-ED graduates at universities and AG-ED teachers from other school systems. However, Berry said those efforts were unsuccessful because AG students generally like to take teaching jobs close to home and, in some cases, want jobs that offer 240 or even 260 days per year contracts, while Pocahontas County only offers 220 days per year teaching contracts. Berry said he always worked well beyond his 220 days per year, but that was his personal choice because he wanted the job to be done right.
Superintendent Beam, in his report congratulated Berry on his career accomplishments and retirement. Beam expressed his appreciation for Berry’s willingness to mentor his replacement. He also acknowledged the disadvantage of offering only 220 day per year contracts for new employees. and said the board may want to address that at a later time, but it is too late to change current vacancy announcements.
Beam said they are looking to fill about twelve to fifteen vacancies before schools start, and two of the hardest to fill are the AG-ED position and the principal position at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, which has to be filled by a person who is certified as a principal. Beam said he is interviewing two outside applicants this week. however, he is looking for just the right person for the job. If these two applicants don’t meet that standard, he will consider hiring a retired principal from another county as a temporary substitute principal at Green Bank. Beam said he even had an inquiry about the principal job from a professor in Iran.
Beam also talked about the storm flood damage to the new sewer system at PCHS. He said it appears the system needs to be repaired before school begins as the tanks actually floated then dropped, probably damaging underground pipe connections. In the meantime, porta pots have to be brought to the football field for summer practice and Band Camp might have to be moved elsewhere because the school restrooms are unusable.
In other actions at this meeting, the board:
- Approved routine financial matters
- Approved adding an Advanced Placement Physics course at PCHS
- Chose Travelers Insurance to provide Workers’ Compensation Insurance for this school year.
- Approved the purchase of two new Blue Bird gas powered 77 passenger school busses
- Extended the agreement for Parks and Recreation to continue to use the Wellness Center for another year.
- Approved a revised policy on the use of retired employees as substitutes where there is a critical shortage, adding school counselors to that list of eligible employees.
- Agreed to sign the deed to transfer 2.2 acres of the board’s Slaven Property in Green Bank to the county’s Solid Waste Authority.
- Tabled to next meeting any action on possibly holding a public auction for the remaining 96.4 acres of that Green Bank property because Board Members John Burns and Jarrett McLaughlin were not present at this meeting.
Finally, they agreed to require continued deep cleaning of the schools, keeping hand sanitizer available and requiring the use of personal water bottles by athletes. The mask requirements in the schools have been lifted and social distancing is now only a recommendation.
Click on the below link to see the officially published agenda for this meeting, which includes the list of personnel actions, all of which were approved during this meeting.