Highland Concerned Citizens’ Group Identifies Issues In School System

In Part One of this story, we spoke with Kim Wolfe, one of the organizers of a group of citizens concerned with issues in the Highland school system. In Part Two, she talks about some of the issues they intend to present to the School Board at their February 10th meeting.

There was definitely consensus that the first priority right now needs to be to find a new elementary principal. The day-to-day operations of the schools cannot all be left to Mr. Good who, capable though he is, simply doesn’t have enough time to manage all the issues that could confront him. I think probably, the primary issue that brought us together was the delay associated with beginning the search for an elementary principal. Nominally, this School Board says they’d like to reconsider the model of two principals. And there is a feeling among parents that the need for an elementary principal is very apparent – does not need to be debated – there’s no need to change a model that wasn’t broken. We need to move forward and make that happen in the short term.”

She continued, “Obviously, the need for a new superintendent is also critical. And the search, while there are resources available from the Commonwealth of Virginia to help us with that recruiting, high level management and executive people to Highland County has some unique challenges. So we’re concerned that the delay and beginning the recruiting process could take us well into or even beyond the next school year.”

“The delays in the decision making that have caused months and months to go by are concerning – the fact that things just take so long to happen. So, one of the ideas that came up in the meeting was that perhaps the Board should have a work session prior to every Board meeting, so that they could be sure they had the information they needed to make a decision at a board meeting.”

“One of the Board members has stated publicly that one of the reasons they can’t make these decisions is because they only have a few minutes to consider each issue at the actual Board meeting and it’s very difficult to make an informed decision with that time constraint. If they gathered the information ahead of time and can discuss it together prior to the need to take a vote, we feel like that would probably expedite decision making. With all these critical things on the table here that have to be resolved in the next few months, at the outside, it would seem as though it would be appropriate to make an opportunity to gather and consider information outside of the once-a-month Board meeting.”

She spoke a perceived adversarial relationship between the Board and school administration causing issues.

“We’re also wanting the School Board to spend more time and open communication channels within the schools – to actually have some face time with teachers and administrators, maybe with students. We’re concerned that because of that adversarial relationship, the School Board members don’t have a way to get information that they believe about the school. If they don’t tend to heed the recommendations of the people in place or necessarily believe what’s told to them, then they need to find a way to gather their own information and that should be perhaps by spending some time on the campus itself.”

“Another area of concern and a priority for us is the morale of the teaching staff and the administrative staff in the absence of day-to-day leadership there. I think morale has taken, or will take, a dip. And I think there’s some other issues on the table too, that the teachers need to know that they are heard and valued, understand what their concept of what’s fair is, and moving on this issue will demonstrate to teachers that regardless of what the outcome is, it matters to the school board to make a decision – the best that they can for the benefit of the teachers in the short term.”

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Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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