Highland Elementary School Principal Passes Unexpectedly

The Highland County School System released a shocking statement over the weekend, announcing the passing of Highland Elementary principal Teresa Blum. The statement reads:

“It is with heavy hearts that we announce the unexpected passing of our beloved Elementary Principal, Ms. Teresa Blum. Ms. Blum dedicated over 40 years of service to Highland County Public Schools. She loved helping the children of Highland and will be greatly missed.”

Highland schools were closed Monday due to her passing.

In her last report to the Board during Thursday’s November School Board meeting, Ms. Blum, as always, gave an enthusiastic report to the Board, detailing the elementary school progress and activities, including praising the efforts the students took in honor of Veterans Day.

Similarly, upper grades principal Tim Good gave a positive assessment of the year so far, praising staff and students for a successful beginning to the year despite all the challenges. He noted 5 students, Michael Campbell, Megan Hoover, Daniel Minnigh, Brianna Wimer and Kirsten Wood. were newly inducted to the National Honor Society, and that winter sports season was beginning, and the schools were exploring archery, marksmanship and e-sports programs.

During his report, Superintendent Dr. Thomas Schott reported new cafeteria policies for spacing students wider apart, due to 1st and 2nd grade students recently being quarantined, due to potential exposure relating to the cafeteria.

During action items, Dr. Schott noted the movement of funds from the cafeteria funds to capital account. These funds are overage from the money received from the government to subsidize school lunches, which is more than the school charges. These funds will still be used for cafeteria capital needs, as mandated. During public comment, an online attendee suggested these funds be used to explore more nutritious foods be available.

Dr. Schott also presented his proposed salary schedule for staff to be included in the upcoming budget. Step increases based on years of service are included, as well as raises based on 3% of the median salary. State mandates call for a 6% raise bi-annually. Some raises for non-teaching staff were increased more due to new minimum wage levels which take effect next year. It also includes a 2% raise for admin and a 3% raise for admin staff – these raises are based on their current salary.

During comment, teacher Melody Moats spoke on behalf of a number of teachers who have 35 years or more of service, which is the level where step increases are no longer given. She pointed out that the raises were not actually 3% across the board, since it was based on median salary – years 1-6 receive higher, year 7 receives the 3%, and years above that receive lower. She noted that this often creates a misconception in the public that the raises are greater than they actually are, and that this also gives the impression that teachers who have served the longest are not given deserved appreciation and consideration. She referenced a meeting she attended years ago where admin told teachers of that level that they were not worth it, whereupon one teacher walked out.

Dr. Schott disputed that comment was made and pointed out that the level that step increases were given had been expanded to 35 from 30. He also indicated that he was not opposed to expanding the step increases but noted that doing so would increase the amount asked for from the County.

The Board agreed to look into different options before the figures are finalized for next year’s budget.

Story By

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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