Highland School Board January Work Session

Following their regular January meeting, the Highland County School Board already faced a daunting agenda for the work session held on January 27th, having tabled numerous agenda items including staff pay scale and stipends and the hiring of an elementary principal. That task list was expanded in the week following the meeting with the sudden resignation of Superintendent Dr. Thomas Schott. And while mention had been made during the January meeting of convening a regular session following the work session, to take action on any of the items as needed, after two hours, no meeting followed and no action was taken.

Following a brief discussion on a stipend list, for duties beyond regular teaching tasks, such as athletic coaching and extra-curricular activities, Dr. Schott opened the discussion of principal hiring with a recommendation that advertising begin immediately for the position with a base salary of $65,000. Board chair Kenny Hodges said he felt addressing the Superintendent position took precedence over that hiring, although it was pointed out later in the meeting that the Board has no role in hiring a principal, other than approving a final recommendation made by a committee of administration, staff and citizens who will conduct the interview process. It was noted that an interim principal had been found, Dr. Carol Armstrong, who will be at the elementary school one to two days a week for support. Dr. Armstrong is a retired superintendent who has worked in the Highland system in other capacities.

Despite the recommendation, the Board deferred any action until their next regular meeting.

As the discussion turned to the hiring of a superintendent, Dr. Schott spoke at length, informing the Board of the laundry list of tasks that need oversight once he leaves on February 18th, outside of his administrative duties, including human resources, building operations and maintenance, transportation, special education and more.

Mr. Hodges noted that he had spoken with the Virginia School Boards Association, who assists in the hiring of superintendents, and he had received referrals from three candidates interested in an interim position, who he had asked for applications. He and Board member Sherry Sullenberger has also been contacted by a person interested in the full time hiring once that process begins. Board member Joe Neil noted clarified the full-time hiring process, as assisted by the VSBA, who will receive all applications, vet the candidates, and provide a list for interviews to the Board. He noted the process was lengthy, and the VSBA fee for doing this was fairly large.

The final item on the work session agenda was the teacher and employee salary scale. Dr. Schott provided updated figures based on requests by the Board to look at different percentages. He noted that a decision on these numbers was a critical piece of finalizing the full school budget, which must be finished, approved, and presented to the Board of Supervisors by April 1st, by law.

The Board’s next regular meeting will be February 10th.

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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