PCHS seniors want a say in what they wear for graduation

Pocahontas County high school seniors want to have a say in what color gown they will wear for their graduation in the spring, but senior class representative Heather Pritt accuses the school administration of turning a “blind ear” to their pleas.  Pritt reached out to the Pocahontas County board of education members during their recent meeting in an attempt to enlist their support for the students cause.

“Our issue is we are not getting a say in what we are wearing for graduation or really anything to do with it,” said Pritt. “And as you can see this is problem for all of us. In past years we’ve talked to other teachers in the school and every year the students have gotten to vote on this. But this year for some reason, we don’t get a say.”

“We’ve worked really hard in the past four years to raise the money that will be used to purchase the gowns by students, and we don’t feel it’s fair that we don’t get a say in what it’s going to look like or anything to do with our graduation.  And we would like someone to take action against this.”

Pritt said she had spoken with the senior class sponsors, school administrators and also Superintendent Dr. Bechtel to no avail.  At issue is the current choice of a gold colored graduation gown for the girls in the graduating class.  Pritt also presented a petition signed by 23 of the 30 senior girls opposing the color choice for their gowns.

“Even though multiple times we have stressed the importance of this issue to our [school] administration, we’ve been told everything from ‘we’ll discuss it later’ to ‘this isn’t a democracy’,” said Pritt. “And we would just like the opportunity to have a say in what we’re going to be walking across the stage in.  We only get one graduation.”

Pritt clarified that it is one of the sponsors making this decision, not the principal.  But she said they feel that the principal hasn’t heard their multiple requests for intervention on their behalf.  She and her classmates would like to have the opportunity to vote on the gown color, preferably either all maroon or maroon and black, according to the students she has polled on the question.

An all maroon graduation gown was worn for many years by past graduating classes. The board was in agreement with Pritt that the students who raised the funds to pay for the gowns should have a say in what color they will be.  Board president Emery Grimes asked Dr. Bechtel to contact the sponsor to try to work things out by October 20th.  The deadline to order the gowns is October 24th.

Kathyrn Williamson, public education specialist at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, spoke to the board about planning for a science fair at the NRAO early next year.  She said the event was held at the site earlier this year and was a rousing success.  She asked the board for permission to use a school day and the use of county school buses to transport students from around the county to the facility for the next fair scheduled for late February or early March.

The board was in favor of the science fair, but questioned whether or not they needed to vote on the use of the buses for transportation.  Ruth Bland, technology and transportation director for the county schools, said this event should be considered as important as the social studies fair, middle school spelling bee or math field day and the board should approve the transportation.  The board agreed, but asked that the appropriate forms be filled out and sent to Bland as soon as possible.

In his report, Director of Federal Programs Terrence Beam spoke to the board about two things not specifically on the agenda for the meeting.  With the change in the school calendar allowing county schools to start earlier in August or stay in session longer in June in order to meet the required 180 days of instruction, Beam said he is working on a policy to address possible excessive heat in the schools.

“It’s called an excessive heat in buildings policy,” he said, “and it’s going to set guidelines as to how we determine when we would send the kids home early and when wouldn’t as far as the heat goes.”

Beam admits it will be difficult to specify a temperature designated as “excessive” with five schools spread throughout the county. He hopes to have a draft of the policy to present to the board at the next meeting on Oct 27th.  The other issue raised by Beam is that of substitute teachers and the way in which seniority currently works.

“Right now our policy says that a person has to work 50% of the times that they are called in order to remain on the list,” said Beam. “Some comments come back and say why do you want to take them off the list when we don’t have enough to start with? And others say you need to require them to work at all five schools and work at least 50% of the time or get them off the list.”

Beam offered a personal perspective on the issue.  He said his sister was on the substitute cook list for Nelson County schools for many years, but then started her own business and didn’t work as a sub for 4 or 5 years.  However her name remained on the list, and because her name gradually rose to the top of the seniority list, she was eligible to apply for a full time job with benefits.  Beam asked is it fair that because someone is not taken off the list, that they should have priority for a job opening over someone lower on the list who is working as a sub several days a week.  He told the board he will present a draft of a updated policy on substitutes at the next board meeting.  But as the policy will not go into effect until July 1st, 2015, he urged the board members to carefully consider the update and said further tweaks may be needed.

In his report, Superintendent Dr. Bechtel outlined for the board the 9 step process that someone must go through to obtain a substitute teaching permit for Pocahontas County schools, including an interview with the superintendent, 10 hours on online instruction, 6 hours of classroom observation, 2 hours of classroom training through RESA IV and a complete background check.

The board approved the following miscellaneous actions:

  • A contract between the board and Wayne Madison to provide CPR/first aid training to staff at Green Bank elementary-middle school
  • A contract between the board and Lois Airgood to provide music instruction services to students at Hillsboro elementary school
  • A contract between the board and Rita Fortney to provide academic interventionist services at Green Bank elementary-middle school
  • Policy DK- WV state auditor’s purchasing card policy and procedures
  • For the Pocahontas County HS marching band to travel to the Atlantic Coast Championship in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania on the 1st and 2nd of November. The band is paying for the trip through fundraising
  • Letter of agreement between the board and the WV Dept of Education, Office of Child Nutrition for the Farm to School Americorps position in the county schools.  The board agrees to pay $3,250.00 for their portion of the position.   The position will renew for a 12 month term on November 1st, 2014

The board approved the following financial actions:

  • Vendor payment listing of $12,571.06
  • Vendor payment listing of $17,820.48
  • Vendor payment listing of $66,077.91
  • Approval of Faculty Senate Money allocated in the following amounts:

o   Green Bank Elem-Middle             $4929.66

o   Hillsboro Elem                                   $1624.96

o   Marlinton Elem                                 $4126.31

o   Marlinton Middle                             $2829.99

o   Pocahontas High School                $6025.08

  • Bank Reconciliation for August 2014
  • Extra Duty pay for the month of September
  • To pay the WV state auditor’s office $24,810.00 to conduct an audit of the financial records for the BOE for fiscal year 2014
  • A community participation grant award for the Pocahontas County archery team
  • To purchase two buses from Blue Bird Bus Sales of WV for a 53 passenger bus at $87,182.00 and a 77 passenger bus at $90,893.00

Personnel Agenda

Green Bank Elem-Middle

  • Resignation of Rita Fortney as Academic Interventionist – Ms. Fortney will work under a contract as opposed to a staff hire

Pocahontas County HS

  • Resignation of Richard F. McLaughlin as Assistant Band Director

Pocahontas County Schools

  • Employment of Natashia Carr as Substitute Cook (pending background clearance)
  • Employment of Pamela L. Bennett as Substitute Custodian (pending background clearance)
  • Employment of Rhonda Woodruff as Substitute Teacher’s Aide (pending background clearance)
  • Employment of Natashia Carr as Substitute Teacher’s Aide
  • Employment of Kimberly McLaughlin as Substitute Teacher
  • Employment of Davina R. Agee as School Social Worker (Extra Duty Assignment)
  • Employment of Charles A. Burley, Charles L. Garretson, and Anne Mitchell as Substitute Teacher (pending completion of online substitute teacher training and licensure by WV Dept of Education)

The next regular meeting of the Pocahontas County Board of Education will be Monday, October 27th at 6pm.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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