Pocahontas Board of Education Recognizes Forestry Team, Discusses Forest Payments

Following a formal recognition of the Pocahontas County High School Forestry Team, the county’s Board of Education on Monday evening also discussed National Forest payments to the school system.

The board approved a new employee retirement savings account, bus transportation for the high school’s Spanish Club to Charleston, West Virginia Department of Education grants, and personnel updates. Following the meeting, Superintendent Dr. Donald Bechtel discussed the recent loss of the school levy vote in the election.

The Pocahontas County High School Forestry team won second place at the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Conference held Oct. 29-31 in Louisville, Kentucky. On Monday evening, Adam Irvine, Matt Rado, and Stephen Simmons attended the board meeting with high school Forestry Teacher, Scott Garber.

The competition in Louisville included a broad array of tests including a general knowledge exam, tree identification, tool identification, forest insects and disorder identification, saw timber cruising, which assess board feet and volume of lumber, and a team activity.

“Gentlemen, job well done. We’re very proud of you and the way you represented Pocahontas County,” said Emery Grimes, Board president.

Terrence Beam, director of federal programs, said one of the biggest questions facing the board in coming months will be the amount of payments from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the National Forest lands in the county.

“We need to make the decision about whether or not we’re going to assume that we’ll get our forestry money to fund our extra positions we have or if we’re going to plan in the event that that money does not come through,” Beam said.

Sherry Radcliffe, director of finance for the Board, said in years past the county has received more than $400,000 from the program, which was established to compensate counties with National Forest land for the lack of property taxes received from the land. This year, she has budgeted $150,000 for that fund, but the county may not find out the allocation until April.

Pat Jack, a representative from the West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office, presented to the Board a “West Virginia Retirement Plus” plan, which is similar to a 401(k) but does not institute a penalty if an employee draws from the fund prior to 59 years of age.

“What differs between this and a 401(k), it does not have a 59-and-a-half clause, which means with a 401(k) if you withdrawal that money before 59-and-a-half then you’re charged a 10% penalty in regular income tax, and this you just have to have separation of service, so if your employees leave Pocahontas County schools they can draw down that money, and it’s not a 10% penalty,” Jack said.

Following the meeting, Dr. Bechtel discussed the recent loss of the school levy vote in the election. He said there are some substantial capital investments that are needed in the coming years — including new roofs, security systems, air conditioning, sewage repairs, and electrical work for technology in the classrooms – none of which will be cheap. The board has other options for funding including a bond issue and West Virginia School Building Authority (SBA) funds. For example, the SBA recently paid for Hillsboro School’s new cafeteria.

“I look at our 1,083 kids and our teachers and staff and all us have to work together to really provide what I consider optimal facilities,” Bechtel said. “It’s our kids’ future and you want to provide for them. We had some hot days in August and September; as far as enhancements with technology and our electricity within classrooms, it’s limited,” Bechtel said.

In other matters, the board approved bus transportation for the high school Spanish Club to travel to Charleston’s Clay Center in December, a list of grant funds from the state Department of Education, and personnel matters.

Pocahontas County 2014- 2015 Grant Funds administered by the West Virginia Department of Education:
• $77,007 to employ and support Technology Systems Specialist position
• $23,056 Career and Technical Education Federal Perkins grant award
• $18,919 Career and Technical Education secondary formula grant
• $10,000 to be used for ProStart program at Pocahontas County High School
• $5,629 Career and Technical Education equipment replacement
• $5,000 for Community Participation Project for renovations to Pocahontas County High School (grant duration through 6/30/2016)
• $2,500 for electronic resources, WIN Career Readiness Courseware
• $2,493 for Career and Technical Education travel funds

Pocahontas County Professional and Service Personnel updates approved during Board meeting:
• Jennifer Chestnut, Speech/Language Pathologist at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, received National Board Certification, supplement of $2,500
• Matthew M. Barkely, Assistant Basketball Coach (boys) at Green Bank Elementary – Middle School, supplement of $1,000
• Cheryl N. Meadows, Teacher of Multi-Subjects at Marlinton Elementary School, effective Jan. 5 for the remainder of the 2015-2015 school year
• Resignation of Mali S. Minter, Teacher of Spanish at Pocahontas County High School, effective Jan. 9, 2015
• Abolishment of position for Secretary II/Accountant II for Pocahontas County Schools effective June 30, 2015 due to lack of funding through the Innovation Zone Dropout Prevention Grant
• Stacy Landis, Substitute Teacher, effective Nov. 12 for the remainder of the 2014-2015 school year
• Dottie Chestnut, Substitute Custodian, effective Nov. 12 for the remainder of the 2014-2015 school year
• Unpaid medical leave for JoAutumn N. Goldizen, Teacher of Preschool Special Needs at Marlinton Elementary School, effective Dec. 1 through Dec. 12, 2014
• Creation of a $500 incentive bonus for early notice of retirement by service personnel and professional personnel

Story By

Kelly Taber

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