Pocahontas BOE holds public forum in Hillsboro

Hillsboro, W.Va. – The Pocahontas Board of Education held a public forum at Hillsboro Elementary School Monday evening. Three issues predominated the discussion: quantity and quality of school lunches; equity of art and music instruction and climate control in the classrooms.

Food service supervisor Lisa Dennison said childhood obesity and related health problems had compelled the state to dictate school menus. Dennison urged parents to educate themselves on proper childhood nutrition.

Board president Emery Grimes says school lunches are insufficient.

“I ate lunch, last Wednesday, at Marlinton Middle School,” he said. “And really, you could eat it but, by two o’clock, I was starved to death. So, we’ve got to do something about it, portion-wise or something. We can look at the lady over food service and say, ‘this is terrible,’ but she can only do what she’s told to do by the State of West Virginia. The State of West Virginia’s doing what they’re told by the federal government, at this point.”

Board member Janet McNeel says the federal government is responsible.

“What I’d like to say is – there’s a lot of negative out there in the community and the social media and I want you to understand – this is not a local problem, it is a federal problem. The federals – they’re telling us how to feed our children and I don’t really feel that Washington ought to be telling us how we feed our children in Pocahontas County.”

Grimes says school lunches did not cause the obesity problem.

“You know, it wasn’t the school lunches that caused obesity,” he said. “It’s TV and X-box and sitting, instead of riding bicycles, as we did because we didn’t have cars when we was 15 or 16.”

McNeel urges the public to contact their federal representatives.

“I contacted both Senator Rockefeller and Senator Manchin and that’s what you need to do,” she said. “You need to go to that level because that’s the level that it’s coming from.”

Grimes expresses concern about the loss of fifth graders at Hillsboro Elementary School.

“I believe this school could be the gem of Pocahontas County,” he said. “You know, it’s a small school. You’ve got small classroom numbers and that’s the one thing that was in my mind – why would you want to send your child to Marlinton Middle School and have 18 in your class when you can go to the fifth grade down here and have eight?”

Several parents said the lack of music and art instruction at Hillsboro causes them to send their children to Marlinton Elementary.

McNeel says equity of instruction is needed.

“When I was here teaching, we had art every day – every single day,” she said. “So, it seems to me we’re going kind of backwards in that we’re not fair or equitable in the county. And if there’s anything I’m for, it’s being fair and equitable.”

Schools superintendant C.C. Lester said funding is a challenge in a county with no school levy. Lester says the Board does well with the money that it has.

“The fact of the matter – with no bond or no levy – how well this county is off,” he said. “I’ve been across that mountain, where we had bonds or levies or things like that, and I think we do, in this county, before I got here and continuing right now – we’re doing a whole lot with what we have. We really are.”

Parents, board employees and board members discussed the possibility of a school levy.

Board member Hannah Sizemore expresses support for a small school levy.

“Right now, if we don’t get some extra money in the pot, we’re going to have to, in effect, take things away elsewhere,” she said. “Share people – not that that’s a bad idea. But if we could find a way to get a small levy, then we could bring Hillsboro up, instead of trying to mirror everybody else out and I think that would be a good way to sell it.”

Grimes wonders if county residents could afford a new tax.

“I think you got to look at the other side of that, though,” he said. “Can these people on these set incomes afford a levy?” he said. “Can they afford to pay any more money out? You’re talking what – 60 percent of the population of Pocahontas County is retired on set incomes.”

Lester and the board agreed to investigate art and music instruction for Hillsboro Elementary School.

Parents complained that the temperature in Hillsboro classrooms often exceeds 90 degrees.

Hillsboro principal Ricky Sharp said he and Lester were obtaining quotes for an air conditioning system for the school and that they had received one quote for $6,000 per room.

The board is planning two more public meetings during the school year but times and locations have not been decided.

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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