Pocahontas County Board of Education Meets on June 16th with Marlinton Middle school Staff and Parents to discuss Topics of Concern

Tuesday night’s Special Board of Meeting was to clear the air between Marlinton Middle School Staff and the Board of Education held at the school and it started off on a positive note. Board President Emery Grimes expressed his regrets over remarks about the school by Board members at the May 26th Board meeting.

“At the board meeting where you all heard it on the radio and in the paper, board members get frustrated too” Grimes said. “And I think you was hearing frustration. We didn’t do that as professionally as we should have done. We get a lot of calls, and as Board members we didn’t handle that situation very well. We get so used to the paper being there and the Pocahontas Times being there that we forget about them being there, and if Suzanne (Stewart- of the Pocahontas Times) don’t remind us sometimes – you know she used to be on the Board with us- (laugh). So we didn’t handle that as professional as we should and for that I will apologize to the teachers and the staff at Marlinton Middle School.”

Dr. Bechtel, School Superintendent who is resigning as of June 30th, added his support for the Teachers and Staff at Marlinton Middle school.

“As a staff, they work as a team, and as I come up and watch and go into their classrooms, I can feel the esprit de corps within the building” Bechtel said. “I feel they are open to new learning.”

Marlinton Middle School Principal, Joe Riley who had been quite upset with the board at the last Board meeting, continued the trend of the meeting which seemed to be to resolve the differences between the Board and his school in a positive fashion. He directed his remarks directly to the Board members.

“Some of you have been up and been through the buildings and some classes, and I really appreciate it anytime someone comes up and wants’ to see that because it kind of showcases who we are and what we are doing” Riley says. “This meeting is like nothing any of us has ever seen, and what actually comes out of this meeting sets the standards and tone for next school year because we’re down on the end of the year now and we want to take a move forward positively.”

Riley went on to say that the School needs the support of the Board to be successful and he feels that although like any school, Marlinton Middle School is not perfect but is making a lot of positive progress. He read a letter which was placed in his mailbox from a sixth grade student who is upset with what has been said about the school and supports the school as a great place to learn.

Principal Riley then introduced a number of his teachers who presented impressive reports demonstrating that a lot of positive learning progress is happening at Marlinton Middle School, and showing that the school is a far cry from the way it was negatively described at the May 26th Board of Education meeting.

Board President Grime said that a lot of the complaints the Board receives about the School are over the issue of unequal punishment of students for the same violations. He directed the fairness question directly to Principal Riley.

Riley responded by explaining the difference between even and fair. He related a story told him by Mrs. Mitchell about having children jump for a chocolate bar on a platform 6 inches above the tallest child’s height. Of course the tallest child gets the bar, but while the height of the bar was even for all the kids, the contest was not fair because each child is different. He gave his philosophy for disciplining his students.

“About the fairness, anytime I make a decision on a kid of what I am going to do to discipline him, I’ve got to go home that night and know that I did the right thing” Riley says. “Every call that I make I feel that I did the right thing. There is always going to be complaints whenever you make a decision about kids and discipline and there always will be. You just got to trust that I am making the right decision.”

Riley says that his decisions are often made on information that no one else knows about but him, and sometimes he decides later that his decision was too harsh and he goes back and changes it.

The meeting then began to take on a more negative tone starting with remarks made by Sam Gibson against the Board, and particularly against Board President Grimes and Board member Ms. Jessica Hefner.

It started with Mr. Gibson asking Board President Grimes what his policy is about receiving parents complaints.

“What is your policy with the complaints?” asked Gibson. “Anybody can call you up at night and complain?”

Grimes responded

“We get a lot of calls from the same people, Sam” Grimes said. “You got to sift through em, the ones you think are legitimate and the ones that’s not. If you get the same calls about the same person over and over again. What has really has bothered me the most about this and why I thought some of this is legit is whenever these kids, the eighth grade, whenever they move on to high school I don’t get calls from them parents anymore and it starts back here with the sixth grade with the same complaints that I heard from the eighth grade parents.”

Sam Gibson was not satisfied and demanded changes.

“Due to your most recent irresponsible and slandering comments and remarks about the students, parents and staff of Marlinton Middle school, I request that Emery Grimes and Jessica Hefner be fired immediately” said Gibson. “Also note and add this complaint to the addenda of the next regularly scheduled Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting for follow-up, discussion and action.”

A number of the audience seemed to support Mr. Gibson’s position, while a large number did not. The meeting ended shortly after, the positive beginning somewhat marred by the negative ending.

Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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