Pocahontas County Interim School Superintendent Emphasizes Transparency
Terrence C. Beam began his duties as the Interim Pocahontas County School Superintendent on July 1st. Allegheny Mountain Radio talked with Mr. Beam on the day before he officially assumed his new duties to learn a little more about him and about his approach to improving our schools.
Mr. Beam became a teacher in Nicholas County Schools shortly after graduating from West Virginia Tech in 1973. He became a Principal when he was still in his early 20’s. Beam retired from Nicholas County Schools in 2007 after being a Principal there for 34 years. In 2009 he was recruited to be the temporary Principal at Hillsboro Elementary for what was supposed to be a two week period just to get the school year started; however those” two weeks” became just the beginning of his affiliation with the Pocahontas Schools. Eventually, Mr. Beam was selected to a Central Office position as Director of Federal Programs.
“I still continue to do that job” Beam says. “But along the way I’ve absorbed Personnel director and Assistant Superintendent and now, I guess, starting tomorrow, Superintendent of Schools and real happy to be here.”
Superintendent Beam intends to take a fresh approach to gaining the public’s support and trust, which he sees as essential to improving the schools’ success.
“The very first thing that I’m going to try to do is open the lines of communication” Beam says. “As I mentioned to you yesterday, I like to do about a monthly spot on the radio just to inform people about things going on in our schools and try to address controversial issues that maybe out there – and I’m not afraid to do that. But I think we need to have some transparency. And I think we need to let the citizens of Pocahontas County know that we are earnestly trying to provide the best education for their kids we can.”
Beam knows earning the public’s trust will take effort.
“Along the way there’s going to be bumps in the road” Beam says. “We got obstacles to get around and mountains to cross, but I think if we all work together I think that’s going to be something we can accomplish. But to do that, you HAVE to have trust; you have to have cooperation; and you have to be on the same page.”
Beam realizes that this will take a team effort between his office and the Board of Education. He talks about having addressed the issue with the Board recently.
“I said ‘why did you all get on the Board to start with?’” Beam says. “’When you ran for the position you either saw something in the school system you didn’t like or you saw something you thought we should do.’ So this month we are actually having some goal setting sessions which will be published and advertised and communicated to Pocahontas County as to what the Board is trying to accomplish. Then when they determine what those goals are, then entirely it’s my responsibility to pass that on down to the schools, the principals, the directors. This is what the Board wants us to accomplish and this is how we’re going to try and do it.”
Superintendent Beam sees one of the issues both he and the Board need to address is citizens bypassing the schools and taking complaints directly to the Board Members or to the Superintendent.
When citizens complain to him, Mr. Beam intends to always ask if they had talked to their Principal first. When he was a Principal, Mr. Beam felt that he was being undermined if he did not first get a chance to address a complaint before the complaint was taken over his head to the Superintendent or to a Board of Education member.
“If you deal with the Principal, then by all means that’s why we’re here” Beam says. “That’s not why the Board members are there, that’s why we’re here. Come to us, and then if we don’t satisfy you, then by all means, you have every right to (complain to the Board).”
When parents first complain to the top without letting the schools have a chance to solve the problem, it only creates disharmony.
“I don’t think that anyone in any line of work likes to have someone make a complaint about them over their head when they don’t even know what the complaint is” Beam says. “I think that’s just being fair to people. There is a chain of command but the people need to know what their roles are. The Board Members need to know their roles; I need to know mine; our Directors; our Principals; our Teachers. Everybody has a role to fill. And I think that if everybody just does their job, and concentrates on doing their job the best they can, things will turn around and be a lot more positive.”
When asked about his relationship with the Teacher’s Unions, Mr. Beam says that he has always believed in closely working with and communicating with Union representatives and as a result he has resolved many potential grievances to everyone’s benefit and satisfaction before they ever become formal grievances.
In short, Mr. Beams approach seems to be to openly communicate with people to solve problems.
“I really relish the opportunity” says Beam. “I know that there’s difficult times ahead, but I think I am capable of working with people and trying to solve them, if they give me an opportunity to do that.”