Pocahontas County Prosecutor, Magistrate Discuss Truancy Issues With Board of Education
Marlinton, WV – At the July 11th meeting of the Pocahontas County Board of Education, Attendance Director Susan Borror complained that truancy cases have increased and blamed the county’s court system for not giving the problem sufficient attention. At the board meeting on July 25th, Prosecuting Attorney Donna Meadows-Price and Magistrate Janet Kershner-Vanover had their chance to speak. Price says she feels compelled to respond to comments made by Borror.
“You can blame whoever and whatever you want to, and it doesn’t fix the problem” says Price, “if she wants to blame me and it makes her feel better, okay. But the end game is these students aren’t being served. What’s happening or not happening in the court system, before that and during that what are we doing to intervene, what are we doing to help these kids? They’re obviously at risk, at need families; how are we helping them?”
School Superintendent CC Lester says Circuit Court Judge James Rowe has suggested using a program that’s proven successful in Greenbrier County. Price says the county is open to that idea, but has yet to sit down with Judge Rowe to work out the details. She explains how the issue is usually dealt with in Pocahontas.
“Here what’s happening is that a petition or complaint against a parent is being filed” she says. “Well that works on a certain age group, but when you’re thirteen or fourteen or older, most parents aren’t going to be able to physically take their child to school. There comes a transition between a parent problem and a child problem, and that needs to be recognized I think too; does it need to be a juvenile petition where the kid’s in the hot seat, verses the parent, or does it need to be the parent.”
Price says it can take up to 50 days from the initial petition to a court hearing to address a truancy case. There’s also the problem of scheduling hearing time with the two circuit court judges, whose time in Pocahontas is much more limited than in Greenbrier. She says Judge Joseph Pomponio has been spending more time in Pocahontas because of the Drug Court program, so she’s hopeful that something can be worked out with the truancy case load as well. Magistrate Janet Kershner-Vanover says the problem goes beyond just truancy issues.
“I see a disproportionate amount of young people who cannot read or write” she says, “and a lot of them have graduated. How do you get through school for 12 years, and you can’t sign your name in cursive; you print your name. And you cannot read a form; it has to be read to you.”
“If these kids can’t read or write, they’re lost; they get into high school, they’re your trouble makers because they can’t read that textbook.”
She also says the problem can’t be laid at the feet of just one person or institution.
“By the time they get to us, these kids have already lost too much time” she says. “If you have someone who’s missed 30 days of school, we’ve got problems. They’re bored because they can’t keep up with class, they don’t want to admit how many problems they have.”
“If they’ve got a medical problem, the nurse should be involved, we’re not seeing that. Ms. Borror should be involved in some of these meetings, and she has not been. We’ve subpoenaed Principals who didn’t show up for court.”
Prosecutor Price says they hope to meet with Judge Rowe soon. She also praised Lester for taking a proactive role in addressing the issue.
In other business, the board approved the Option Pathways program recommended by the West Virginia Dept of Education. It’s a program providing for alternative paths to getting a high school diploma or GED.
The personnel agenda was approved as follows:
Resignation of Peggy Carpenter, due to retirement, as Cook II at Greenbank Elementary Middle School
Employment of the following people –
Kelli Hickson as half time teacher of multi subjects at Hillsboro Elementary
Michael Knisely as Athletic Seasonal Coordinator for PCHS football- this includes responsibility for the concession stand during football games
Jennifer McCarty as half time itinerant teacher of special education/autism for the county – assignment is Hillsboro Elementary
Carolyn Pennington and Denise Elliott as teachers for the extended year program – both assigned to Marlinton Middle for the first two weeks of August
A requested transfer for Diane Delfino from Director of Special Education/Food Services to itinerant teacher of Special Education/Autism – assignment is Marlinton Elementary
And a change in classification for Tina Sharp from itinerant special education classroom aide/bus aide to itinerant special education classroom aide/bus aide/paraprofessional for the county.