Pocahontas County School Superintendent on the SBA Funding Offer (PART2)
In Part 1 of this story, Terrence Beam, Interim Superintendent of the Pocahontas County Schools talked about how the Schools received a Reserve Grant from the WV SBA which is contingent on the County passing a school levy in 2016, an SBA requirement.
In this 2nd and last installment of the story, Mr. Beam talks more about the project; about the conditions of the school buildings which require renovation; and how he intends to be honest in his approach to levy voters.
First he talks about the high school renovations. Mr. Beam.
“There are a lot of concerns out there, and I understand them, that 7th and 8th graders being put in the same facility as the high school” said Beam. “But you know if you really think about the difference in the age between the 7th graders and the 12th graders, it’s actually less than what we have now between kindergartners and 8th graders. But I do understand parents of 7th and 8th grade students being a little bit leery about their children being at the high school. But our Architects will be instructed to come up with a design that separates those 7th and 8th graders from the 9th through 12th graders as much as humanly possible.”
Mr. Beam talks more about this, including some positive things about having 7th through 12th graders on one campus.
“As I said before, if I’m supposed to sit here and say that 7th and 8th graders would never come in contact with the rest of the student population, that’s just not accurate, that’s not being honest with you” Beam said. “We really want to try to promote CTE (Career Technical Education) courses for our middle school kids if this move is made. And this would give those kids opportunities to get in CTE courses earlier than they do now. And also we have some really bright kids that need to be accelerated, so we might be able to get them in some advanced courses and get some of their high school courses done even a little bit early if possible while they’re 7th and 8th graders. We’ve had students before that would go to the high school for part of the day to take a high school class. Well, this way they would be on the same campus and be able to do that.”
Mr. Beam explains just how bad the school buildings are.
“I showed you a few minutes ago in one of our offices – and I know that people aren’t really concerned about the Board Offices – but it’s just typical of what our buildings are starting to look like, half of the (ceiling) panels in one room are down because of the water leak, we got 3 or 4 garbage cans in their catching water.” Beam said. “But that’s not unusual; I mean that’s pretty typical of what we have to deal with. And the expenses that we have at these schools are those that are not real visible. You walk in our schools, they are really clean and they look nice and all that, and that’s wonderful, but our expense is in the walls and above the ceilings and beneath the ground – that’s things that you can’t see.
Mr. Beams recognizes it is important for people to know up front how much a school levy will cost them.
“One of the most important issues I want to tell people, as I told our Treasurer that her most important job in this whole process is sit down with any citizen who walks in our building and wants to know what it is going to cost them in taxes to pay for this levy, I want them to know. I want them to be able to walk in and say ‘this is Mr. and Mrs. Smith, they live on Beaver Creek, here’s their property, how much is it going to cost. And be able to tell them. And I think if we are able to do that, then people will see their actual expense and then they can make up their own minds whether or not they can afford to do that. I don’t think you’re going to see expenses that are way out there in left field somewhere – just doubling people’s taxes- I don’t think you are going to see anything like that. I think it’s going to surprise people that it’s so low – for most homeowners- as it’s going to be.”
Mr. Beam wants to delay the levy vote until November rather than May.
We had considered running the Levy in May and I will express to my board that I really think we might be better off waiting until November” said Beam. “We do actually have more people voting in November, but the reason I want to wait is I don’t want the community feel like we’re trying to rush this thing through. I want it to be a open as possible. That’s 11 months from now. We have that long to put this all together and make it work. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work! But at least we gave it the best shot, I think it has the best opportunity. And even as important to me is getting people to understand we are being honest with them and truthful about the condition of our buildings and the cost it’s going to be to them. And Merry Christmas to everybody, hope you have a safe and happy new year.”