Pocahontas School Superintendent Part 2 – Public Concerns
In Part 1 of our June 13th meeting with Pocahontas County School Superintendent Terrance Beam we learned that 98% of the Board of Education Budget is spent on mostly State set salaries, leaving the Board only 2 percent to actually run the school system. In this portion of the interview, Mr. Beam addresses citizen concerns and suspicions about the way the school system is being run. First up were concerns many citizens have about why the school buildings need renovating.
“People ask questions” said Beam. “’Why have we not kept our buildings in better shape than we have; now it’s got to this point where they need to be dramatically renovated ’. Well, you don’t put a new roof on your house if it is not leaking. Now some people have the money to do those proactive things, but school systems don’t have extra money laying around where we can try and fix things before they tear up. If something tears up, we fix it. And as the buildings get older –and they are all about the same age- they all start tearing up at the same time and then we run into a crisis situation. That’s kind of where we are with the buildings.”
Some people believe the need to renovate the schools is exaggerated or even that renovations are not needed at all.
“We were talking at a different time about the community doesn’t feel like the buildings are as bad as we say they are” said Beam. “We have had independent contractors come in and take a look, and they actually found more problems than we were even aware of. And these are people that don’t have any reason to beat the drums for themselves because they are not interested in doing any work in our County –they don’t work here. Our Custodians do such a good job of keeping our buildings clean and our playgrounds nice and neat that in outward appearance, the buildings look fine. That’s not where our problems are. Our problems are in the ceilings and in the walls and under the floor and under the ground –things that you can’t see. Those are the things that are deteriorating and cost the most money to fix. I just want to make sure that everybody understands that those are real issues. Those are not just things that we are making up.”
Mr. Beam is aware that some people think the Schools recklessly spend money, especially in supplemental pay to some employees.
“We were talking about at a different time about concerns about supplements that’s paid to employees” said Beam. “But what people don’t understand is that supplement, as pricy as it may appear to people, is so much cheaper than hiring additional people and paying full salary. If you can get someone to do a job paying $5000.00 extra to do that job, that’s a lot cheaper than hiring someone for $75,000 a year to do that job. So we’ve taken on that load to do those things in order to try to save money.”
Mr. Beam also wanted to address community concerns about eventually moving 7th and 8th grade students to the high school. Mr. Beam said that there are 26 different schools in West Virginia that have either a 5, 6, or 7 through 12th grade configuration with very little if any problems. He said if this happens, the architects will be instructed that building renovations must be designed to keep 7th and 8th graders separated from high school students as much as possible. Beam also added that he understands these concerns on a personal level.
“I understand” Beam said. “I’ve got a granddaughter who means absolutely the world to me. She’s in 4th grade right now. If she lived in Pocahontas County, she would be one of the very first students to be directly affected by that, because we’re talking 3 or 4 years down the road before this would occur. And when I think about these things I think about how I would react if Brianna was going to school here. And again I have to say we are going to make every effort to protect those kids. I’ve been in K-12 schools. Those kids are in the same hallways, the same cafeteria, they share the same gym –not at the same time obviously- but it works out a lot better than people think that it will.
Mr. Beam says that in his next monthly report on Allegheny Mountain Radio he will share the results of an employee survey – the good and the bad.