Pocahontas Schools Struggle with Staff and Substitute Teacher Shortages

At the December 21st Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting, School Superintendent Terrence Beam talked about teacher and substitute teacher shortages in the schools and how these shortages cause stress for the already over-worked teachers. He said this has been an ongoing problem for the past 2 years, and commended the present staff for everything they do to maintain the educational mission of the schools. Beam said he has been trying to get the word out to all the teachers that if they have to give up their lunch time or other personal time to cover a shortage of a teacher in a class, they can put in to be paid for that time and it will be approved. He also said he has told the principals that they too can help out and cover teacher shortages in classrooms.

Beam was asked if the new two-year degree program for substitute teachers is working out. He said there have been 10 applications received for that program, however two have already dropped out of the program, The program involves submitting an application and copies of educational transcripts, taking a “West Virginia Learns” course on-line and get a background check. It can take 4-6 weeks to complete this process.

Board Member Sam Gibson said that since we are having such a hard time getting new teachers and substitutes, we should concentrate on keeping the ones we have happy so they stay.

Beam also said they schools will be passing out Purple Star Awards at each of the schools, and families with veterans are encourage to attend these and be recognized.

Beam asked the board members if they still want to return the review of the COVID reentry plan to the January 11th meeting agenda. Most members agreed to do this for that meeting. It had been decided in October to leave that item off the agenda until the January 11th meeting.

Beam also offered his apologies to the board for his failure to convince the WV School Building Authority (SBA) to approve the Pocahontas County School’s Needs Grant application. All of the board members assured him that this was not his fault and he did everything possible but the SBA just did not approve it

Beam said the SBA is using a new formula to decide which school systems will receive Needs Grants which includes the number of students who would benefit from a grant. He said that formula will make it very difficult for this county to get future grants because we are maintaining five schools which each serve small student populations. He said the SBA wants to serve a large number of students with each approved grant project. In-other-words, they want to get the biggest bang for their bucks!

Student Representative Kyle Wayne thanked the board for allowing him to serve this past semester. He also thanked the teachers at PCHS for keeping a closer eye on the school bathrooms which has reduced the number of fights that occur in those. He also thanked the schools for ensuring there were police officers at PCHS while the Tic Toc “School shooting challenge” was occurring on social media. That challenge encouraged students nationwide to engage in school shootings.

Tracey Valach updated the board on the great success of the Adventure Pocahontas Program, and Beam said that Valach will be presenting this program to the state Superintendent’s Conference this summer.

Sherry Radcliff presented a summary of the school system’s financial situation.

Additionally. the board approved a new lease agreement with Xerox to maintain copiers and approved a 3-year Student Teaching letter of agreement with Western Governors University.

During the Matters of the Board discussions, Sam Gibson said a lot of teachers are concerned with student discipline, complaining that when parents complain to the principals about how their child was disciplined by a teacher, the principals are siding with the parents. Gibson also suggested we should scale down the size of our grant applications to the SBA.

The board approved the recommended personnel actions, which you can find on the official meeting agenda at this link: 12-21-21 Official BOE Agenda PDF

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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