WV Education Association’s Local Representative Challenges Pocahontas Board of Education
Kathy White, as the local teacher’s representative of the WV Education Association – which is affiliated with the National Education Association (NEA) – challenged the Pocahontas County Board of Education at their November meeting. White asked the Board to show leadership by standing up to the State about the 1.3 million dollars which State auditors discovered had been wrongfully withheld from the Pocahontas County Schools over the past 7 years. Here is some of what White had to say.
“The more we talk about it, the more I talk to other counties about it, when I talk to other teachers, it’s like people are willing to just roll over and let them do this” said White. “Now – they say it’s a miscalculation, they don’t have the money, but I am going to tell you right now. If I do my taxes and I miscalculate my taxes, the IRS is not going to let me roll over and say ‘oh, I made a mistake’. So, here’s the thing – what do we have to do?”
And clearly White expects the Board of Education to step up about this.
“And I keep hearing this term ‘we got to go through the chain of command’, so I am coming to you with some concerns that we have because I want to work towards solutions and I think my organization wants to work towards solutions, and not just the organization- the County as a whole” White said. “So what do we have to do? Are we going to lay down? Are we going to take this? Or are we going to go start knocking on people’s doors? Because we can’t take any more cuts to this County. Our County is cut to the bone, and when they take 1.3 million dollars away from us – that affects our kids.”
Board President Grimes said that at the WV School Board meeting the prior Saturday, they were told that the auditor had made a mistake and Pocahontas County had not been shorted the 1.3 million Dollars. Grimes expressed skepticism about that. He said he and the Board continue to have serious concerns about this and would like to see some of the larger counties who were also allegedly shorted – such as Kanawha County – join in the fight to recover the money. Grimes said that the money we have been shorted is about the amount Pocahontas County should have gotten under the Rural County Sparcity Law. Under that law, even though Pocahontas County has 1072 children in its schools, the State pays the county as if they had 1400 children. A few very rural counties get this extra subsidy.
Grimes has spoken with Attorney Bob Martin about the issue and Martin says he has spoken to three of the best law firms in the state and they all would be willing to take up the case to recover the 1.3 million dollars on a contingency basis. Other Board members expressed concerns that if the County Schools were to fight the state over this, the State might retaliate. Attorney Martin said he did not think the State would make a legal mistake like that.
White made it clear that the West Virginia Education Association would back up the Board if they do decide to take legal or other actions – perhaps legislative- to recover the money.
White also discussed concerns about lack of funding for Substitute Teachers, future funding cuts and staff Retention.
In other actions, the Board approved payroll, vender and credit card payments. They also approved several grants, the Monthly Financial Report, budget adjustments and the Consolidated Educational Facilities Plan.
They gave their approval for the New Hope Lutheran Church to sponsor the “Blessings in a Backpack” program so send food home with needy students to use on weekends and holidays.
They approved a field trip to New York City in June for Marlinton Elementary 5th graders, which will be paid for by fundraising.
They approved a Memorandum of Understanding with Ross Innovative Employment to support the “Connections” program at the High School whereby Special Needs students can get on job training in local businesses.
They approved Tonya Warder (girls) and Derek Taylor (boys) as volunteer basketball coaches at Green Bank Elementary/Middle School and approved the employment of Allen Taylor (girls) as Head Basketball Coach and Lori Warner (boys) Head Basketball Coach at Green Bank Elementary/Middle School.
They approved the employment of David Lee Moore Jr. as boy’s Head Basketball Coach at Marlinton Middle School.