School board travel expense questioned for absent board member
Morgan County School Board member Pat Springer questioned approving travel and lodging to a West Virginia School Board Association conference for fellow board member Eric Kidwell at last week’s board meeting.
Springer wondered if anyone had talked to Kidwell about his willingness to continue serving on the school board since he had missed most of this year’s meetings. Kidwell was not present at the meeting.
No one on the board said they had talked with him about the absences, which included budget and levy rate hearings.
He attended both February school board meetings, but has missed all other school board meetings since January.
Kidwell could not be reached for comment regarding his absences, which some officials thought to be workrelated.
Board president David Ambrose told the board that there was nothing in statute that required a school board member to attend a specified number of meetings annually.
Springer asked if Kidwell had indicated that he wanted to attend the training. Executive Secretary Rachael Sarti indicated that he had. The board unanimously approved the training trip for Ambrose and Kidwell in June.
The conference involves training regarding new local control responsibilities that county boards will be assuming under the education act that the governor signed, Ambrose said.
Ambrose said he had no authority as board president regarding a member’s absen-ces and said it was a voter issue.
“The responsibility is with citizens to inquire about absences,” Ambrose noted.
The required number of training sessions that board members must attend are tracked and reported on the school system’s report card, Ambrose said. West Virginia Code specifies that school board members must have seven clock hours of training annually.
Step 7 funds, textbooks
The school board approved $119,171 in Step 7 monies for personnel at their May 7 meeting.
The money will fund an alternative education teacher and a math remedial specialist at Warm Springs Middle School and also a small portion of the county technology systems specialist position, said School Treasurer Nancy White.
The board also adopted social studies textbooks for the years 2013 through 2019. Companies that were selected were: Pearson for kindergarten through fifth grade students, Holt McDougal for middle school, Clairmont Press for West Virginia Studies, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for ninth through 12th grade.
Assistant Superintendent Joan Willard said that numbers of textbooks needed was still being decided along with whether they will be online formats or physical textbooks. Online formats were available for high school and middle school.
Berkeley Springs High School social studies teacher Ron Bittinger presented extensive research to the board on the benefits of online social studies lessons for students instead of textbooks at their April 9 meeting.
Bittinger favored online lessons and a laptop or computer for every student. High school social studies teacher Kate Stotler and two students also preferred online lessons.
Technology Director Tom Shade said they were getting closer, but were still far from the state’s goal of a 1:1 computer to student ratio. Ambrose commended Bittinger on his research and said they would study it.
The school board approved a trip by Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) state officers and their advisor to the National Leadership conference in Nashville, Tenn. from July 7 to July 11.
They also okayed a trip by Paw Paw High School students and their advisor to the National Technology Student Association conference in Orlando, Fla. from July 27 to August 2. The funding source for the leadership and technology conferences is vocational monies.
A May 28 trip by 25 Berkeley Springs High School students in teacher Ron Bittinger’s economics class to Hershey Park was also approved. The class is funding the trip itself.
A May 30 trip by Greenwood Elementary students to Fort McHenry and the Maryland Science Center was okayed. The trip will be funded by the school PTA, a school allocation and by parents.
Superintendent David Banks reported that recent legislation required all school administrators to spend at least three days a year substitute teaching in classrooms.
Assistant Superintendent Joan Willard said that administrators currently spent a lot of time in the classroom.
Banks expressed concern about the cost involved in retrofitting existing buses for propane to take advantage of new fuel reimbursements for alternative fuels. Buses that use biodiesel will lose their subsidies in the coming years.
Ambrose suggested that local school improvement council (LSIC) members discuss ways that their extensive presentation material could be shared with the public besides just as board meetings.
Ambrose suggested they consider videotaping their presentations to post on the county school website.
Videotaping is being planned for next year’s LSIC presentations, Banks said. Several school presentations are now posted on the school system’s website.
The board okayed payment of $2,164 for their membership in the West Virginia School Board Association.
Ambrose felt their membership in the association was very productive and provided a voice in the Legislature for county boards. Board member John Rowland said they provided excellent new board member training last year for him and Pat Springer.
A request by Doodlebugs Learning Center to install an outdoor awning at Widmyer Elementary was approved by the building and grounds committee.
The committee also okayed the planting of 50 trees on the Berkeley Springs High School campus along Warm Springs Run to help reduce soil erosion and flash flooding.