Board of Education Learns of Threat to Federal Forest Funds
At its meeting on Monday the Board of Education learned of a possible loss of money for the budget for the 2007-08 school year.
School Superintendent Patrick Law reported that the recently ended session of Congress had failed to reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools and Community Act.ﾠ This law has been providing money to school districts that include U. S. Forest Service owned land within their boundaries.ﾠ Prior to the passage of the Secure Schools Act in 2000, school systems received 25 percent of the income the national forestsﾠ earned from the sale of resources, mainly timber.ﾠﾠ The amount of money coming to school districts depended upon the value of the sales that occurred and varied from year-to-year. The result was that school systems usually did not know how much resource sales money would be available when they were making their budgets.ﾠ
The purpose of the Secure Schools Act was to provide a fixed amount of money each year.ﾠﾠ Pocahontas County has received $453,443 each year due to the Secure Schools Act.ﾠ
Dr. Law said he had received information from the National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition that its last minute efforts to get an extension of the Secure Schools Act included in the 2007 Continuing Resolution Act failed.ﾠ NFCSC members worked all last week in an effortﾠ to achieve an extension of the law.ﾠ Although momentum was building in support of the extension by Thursday, the decision was made by House leaders that day not to include the act in a tax package. Brief hopes for the passage of a stand-alone bill on Friday died late that day and the Congress adjourned without extending the Secure Schools Act.
The report from NFCSC urged school board members in impacted school districts to immediately contact their members of Congress about the importance of the renewal of this law being one of the first actions of the new Congress when it convenes in January.ﾠ
(As part of the Secure Schools Act, the County Commission receives $100,000 annually for forestry related projects.ﾠ The Commission has been using their money to support the Pocahontas Woods project.)
The meeting agenda included an item to approve the relocation of the cafeteria at Hillsboro into the main building as the project to submit to the state School Building Authority for funding under the Major Improvement Grant program. However, Board members again expressed interest in providing air conditioning in the four school buildings that are now without it. (Only the high school has air conditioning at this time.)
Board President Kenneth Vance said he would oppose any air conditioning project that did not include all four of the schools.ﾠ At an earlier meeting the Board received estimates on the cost of central air conditioning systems, with only Hillsboro and Marlinton Elementary coming in under the $500,000 maximum for an improvement grant.ﾠ
Board member Jesse Groseclose renewed his suggestion that the classrooms at the schools be air conditioned by the use of individual room units, rather than using central systems.ﾠ In this way the costs might be reduced enough to allow for an air conditioning project for the four schools under the $500,000 limit.
Associate Superintendent Alice Irvine said she would check with the SBA and the state Fire Marshalﾒs office to see if this approach to air conditioning would be permitted.
The Board tabled its decision on whether to submit the Hillsboro cafeteria or air conditioning project to the SBA until its next meeting.ﾠ The application for funds has to be submitted in mid-January.
Wilma Dale reported that the Observatory is seeking an Improving Teacher Quality Grant to offer a program in science and technology training for teachers in the county.
Under the personnel agenda,ﾠ approval was given for the employment of Janice Carter as a substitute secretary/accountant.
In other matters the Board approved:
* the trip to Spain in April by 27 Spanish students and 17 adults
* Virginia Sawyer as a volunteer for the after-school program at Marlinton Elementary
* Janet Cole as a volunteer at Green Bank
* Kristen Bennett, Christopher Burns, Steven McCoy, and Andrew McNabb as volunteer coaches for the PCHS girls basketball team.
Also approved were policies for Tuition Reimbursement for course work required to meet standards for staff whose salaries are paid by federal Title I funds and Parent Involvement in the Title I programs.
Board member Ruth Taylor reported on her attendance at a meeting of the School Board Associationﾒs legislative committee.ﾠ The purpose of the meeting was to set the groupﾒs goals for the upcoming session of the state Legislature.ﾠ She said the top priority will be a pay increase for all teachers.ﾠ Other goals are the funding of certain professional positions, such as counselors and nurses, outside of the school aide formula and changes in the grievance procedures.
Mr. Groseclose asked about the wind damage to the roof at Marlinton Elementary School. Ms. Irvine said temporary repairs have been made and estimates are being sought for a permanent repair.ﾠ She said, however, there are not many companies in the state capable of working on the buildingﾒs standing seam roof.
Tom VanReenen asked if a meeting has been scheduled to discuss the complaints about the automated substitute call system that were expressed by the staff at the high school in last weekﾒs Board meeting. Dr. Law said it had not yet, but he had sent the list of complaints to the person in the RESA office in Summersville who oversees the automated systems.ﾠ He noted again that one of the major problems is the small number of substitutes available in the county.
The next regular Board meeting will be on December 18.
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