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Board Expels Student

By Staff | Mar 17, 2010

Wetzel County Superintendent of Schools Bill Jones, left, presents Long Drain School teacher Ron Dennis with a Certificate of Meritorious Service for his 36 years with the county educational system.

A Magnolia High School student was expelled March 15 for allegedly being in possession of a controlled substance, a violation of state and county policies and the West Virginia Safe Schools Act.

In addition, an MHS custodian resigned after being suspended without pay for one-and-a-half days for allegedly violating state board policy and the county employee code of conduct.

Because the substance that the student allegedly possessed is defined as a “controlled substance,” he is not eligible for the alternative IPSA expulsion program. His expulsion period will expire at the beginning of the second semester in the 2010-2011 school year.

The board’s vote was unanimous in both decisions. The former employee’s case was referred to the department of health and human services. Both cases were referred to the Wetzel County Prosecuting Attorney’s office.

It was the first time this school year that an employee has been disciplined in this manner.

Long Drain School teacher Ron Dennis was awarded a Certificate of Meritorious Service for his 36 years with the county educational system by County Superintendent Bill Jones – Dennis’ first principal.

Jones noted that he tried to interest Dennis in the “administrative side of education,” but Dennis waved off the attempts. “He knew where his heart was and stayed where the action really is – the classroom,” Jones commented. He also noted that many programs Dennis has developed during his tenure are now models used around the state.

School System Treasurer Jeff Lancaster updated the board on the looming issue of other post-employment benefits (OPEB), which many predict will threaten the solvency of county school boards in the next two years.

The OPEB debt may be coupled with a reduction in financial assistance from the state legislature of as much as four percent, according to some estimates.

Responsibility of paying for the OPEB liability – mostly in the form of unused sick days converted to health insurance upon retirement – is at the center of a lawsuit brought against the state by 50 of the 55 county boards of education.

At present, that statewide debt is estimated at $6.7 billion. The boards of education want the state to assume that liability, which it created in the 1970s and left mostly unfunded since then.

Lancaster stated that using the current actuarial estimates, Wetzel County Schools would have to record liability of almost $2.7 million for Fiscal Year 2010 alone. That would put the school system in a deficit in two years.Under new national-standard accounting rules, states must begin to fund the debt and show the liability in its annual statements.

Last year, the board authorized $152,690 of its 2009-10 carryover funds to be applied toward the debt. Although no money changed hands, it reduced by that amount funds available for this year.

The OPEB liability would be a crushing burden on county boards of education and may make them prime targets for seizure by the state department of education. Since last year, the school systems of Preston, Grant, and Fayette counties have been taken over.

An angry Board President Mike Blair noted that carryover funds “are used to pay salaries for employees over the number funded by the legislature and for projects that students need, but cannot be otherwise funded.”

He also said the board’s first priority is to “control spending, which will remove insolvency as an excuse for seizing our schools.”

County Director of Elementary Curricula and Instruction Dee Myers told the board that the county will be represented by six students at the West Virginia Young Writers competition May 7 at the University of Charleston.

The students are: Kelci Lockhart, representing grades 1-2, from Paden City Elementary School, for her composition “The Day I Was Invisible”; Mackenzie Drake, also of PCES, representing the third and fourth grade, for her composition, “Fuzzy.”

In addition, Rachel Baker of Short Line School will represent grades 5-6 for her writing, “Chewed Up Life;” Aaruran Chandrasekhar of New Martinsville School will represent grades 7-8 for his composition “My First Wreck;” Sophia Adams of Valley High School for “Leaders of the Harem,” and Brenna Nolan, also of VHS, her entry, “Balance.” Adams represents the freshman and sophomore classes, while Nolan represents juniors and seniors.

Myers noted, “The 21st Century demands that students possess a wide range of writing skills for academic success.”

The board renewed its lease with the New Martinsville Parks and Recreation Commission for use of soccer and softball fields on Howard Jeffers Drive for $2,000. The lease expires March 15, 2011.

The board also granted approved a 7/8 grade cross country team for LDS at no cost to the board. Funding will be through the school’s athletic budget.