After being questioned about the how the Lewis County Board of Education receives its applications for a replacement superintendant, board members offered their explanations.
“We trust him enough to receive them,” Lewis County Board of Education member Tori Zielinski said about Board President Paul Derico.
Derico is the one receiving the applications for the superintendent position, following the resignation of Superintendant Steve Casto, who is returning to retirement.
This answer came as a response to questions asked by BOE candidate Mike Holden.
Holden inquired how many applications have been received, if any are related to board members, and how that will be handled. Derico stated this is the first time since 1985 the BOE has had to hire a superintendent, and this is the only hire the BOE has control over. Casto was appointed to his position.
Derico said five applications have been received, with two of those by email, and three through the postal service. He added he has kept other board members informed of everyone who has applied with a name and a small biography. None of the applicants are related to any board members at this time.
Derico said he will ask Casto to make copies of applications for all board members when they begin the vetting process. After review, the board will conduct interviews of possible candidates.
Casto is not part of any communication with board members regarding the applications,
When Holden asked why the applications were not being sent to the board office, Derico asked who would open them.
“It was the decision of the board that no one else know before the board knows, but if it goes through the board office everyone knows,” Board member Debbie Clem said.
Out of the five applicants, none work in Lewis County. Clem added that the board felt it would be best to keep the applications within board members.
Friday is the last day they will be accepting applications. Board member Sylvia McNeish also came to the defense of Derico and the board. She said Derico will abstain if any relatives apply.
“I think we’ve made a wise decision,” McNeish said.
Zielinski echoed McNeish’s remarks, adding that because an application is received does not necessarily guarantee an interview.
Board member Robert Mitchell said this was the route they chose to take.
“We had the opportunity to
legally control the process,” he said.
Clem said board members report to the West Virginia Ethics Commission each year, and
answer questions about themselves and their peers.
“I promise you I will bail immediately [if relatives apply]. If this should happen I will leave the room,” Derico concluded.
In other news, a parent, Robert Holman addressed the board regarding R-rated movies being shown in class at Robert L. Bland Middle School. He said an R-rated movie was shown in his 13-year-old daughter’s class, depicting violent scenes, including a man’s throat being slit.
Holman said his daughter objected to watching the movie, and was told to wait in the hallway while her peers watched the movie.
He questioned the decision to show the movie with school administration, and he said he was told that only 15 minutes of the movie was shown to students.
Holman also asked what the county policy was regarding movies, but said he could not get that information. He was, however, given the school policy, which states that permission must be given for PG-13 rated movies and above.
Holman said he has not received permission slips for his children to view R-rated movies in class, and only learned of it after the fact. The board did adopt a Lewis County Schools policy for classroom movie use.
The form must be filled out and submitted by classroom teachers one week prior to showing a movie, and it must be signed off on by the principal. This is effective immediately.
Parent Tammie Lattea questioned why Honors courses in English, social studies, and science are not offered to incoming freshmen at Lewis County High School. She stated that she believed her daughter, a straight-A student, would qualify, along with other RLBMS eighth grade students. She was speaking for herself and on behalf of other parents.
LCHS Principal Derek Lambert said in correspondence to the BOE that the high school felt teacher recommendations from RLBMS did not necessitate those courses. He also said the school lacks flexibility to offer courses due to offering dual credit,
advanced placement, and honors classes to upperclassmen.
Lattea said she is of the opinion that colleges prefer students who take honors courses all four years of high school, instead of the last two years or not at all.
Holman also spoke up, as his children are affected by this, as well. He asked the board to take these matters into consideration.
Ann Zirkle, a parent, said she, too, was also dismayed about honors English not being offered at LCHS.
“If we want to compete, we need this,” Zirkle said.
The board does not make curriculum decisions, Derico said, but they have heard their concerns and asked them to speak with administration about how to properly address the issue.
A dental health grant was awarded to Lewis County schools in the amount of $9,600. This grant will provide dental services to students for dental care, according to supervisor Chris Derico.
Treasurer Monika Weldon said at the end of February, the account balance stood at $2.9 million. She said expenditures were down, citing that efforts to cut costs were beginning to show.
Expenditures are $1.9 million less than they were last year at this time.
“We’re going to get off the Watch List,” Paul Derico said.
The WV Department of Education prepares a Watch List of school districts that are not or have not been performing well financially. Lewis County schools have been on the watch list since 2015.
Facilities Director Melissa Riley said they are still working on the school zone lighted signs for Leading Creek Elementary School. Riley said they are waiting for the ground to firm up to set electric poles.
The roof at RLBMS was completed, and the roof at the board office will be completed when crews have dry weather to finish the project. The doors at LCHS have been installed. Lambert said they’re very nice.
Lambert’s resignation was accepted by board members. He will be taking a position with the West Virginia Department of Education.
“Mr. Lambert has done an exceptional job. He’s added AP and dual credit courses. You’ve done a fantastic job. You’ll be missed,” McNeish said.
Mitchell also thanked Lambert for his service. The administration makes their own recommendation to the board regarding who will fill the position.
The application and interview process will be followed.
Upcoming board meetings are scheduled for April 17, at RLBMS, beginning at 6 p.m., and April 18, at the board office. A special meeting will be held on April 18.