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Gilmer County BOE meeting at Normantown Elm.

Monday, March 24 Normantown Elementary School played host to the Gilmer County Board of Education's regular monthly meeting in a way that was educational and informative.

After President William K. Simmons called the meeting to order at 6 p.m., he turned the LSIC part of the program over to Faye Chambers, Principal of Normantown Elementary. She then proceeded to run the 50 or so citizens and students who attended the meeting through a whirlwind tour of the school's achievements over the last year by having the honored students stand up and speak on their projects.

First, the smallest kids stood up in front of the class and signed (ASL) the Pledge of Allegiance for the crowd. Then, Holt Thomas stood and gave his Science Fair winning speech on soil quality. Later, Holt also read his award winning creative writing astronaut story. After that, the fourth grade sang the Preamble to the Constitution from the old "School House Rock" Saturday morning shows.

MacKenzie White read her winning creative writing story about a pearl and a dragon and the third graders took the audience on a virtual field trip through the Mid-Ohio Valley, Mountaineer Country, the Northern Panhandle, and the Hatfields and McCoy Country.

Finally, principal Chambers presented a slideshow of events and awards that the school had received over the last year. This presentation was met with much praise by the BOE members present who were very happy with the school's strong work ethic and ability to excel.

Board member Phyllis Starkey then spoke up to give a glowing report on the latest Calhoun-Gilmer Career Center meeting (held on Feb. 25, 2014). Additionally, Dr. Simmons spoke briefly on the RESA VII meeting held in Doddridge County on 3.11.14. He informed the audience about a company called eSchool Solutions that promises to get the department better prices on equipment they need and they have a program to provide a “Substitute Teacher Service” to counties.

To close out Board Reports, board members Carl Armour, Misty Pritt, and Dr. Simmons described the recent Feb. 21-22 WVSBA meeting, proclaiming it the best learning they had received at a board event in quite a while. The event concerned upcoming changes on learning standards and evaluations examining all facets of schooling, including school security.

Dr. Armour called it a "very impressive meeting, very worthwhile." He continued by stating and restating that "the Curriculum is the most important" component in the educational system and that more useful changes are coming soon. For example, under the WV Accountability Index, schools will start to receive an ÔA-F' grade, just like their students. He concluded by saying that "we can't do better because we're poor is no longer an excuse" and is not going to be acceptable again.

As they individually wrapped up, they all affirmed that the meeting was “worth it'” in the amount of knowledge gained.

In New Business, the board approved the minutes of the Feb., 17, 2014 meeting; approved budget supplements and transfers; approved accounts payable; found there were no new policies to approve; approved student transfers and school volunteers; approved trip requests (Mrs. Starkey noted that one trip had already taken place); approved a final draft of the Gilmer County High School Achievement Goal read by Dr. Armour; made an amendment to the 2013-2014 calendar; and approved a facility use request.

Mr. Ron Blankenship, schools superintendent, presented a list of personnel he had prepared for RIFs in order to stay within budget for the year which was received by the BOE members.

During Board Concerns, Dr. Armour spoke of an issue that Starkey had touched on earlier involving paying coaches “scouting fees”. Mrs. Starkey had commented that we don't pay teachers to go to other schools and recruit good students for education, so why should we pay to go recruit athletes? It was agreed by the board that this issue should be added to the agenda of the next meeting for further discussion.

Dr. Simmons spoke quickly and enthusiastically about his group visiting several newly constructed schools in WV. He marveled at what you can do if you have lots of money. However, he's picked up several new ideas which may yet make it into future plans.

Finally, Board member Tom Ratliff spoke on creating (actually re-creating) a Gilmer County Textbook Committee to review the new textbooks which are coming into the county. Dr. Armour read from the book of the new BOE guidelines and there is, indeed, a section requiring such a committee in each county. This topic also will be brought up for discussion at a later meeting.

Then, the Board heard from Delegations from the community. Concerned citizen Normal Hurley spoke up with some concerns about the new multi-county school being built and its projected enrollment. Dr. Simmons clarified the school will be built with a projected enrollment of 400 students (not 400 per county). Also she lamented that the school closing meetings for Normantown, Sand Fork, and Troy had already been held and that she wishes there was more that could be done about supporting our elementary schools.

The 6 p.m. meeting was adjourned at 8:25 p.m.