New state law mandates meeting of region’s five boards of education
ROMNEY — School boards from the eight easternmost counties in West Virginia will meet jointly here Saturday, but nobody is sure what will come out of the first-ever session.
[cleeng_content id="385091030" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]“I think it’s kind of a wait-and-see approach,” said David Banks, the Morgan County superintendent. “I like to see other people try things first.”
The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the multipurpose room of the West Virginia Secondary School for the Deaf. It will bring together the boards from Hampshire, Pendleton, Hardy, Grant, Mineral, Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties. Collectively the eight counties and the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind form RESA 8.
The legislative reform bill enacted in the spring mandated that the county boards within each RESA meet together to examine ways they can collectively reduce costs and improve education.
Part of the impetus for the mandate to meet and consider ways to collaborate was the construction of a joint elementary school by Gilmer and Lewis counties to replace a smaller school in each county. That led to brief speculation at the end of a Hampshire County school board meeting about the possibility of establishing joint schools with Mineral or Hardy counties.
The Hampshire board and Superintendent Marianna Leone have batted around thoughts at a couple of meetings in preparation for Saturday.
“We should have some ideas,” she said.
In contrast, Mineral County Superintendent Rob Woy said his board hasn’t even broached the subject.
“They understand that the bill requires them to meet,” Woy said. “Beyond that I don’t really know that they know what the expectations of the meeting are going to be.”
Woy said Howard O’Cull, the executive director of the West Virginia School Boards Association, will be in attendance. O’Cull has been at some of the joint meetings in the other RESAs, Woy said.
Banks said Dr. William Queen, president of the Berkeley County school board and of the RESA 8 board, would preside at the session.
Queen did not respond to an email request for comment. Jefferson County Superintendent Susan Wall didn’t return two calls asking for comment.
“The meeting hasn’t occurred yet so she doesn’t have anything to report,” said her secretary, Janet Harner, following the second call.
Each school board will have to be called into session separately as the meeting begins.
Some small proposals are floating around.
Hampshire board President Gerald Mathias suggested the counties could collectively retain legal counsel, trimming that expense.
Other staff sharing ideas have been floated.
Leone said two or three counties could share a driver’s education instructor. Banks said counties might be able to share directors for attendance or nutrition. Both are required by the state, but neither is usually a full-time job in counties Hampshire’s size or smaller.
The counties have worked out cooperation in the past.
Leone reminded her board that RESA 8 put together a joint milk bid last fall when the dairy that had the contract pulled out of every county except Berkeley.
And Woy pointed to the Tri-County Technical Center in Petersburg, which provides career and vocational courses for Grant, Hardy and Pendleton counties.
Talk of consolidated schools is unlikely in the wake of the Lewis-Gilmer attempt, Banks said.
“There are disagreements about who’s in charge and what that means,” he said. “From what I can see from afar they probably should have sat down and ironed out everything that can be ironed out.”