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Voters to elect 3 to Board of Education

Pam Feathers and Jeanne Dreisbach respond to questions

This is one of two articles from The Dominion Post editorial board virtual meeting with Preston County Board of Education candidates. The editorial board is made up of Publisher David Raese, Editor Pam Queen, Opinion Editor Jessica Nelson and Assistant to the Publisher Adam Raese.

Read the other article HERE.

KINGWOOD — Preston County voters will elect three people to the Preston County Board of Education in June.

On the ballot are two full terms and the unexpired term of former board Member Robert “Mac” McCrum.

 No more than one person can be elected from District 1 and one from District 2, and no more than two from District 3.

 Candidate Pam Feathers lives in District 3, Jeanne Dreisbach in District 1, and Peter Liga and Bruce Huggins are   from District 2.

Below are responses by Feathers and Dreisbach.

Pam Feathers

Feathers is seeking a second term on the board. She got involved with the board when her son had problems with math. Her two children are still the reasons she is involved with education, she said.

Feathers praised Preston County Schools’ response to the coronavirus.

 “Our administration is just phenomenal, and they hit the ground running,” Feathers said. “I was actually just literally blown away by the response.”

 The State Board of Education has even pointed to Preston as a role model in its response, she said.

Preston County has implemented a 1-1 initiative, which this fall will see every student receive either a laptop or iPad, depending on grade level. School staff communicated well with students and on getting out lessons, she said.

“My only question … is the amount of students who do not have internet access, and the communication is lost to so many kids out there,” Feathers said. “I’m interested to hear what our administration comes back with.”

Feathers said she believes charter schools lack structure and are more motivated by financial gain than student achievement.

One change in technology use in county schools Feathers would like to see would involve communication software. She said so many schools use different ones and she thinks using the same one would be easier for parents.

Feathers said she is a “stickler” on personal achievement vs. test scores. Data on personal achievement, gathered through technology, could provide a better idea of how students are doing, she said.

 Feathers said  she would support creating a Bible-based elective course.

  “In my opinion absolutely it should be an elective for students who choose to participate,” she said. It could be implemented by the board brining it up to school administration.

Typically, she is not a fan of consolidation.

“I’m not a big fan of consolidation,” she said. “That being said, I’m not a big fan of huge class sizes either.”

 If small schools are consolidated, it’s “a huge transition” and more travel for those students, Feathers said. “Consolidation going forward is not something that I am in favor of.”

 She noted that when the superintendent proposed closing two schools, she voted against it, in part because it gathered support for the school levy. Right now “consolidation is not on my radar.”

She would like more programs to support students who are facing challenges at home.

“The mental and physical well-being of our students in Preston County is a huge problem,” she said. She sees this when she coaches and through discussions with teachers and friends.

She spearheaded bringing Project Building Hope, an anti-bullying program, to Preston High, and she would like to see that expanded through all grade levels. The county’s homelessness coordinator also does a great job in providing assistance to families, she said, but it has to be a community response.

“I’ve taken the last four years very seriously,” Feathers said, and have gained a wealth of knowledge and experience about how the school board works.

Jeanne Dreisbach

Dreisbach is a retired educator, who taught and coached in Monongalia County Schools, was principal at Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy and assistant principal at West Preston. She entered the race because she wants to remain involved in education, Dreisbach said.

She talked about how Preston County Schools might improve when responding to a crisis such as COVID-19 and how she might have reacted had she been on the board.

 “This is going to be the question that every school system in the world is asking itself,” Dreisbach said. Her first priority is people need to observe social distancing, wear masks and “ramification for public schools are tremendous, from classroom configurations to transportation.”

She has many ideas, but schools will have to wait for guidance from the state, and responses may become county-to-county, she said.

One idea might be to have students return to school on alternating days or have morning and afternoon sessions. Transportation is a problem with all Preston’s road miles, she said. “Doubling up on runs would be very, very tricky.”

Dreisbach also praised Preston BOE’s quick response to the pandemic.

“We didn’t miss a beat really,” she said. Preston County teachers are ahead of other school systems with which she is familiar, such as Fairfax County, Va., and she is proud of them, Dreisbach said.

 “Going forward, if it happened again, I think we’d be pretty well prepared.”

Dreisbach said possible future school consolidation is an emotional issue, and she hates for everything to come down to money.

“But when you have schools that are bursting at the seams … and at the same time you have schools with less than 100 students and six kids per class,” she said, though she likes small, neighborhood schools,  decisions must address  overhead, utilities and staffing. “It’s just not cost effective.”

 Dreisbach does not see a need for charter schools in Preston County.

“In a county with as small a population as we have, I don’t really think that we have the need for charter schools,” Dreisbach said. Especially when Preston is losing students, charter schools are a luxury it can’t afford, she said.

She does favor Bible courses, saying the Bible is one of the greatest pieces of literature, and could be studied under language arts or social studies. “Religion is part of human culture.”

Dreisbach said students who are facing challenges at home are “one of the most heartbreaking situations” schools are dealing with nationally. The solution has to be a cooperative between social service, law enforcement and schools.

Teachers need to be made aware of the challenges students are facing, she said. For example, there may be a reason a student falls asleep in class each day.  School counselors also provide valuable services to students.

In the aftermath of COVID-19 closing schools, technology is good, but people are better.

“Nothing can replace a good teacher, no screen, no box,” Dreisbach said. Technology infrastructure is “erratic at best” for most Prestonians, she said. She hopes infrastructure in rural counties improves, because “today’s kids learn differently,” she said. “They’re engaged with electronics.”

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