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Preston BOE to cut positions

KINGWOOD — The Preston County School system could be looking at cuts in service and professional personnel, according to Superintendent of Schools Brad Martin.

He said that would be 21 professional positions and 26 service positions lost next year.

Martin said the cuts would be due to financial losses, including a loss of students, the loss of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) money, the levy-based positions for next year and the uncertainty of the next bond passing. The decrease in enrollment compared to last year’s is 138,725 students.

The problem of unexcused absences and the expulsion process was discussed. Laura Shaffer, director of attendance and student support services, said every school in the county is focused on supporting students — especially when it comes to attendance, whether through communities in schools or the student support team members.

She said if there are three unexcused absences in a row, a letter is sent to the parents; five in a row and a second letter is sent; 10 in a row and it is suggested a meeting be held at the school with the parents.

“If the unexcused absences continue to rise we step in,” she said. “Four more are being added to the 50 in court from the last two school years. The court process is slow,” Shaffer said.

Once the student is referred to the superintendent, an expulsion plan is created for students with a violent or weapons related offense or for a student who is already on an expulsion division plan.

Next, parents/guardians are contacted by the attendance director and a meeting is set up. The attendance director reviews the entire process with the student and family. The next step is a hearing before the Preston County Board of Education in which the board votes to approve the recommendation or not approve it and expel. Next, the student follows the plan given whether it is an expulsion diversion or an expulsion. If there are special circumstances or concerns, then its a return to the board for guidance. The attendance director then checks in on the student and checks with administration the student support team, teachers and family to ensure the student is achieving academically to ascertain current and/or future placement. Finally, the attendance director meets with the family and student by phone or in person on or before the end date of the plan to formulate a plan to move forward.

Board members voted to place the excess levy on the May 14, 2024, ballot. Martin said due to the expanded tax base, the rate to taxpayers will go down.

Board members recognized The Preston High School girls’ cross-country team coached by Paul Martin and assisted by Matt Bright, Paul Sines and Brian Mill far a successful season this year. The team captured its second consecutive Big 10 Conference championship and qualified and finished fourth overall at the West Virginia State Cross Country Championship at Cabell Midland High School in late October. Team members are Hallie Simmons, Ella White, Delilah Myers, Autumn Myers, Ava Simmons, Sophia Saurino, Leighton Biermann and Hanna Liston. Individually Hallie Simmons finished in 14th place, earning second-team all-state honors Boys team member Damian Rumer also qualified for the State Cross County Championship finishing in 19th place overall and also earned second-team all-state honors.

PHS’s Samantha Funk along with seven other West Virginia educators were recently recognized during the National FFA Conference in Indianapolis, and received their Honorary American Degree in a special ceremony.

Also recognized was the Preston County Schools Transportation Department. Out of 55 counties PCS transportation department mechanics came in fourth place on the state issued proficiency scorecard.

Transportation Director Steve Plum believes this is the first time that PCS has received this high of an honor for transportation. According to Plum, the county scored 105 out of 115 points placing them in fourth place overall in the state. Those competing were Richard Wilson, Robert Smith, Stacey Hauser and Dana Sanders, and transportation executive secretary Cindy Foley

A handout given during the meeting said if a student who doesn’t have an IEP or a 504 plan and is not in the SAT process commits a level four offense the student is referred to the superintendent.