Pocahontas Board of Education expected to consider academic cuts at Monday’s meeting  

By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV

Several weeks ago, students at Pocahontas County High School walked out of their classrooms to protest proposed academic cuts. Specifically, the students believe several math and science positions are being considered for elimination. 

Initially, the students were suspended by school officials for their actions, but those suspensions were downgraded to unexcused absences a few days later. 

During that time, school officials said little about what academic cuts were actually on the table. Reached for comment earlier this week and asked whether there was any clarity on the nature or extent or proposed academic cuts, Pocahontas Board of Education Member Sam Gibson told RealWV, “We still do not know the amount of shortfall, or the reason for the RIF (reduction in force). We don’t know how many personnel.”

Local School Improvement Council 

Members of the Local School Improvement Council (LSIC) at Pocahontas County High School asked the Board of Education for a meeting to discuss the potential cuts. While their request was not granted, they were allowed to make a presentation to the board early last week. 

The LSIC questions what loss of funding necessitated the cuts. “We do not lose funding based on enrollment,” their presentation reads.  “We are funded for 1400 students.”

Pocahontas County Schools has less than 1400 students, but they are enrolled at that level due to state code which sets an enrollment funding floor at 1400 students. 

They also question staffing patterns. “While we are losing teachers, we are gaining non-teaching positions,” they said. According to their information, the county has experienced a decline of 2.3% in teaching positions since 2018, an increase of 12.2% of non-professional positions, and an increase of 21.6% of professional staff (non-teaching) positions.

The LSIC says they spoke to 150 stakeholders in the community about the proposed cuts in an attempt to clarify misinformation. Of those 150, they report that 90% oppose the academic cuts.

The community speaks

Also at Monday night’s meeting, numerous citizens spoke out against the proposed cuts, including Justin Dilley, who teaches science at Pocahontas County High School. “I request that we really think hard about this one,” he told the board. “This one is really going to impact a lot of kids. Not every kid is going to go to college. Not every kid is going to a trade school. Not every kid is going to the workforce. You have to have a balanced high school with options for every kid (including science).”

Resident Tonya Pollack also spoke and said, “Pocahontas County is a community that really helps each other. Through storms and tragedies and education. There’s been a lot of tension. Find a path forward before any RIFs or program cuts are made. Find a way to delay the decision and let us the community find a way to help.”

Former Board member Emery Grimes (who is also currently running for election), asked current board members, “Why are we doing $1 million in renovations (at the high school) if we don’t have teachers there? There’s something wrong with that.”  He also questioned why budget meetings had not been held with board and community members. 

‘Don’t go there’

Last week’s board agenda did not include any personnel decisions related to academic cuts. However, during an agenda item called “Matters of the Board,” Sam Gibson raised the topic. 

“This RIF thing,” he said. 

Board President Sue Hollandsworth interjected, “Don’t go there.”

“Can’t talk about it?” he responded. “Next week? Ok.” 

The board meets Monday night, April 22, at 6pm in Buckeye. The proposed academic cuts are expected to be addressed. 

Stay tuned to RealWV for updates.


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