The message was clear at the Barbour County Board of Education meeting - more teachers and support staff are needed at every school in the county. To help alleviate some of the shortages, Superintendent Dr. Ben Guido suggested the board members explore the option of proposing a limited excess levy to taxpayers.
"The needs are great, the needs are many," Guido said. "Our schools are understaffed and the ones who are there are overworked. If we really want to be serious about increasing student achievement and increasing the high school graduation rate and decreasing the dropout rate, we need to adequately staff the schools. We're not asking for any of the frills. We're not asking for anything extra. We are just asking to basically adequately staff our schools. So, it's going to be my recommendation to this board that we try to pass at least a limited excess levy just to adequately staff the schools. I think if we can do that we will see an increase in student achievement and an increase in employee moral."
During the meeting on Monday, principals from each school appeared before the board and spoke about their school's specific needs. Nearly every principal said their school needs more teachers and guidance counselors, followed by building repairs, technology upgrades and more desks for students.
Moke Post discusses the need for more teachers in Barbour County
Those speaking included: Philip Barbour High School Principal Lisa Heinbaugh, Philippi Middle School Principal David Neff, Belington Middle School Principal Moke Post, Kasson Middle/Elementary School Principal Michelle Barb, Philippi Elementary School Principal Connie Mundy, Belington Elementary School Principal Cindy Vance, Volga Century and Junior Elementary Principal Jennifer Swift and Mount Vernon Elementary School Principal Tammy Tucker.
"We need more staff," Swift said. "We can deal with facilities. Yeah, we need roofs and HVAC's (repaired), but we can't do anything without people in there teaching."
Vance said the student-to-teacher ratio at Belington Elementary is 25-to-1. Because of the large class sizes, she said teachers often spend more time managing the classroom rather than providing instruction.
TEACHERS NEEDED — Addressing the Barbour County Board of Education regarding the schools’ needs are from left Career and Technology Center Director Rebecca Nesbitt, Faculty Senate President Brian Moats and Philip Barbour High School Principal Lisa Heinbaugh. Members of the board include Doward Matlick, Bob Wilkins, Joanne McConnell, David Everson, David Strait and Dr. Ben Guido. (CU and The Inter-Mountain/Ben Simmons) © The Inter-Mountain, all rights reserved.
"Our teaching needs are very real," Vance said. "That's one of the reasons we are not making AYP. It's not because we have poor teaching, it's because we do not have enough staff to adequately teach our children and provide what the state is mandating that we do."
Board of Education President David Strait said he understands residents are experiencing difficult economic times, but he hopes voters will be receptive to the idea of a levy. He estimated the school system could use about 60 more employees including teachers, guidance counselors, custodians and cooks, among other positions.
"The greatest need is for teachers, but I'm also hearing a lot of need for nurses and guidance counselors, which tells me there are social issues," Strait said. "That creates a double-edged sword that we are going to have to deal with and we're going to need help, not only from the state, but locally."
Strait said Barbour County has never had a levy, but now might be the time for voters to consider passing one.
"We're at the point where something is going to have to give," Strait said. "We're going to have to make a move, somehow some way, to improve not only staffing, but the facilities. Our buildings are getting old. I know our needs are great and our tax payers can't bear the brunt of what we need, so we're going to ask for a little bit of help and see how much they are willing to help."
According to Guido, the plan is to discuss the levy proposal at Local School Improvement Council meetings at each school and invite the community to participate. During the forums, he said the needs for each individual school would be explained to the public.
"We would compile a list of priorities and try to come up with a levy call to explain exactly what we like to put at each school and exactly how much it will cost," Guido said. "We would like to put a levy on the ballot by the end of the year, so we can start this July first for the next fiscal year."
Copyright The Inter-Mountain, all rights reserved.