By Brandi Underwood
(Beckley) Register-Herald Reporter
The Fayette County Board of Education met in regular session Monday to discuss items ranging from student accomplishments to salary changes for school principals.
Beginning the meeting, several students from Collins Middle School’s marketing class were recognized by the board for their accomplishments at a recent state competition.
Collins Middle School is currently the only middle school participating in the statewide marketing program, which was launched in August.
“They created — inside their classroom — a company called ‘Collins Marketing Services,’” instructor Debbie Bush said. “We were charged with a mission: What could we do to make Collins Middle School stand out in the community?”
The class made it their mission to promote their school inside and out, Bush said, meaning both inside the school and out in the community.
Through activities like a door decorating competition and an anti-bullying campaign, the students learned skills like management, promotion and teamwork.
In March, the class was invited to the State Career Development Conference in Charleston, at which they earned a first place trophy and individual medals.
Students honored included Coy Burdette, Altrinasia Jackson, Owen Jarvis, Aiden Jones, Alec Love, Rebekkah Morgan, Nathan Yurkovich and Casey Burnette.
As part of the superintendent’s report, Fayette County School Superintendent Keith Butcher discussed the governor’s recent funding veto for Meadow Bridge High School.
“The governor did line-item veto the money that was asked to be given to Fayette County for Meadow Bridge High School, however, the West Virginia Department of Education is providing a grant in the amount of $50,000 for us to use this year,” Butcher said. “It doesn’t come with any kind of a classification or recognition. It’s just $50,000 to provide some help in that area.”
No further comments were made on how to funds will be used.
Butcher also mentioned an upcoming review of the Fayette County Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan 2010-2020.
“We are also in the process of selecting a registered educational facilities planner,” Butcher said.
Butcher said that the county will be paying the fees associated with contracting a registered educational facilities planner.
“For me, that was an important cost. We want to have a person who’s certified and registered in that area to help guide the review of that plan, the data that’s in the plan and the process,” Butcher said.
The board voted unanimously to appoint board member Leon Ivey as the board representative to serve on the selection committee for contracting with a registered educational facilities planner.
Falling under board review Monday was the first reading of a policy change involving the employment of Fayette County’s principals and assistant principals.
Butcher explained to the board the need to change the current policy pertaining to principal pay to align with West Virginia state code.
“For several months I’ve been reviewing the way principals have been paid and also the amount of their pay,” Butcher said.
“In policy, first of all, we have to correct the way that they’re paid. It is not in alignment with state code,” Butcher said.
Butcher said that not providing principals with adequate pay makes it difficult to recruit new administrators as well as to retain the ones they have.
“At the same time, if we make the change in the payment of our principals, we need to adjust the pay of our directors so that they are commensurate and in line with each other,” Butcher said.
Butcher said that the total change in the policy will cost the county just more than $60,000, which Butcher said includes the $1,000 raise provided to educators by the legislature, the $300 provided by the levy and their “annual increment.”
Associate Superintendent Serena Starcher presented the board with information on Fayette County principal pay rankings in comparison with other state counties.
“Fayette County schools ranks 13th in the state in terms of enrollment and budget,” Starcher said. “When Mr. Butcher and I first began looking at our salaries and where our administrators, particularly our principals ranked, we found that we were not close to that mark of 13.”
Starcher said that Fayette County principals rank 38th in the state in terms of salary.
“We were able to look at principal salaries in conjunction with how many days are in their contract,” Starcher said.
Starcher displayed a chart that showed Fayette County’s elementary and middle school principals ranking in the bottom tier of West Virginia in terms of the number of days in their contracts, which includes a 210-day contract.
Fayette County high school principals rank in the third-from-last tier among statewide principal contracts, which includes a 220-day contract.
Starcher and Butcher proposed to increase the number of principal contract days in order to situate themselves closer to the median number of principal contract days across the state.
The proposed revision would boost elementary principal contracts from 210 days to 217, middle school principal contracts from 210 to 220 and high school principal contracts from 220 to 230.
Even with the proposed additions to contract days, Fayette County principals would still rank below the state average of principal contract days.
“We’re no where close to where we need to be; this is a very small step,” Starcher said. “It’s one that we can afford to make at this point in time.”
Starcher clarified that the change would not be a pay raise, but their salaries would increase as they would be working more days during the year.