County BOE makes change to graduation
CHARLES TOWN – After public comment and much debate, the Jefferson County Board of Education voted Monday evening to change the 2018 graduation date for both Washington and Jefferson high schools from May 19 to May 20. The change came after initial comments from Jefferson High’s senior class president, Bobby Gianniny, spoke against the May 19 date that falls the same day as state track competition.
Gianniny, a track team member who has gone to the state competition each of his previous years at Jefferson, indicated that it is not a choice he would like to make to attend the meet or to attend graduation. He would like to do both, he said.
Board members debated the issue at great length trying to determine a date that would not conflict with either track or baseball that also has regional and state competitions around the end of May.
Superintendent Dr. Bondy Shay Gibson told board members that a survey that had been sent to parents at some point in the past year indicated that the desire was to not have graduation on Memorial Day weekend, hence the settlement on May 19. She also indicated that there had never been a graduation on a Sunday, but was corrected in that by former superintendent Susan Wall who was in the audience.
“We had graduation both on a Sunday and on Memorial Day weekend in the past,” Wall said.
Board member Laurie Ogden then made the motion to change the date of graduation from Saturday, May 19 to Sunday, May 20.
“This is the only day that all students have the opportunity to be there,” Ogden told her fellow board members.
The dates for athletic events are set five years prior to the dates, so that schools are aware of when those competitions will be held. In 2017, the graduation ceremonies for both Jefferson County high schools were held the same day as the state track championships causing several seniors to have to decide to compete or to participate in graduation.
“Don’t you think that since we have the knowledge we should change it,” Ogden implored.
Kathy Skinner, who also serves on the board, was not if favor of voting for the change Monday evening. Rather, she thought parents should be polled about the dates.
“I don’t like changing without notice to the public or asking for input,” Skinner said. She also offered a possible solution of seniors at the track competition skyping into graduation.
“It would be an electronic band-aid for this year,” she said.
President Scott Sudduth voiced that he believed the decision needed to be made and Gary Kable voiced that he felt “damned if I do and damned if I don’t” with the vote to change. However, when the vote came, Skinner was the only one of the four voting members to vote against the change to May 20. Mark Osbourn was absent from the meeting.
In addition to the change of date for graduation, the vote also included the addition of two additional faculty senate days to the calendar which will fall as early release days for students. Staff development days were also approved per changes to state code allowing these additional days to be built into the school calendar. All changes should now be reflected on the county’s website.
In other news at the meeting, the board approved the hire of Joyce White as the county’s new Director of Transportation.
White, a former teacher in Jefferson County, also served as assistant principal at Warm Springs Intermediate School in Morgan County and principal there as well. In 2012, she moved into the position of Transportation Director for Morgan County and served in addition as their safety director and maintenance director.
White began her position at Jefferson County on Tuesday. The position had previously been empty for the past 13 months, said Assistant Superintendent Ralph Dinges.
Mariland D. Lee, retiree of the Jefferson County Schools, also spoke at the board meeting regarding the retiree benefit plan that has been a topic of much discussion.
Lee acknowledged that Gibson had been open to meeting with retirees and allowing them to be part of the process in proposed changed to the benefit plans; however, Lee said that there were some points on which the superintendent and the retirees did not agree.
“We strongly feel that one feature of the superintendent’s plan is not retiree friendly,” Lee said. “That feature is dismissal on the second time a retiree misses a payment in the same plan year. In reality, dismissing on the second time is really only allowing one time to make an error.”
She went on to outline that retirees often face many medical issues for themselves and their families, including the possibility of hospice issues and that often business matters may be secondary.
“It is also conceivable that holidays, flu season, or even the mail service could cause an issue,” Lee said.
Three strikes is rather the rule in society, Lee explained, and she said that a two strike rule does not indicate a reciprocal working relationship.
“In fact,” she said, “it appears as a means of phasing out retirees from these benefits.”
Lee also called into question the proposal that retirees will be charged an administrative fee in the future.
“We would like to make it a matter of public record that this is not acceptable for all of the reasons we have mentioned in previous board meetings,” Lee said. “Jefferson County did issue these benefits to retirees as a measure of good faith and principle. To erode that historical premise would be detrimental to the efforts of past individuals who worked so hard to better relationships in our county.”
The board took no action on the issue of retiree benefits at Monday’s meeting.