Brooke board tables new middle school contractor

WELLSBURG – The Brooke County Board of Education on Monday moved to table the selection of a contractor for the proposed new middle school so it may continue interviews with candidates for the position.

The board was slated to accept a recommendation for a construction manager for the proposed school, which would be built near Brooke High School and replace Follansbee and Wellsburg middle schools.

But Assistant Superintendent Marty Bartz said two of three contractors who submitted proposals have been asked back for second interviews.

The state School Building Authority, which has approved $30 million for the project, has recommended the board hire a firm to oversee the effort, ensuring it meets the architect’s specifications.

The board plans to put a bond issue on ballots in the Nov. 4 general election to raise the remainder of the project’s costs as well as an estimated $6 million for a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system for Brooke High School.

While specifics of the bond issue haven’t been announced, Superintendent Kathy Kidder-Wilkerson said it will follow the last payment of the school system’s current bond issue on June 30 and won’t exceed the amount currently paid by taxpayers.

“What they paid in June, they’ll pay in July,” she said.

Core samples were taken for both the area west of the high school used for parking by students and visitors to football games and the field east of the school used for band practice.

Asked if a specific site has been chosen, board members said one hasn’t. But Brian Ferguson, the board’s vice president, said the parking area is most likely because it offers more space.

Rising costs for utilities and maintenance and declining enrollment have been cited as reasons to replace the two existing middle schools.

The new middle school was recommended in a 10-year comprehensive educational facilities plan developed by McKinley and Associates and Planning Advocates with input from a committee of 43 educators and community members.

Also on Monday:

Kim Helms, a parent of a student involved in the high school’s theater program, asked the board about its future following the departure of Nathan Marshall, the English teacher who headed it in recent years.

She said there are about 25 students enrolled in the advanced theater performance course, including her daughter, who is interested in becoming a movie makeup artist.

Helms said she and other parents are willing to raise funds for future theatrical productions if needed.

Kidder-Wilkerson said any English teacher may instruct theater classes at the school and if there is one available and interest from students, they may continue.

As a member of a group of Brooke High School Band alumni, Helms also asked the board’s blessing in using the Brooke logo on T-shirts to be sold to raise funds for an event celebrating the school’s 50th anniversary in 2019 and other functions and assist with costs for current band members.

Helms said it costs about $900 for each band uniform, and the group would like to offset that cost for parents if possible.

Board President Jim Piccirillo offered encouragement to the alumni group, suggesting it obtain a tax identification number for bookkeeping purposes.

Don Layburn of the school district’s volunteer athletic complex committee, suggested the two middle schools’ marching bands and athletes be invited to welcome new Brooke football coach Mac MacLean at an opening ceremony before the first football game.

He also asked the board to contribute to a proposed dinner for major sponsors of projects pursued by the committee.

Board members voiced support for the welcome ceremony but advised him the board can’t contribute to the dinner for legal reasons but the sponsors could be recognized in other ways, such as the scoreboard’s video screen.

The board authorized vocational instructor Ralph Smith and retired teacher Erin Ankrum to undergo training in Charleston for a pilot program aimed at improving the math skills of students in career technical courses.

Career Technical Director Joe Starcher said about three substitute teachers have been recruited to serve as math tutors to the students and assist them in preparing for the WorkKeys examination. The exam tests students’ ability in reading and math and knowledge of their chosen field, and successful completion results in certification through the National Center for Construction Education and Research.

Board members Brian Ferguson, Jim Lazear and Frank Ujcich voted in favor of the training, board member Chad Haught wasn’t present and Piccirillo voted against it.

He said he wasn’t opposed to the program but felt hiring of the teachers for the pilot program should have come before the board.

Piccirillo was asked to comment on the recent approval of raises for school board staff and principals.

At its June 30 meeting, the board approved raises of $3,132 for the assistant superintendent; $2,871 for central office administrators and Brooke High School’s head principal; $2,610 for the high school’s assistant principals and middle school head principals; $2,349 for the middle schools’ assistant principals; and $1,044 for the primary school principals.

The amounts total $12,006 in the school district’s $28.9 million budget.

Piccirillo said the number of hours required of the administrators has increased in recent years, and they haven’t received raises in some time. He added he hopes the board can reward other staff for their hard work in the future.

The board observed a moment of silence for two recently deceased employees: substitute teacher Carolyn Darling and custodian Don Eaton Jr.