Guest column: Board president clarifies levy issues

First and most importantly, I would like to thank the citizens of Hancock County who supported the Hancock County Schools’ operating levy on Nov. 9; and I want to assure all of you that our children will benefit immeasurably from your continued support of education in our county.

Secondly, I want to clarify that the Board of Education and the Superintendent are restricted by law from becoming actively involved in school levy elections. We can only provide information and answer questions. Therefore, prior to the election, the school administration and the Board of Education did not want to sound overly alarmist or exaggerative on the negative impact a failed operating levy would have. However, it is now safe to say that this positive election result prevented what would have been a devastating blow to the county’s educational system. The elimination of $7.1 million from the annual budget would have resulted in drastic cuts felt by all students and many citizens of our county. Some of these cuts would have included, but would not be limited to, large cutbacks to the daily bus runs, elimination of most student support groups, large reduction in school supplies, larger class sizes, compromised school safety by elimination of school prevention resource officers, employee layoffs, elimination of all bus transportation for extra-curricular activities and a myriad of other reductions too numerous to mention. These would affect every school, both public and parochial, within our county.

Even with what was at stake, some self-serving groups elected to misrepresent or distort facts or to simply omit important information even after so-called “hours of research” into the matter. While it is true that some of the operating levy funds are used to supplement administrative salaries, that supplement is minuscule both in terms of dollars and impact on savings to the county. Supplemented salaries to teachers would also have been eliminated. Our county is already in a difficult situation in retaining or attracting quality teachers due to our neighboring states offering higher salaries and benefits. One of the greatest injustices perpetrated in the so-called “facts” was that our test scores were getting worse in the county. When these statements are made, they should be clarified and explained comparing like tests to like scores.

It is difficult to really understand the perplexing situations our teachers face in education our children. They are being forced to teach what is mandated through the state and federal government – mandates that in many cases are devised for them by politicians who know nothing about education but are self-proclaimed experts. One needs to go no further than to examine the mandates and core standards imposed on them. It is becoming extremely difficult for teachers to “teach.”

Anyone who minimizes the efforts put forth by our teachers in Hancock County is either grossly misinformed or intentionally devious. And, while I recognize that every individual is entitled to his or her opinion, I strongly suggest that anyone expressing an opinion publicly try to be informed so as not to display ignorance of the facts. One example was in the letters to the editor in the Weirton Times. The writer suggested several things, including the lack of publicity on the operating levy from the Board, that millions were spent on the building levy and stadiums, and a few other assertions. In response, I offer the following facts. The Board has, in accordance with the law, published the operating levy election date and all pertinent information, but the Board is prohibited from any campaigning in levy elections. The Hancock County Education Association and the Hancock County School Service Personnel Association paid for and distributed pamphlets with inclusive levy information countywide.

Comparing the bond (building) levy to the operating levy is truly “apples to oranges.”

Obviously, some of the maintenance of schools money will be reduced because of the bond levy, but there is a distinct difference in that bond levy money can only be used for “bricks and mortar” types of physical construction or renovations. I don’t intend to engage in any future dialogue on this subject except to suggest that people should know what the facts are before expressing opinions.

Finally and importantly, I would like to publicly thank the Hancock County Courier for its coverage of the operating levy. This weekly publication has always been positive and supportive of our schools and community. The weekly summation of local news and events, school activities and general interest topics is exemplary. It is truly gratifying to see that a local news publication wholeheartedly supports our children.

Noteworthy, also, is the fact that the Wheeling Intelligencer wholeheartedly endorsed the operating levies in both Brooke and Hancock counties. Their concern for the education of our youth is admirable and greatly appreciated.

I would also like to thank The Weirton Daily Times for having the courage to present letters from school administrators expressing their opinions on the subject.