School board meeting moved to CM-HS because of large attendance, many came to hear the comments of Calhoun resident Richard Kirby to board members and superintendent Woodward

By Bob Weaver

The beleaguered Calhoun Board of Education faced some critical charges Monday evening about a three-year contract with a $9,000 pay raise given to Superintendent Tim Woodward.

A large crowd attended the board meeting Monday evening, which was moved to a larger location at Calhoun Middle-High School.

The meeting was punctuated with several angry outbursts from those attending.

Citizen Richard Kirby said, "I'm sick
of this, this shouldn't be happening!"

Calhoun citizen and former County Clerk Richard Kirby, during a comment period, said "The people I've talked to no longer trust the school system," calling for the resignation of Woodward, and saying, "Board members who committed malfeasance should also resign."

Kirby said he objected to Woodward's three-year contract with raises, saying teachers and service personnel are among the lowest paid in West Virginia.

He said the deficit could be $2 million, asking "How can you justify a raise?" and suggested that board members forego their salaries to pay the raise given Woodward.

Kirby complained that the three-year hire and raise was done without proper notification of the public, alluding to Woodward's financial skills while taking out personal bankruptcy

Kirby said he was mystified that school officials had told the Calhoun Commission that deficit reduction was too complicated to address.

"I'm sick of this, this shouldn't be taking place," he concluded, with those in attendance applauding Kirby's remarks.

In response to Kirby's comment, board member Jackie Collins-Frail, who was the lone board member opposing Woodward's contract at an earlier meeting, asked that the issue be placed on the May board agenda for another vote, although it was unclear regarding the legality of such a motion.

Retiring board member Larry Harris, who stated he had made mistakes during his tenure, concurred with Collins-Frail to place the issue on May's agenda.

The board, due to the structure of an official meeting, did not respond to the issues, but school board president Steve Whited encouraged Richard Kirby and concerned citizens to have public meetings regarding the situation, inviting them to meet with school officials.

Angry comments flew several times throughout the board meeting, including board member Cynthia Dale addressing fired administrator Carla Taylor, asking for examples where school children were being slighted or neglected.

Taylor responded, the system fired experienced people, and ignored her complaints regarding a building deficit, and former board member Lee Evans expressed his displeasure over the deficit issues.

Woodward and Whited take notes regarding verbal complaints

Dale apologized to the crowd for her angry comments, while board member Jenna Jett explained, "This is not an easy job...to be picked and judged," concluding "The reason we're here is the kids...We need to move the school system forward."

School board candidate Pat Bell, speaking about teachers and service personnel, told the board, "You took their money," while giving it to administrators.

School board president Steve Whited has said he is quite clear that the system has broken trust, "Our primary goal is to rebuild that trust and do our best for our children."

At an earlier board meeting, 30 year employee Deb Goff addressed the board as an employee.

"I am extremely disappointed in your recent decision to approve a 3 year contract with a $9,000.00 salary increase for the superintendent," she said.

"Given the critical financial status of our system, as the governing body I feel your approval of this contact was not a good decision. It was done at the same meeting the superintendent recommended to you additional cuts calling for a combined total of 22 RIF's and transfers," Goff said. "It is also an injustice to every employee that has had to endure a salary cut."

"I believe it to be a correct statement when I say that with the exception of 5 employees, everyone in the entire system has lost anywhere from $600.00 to $4,000.00 from their salary to help eliminate our over-whelming debt," Goff said.

"I call into question the sincerity of his commitment to bring our school system back to solvency.

Woodward was brought to the superintendent's job, replacing retiring Roger Propst, to try and clear a $1.8 million deficit that had been building in the system's finances for several years.

Calhoun, not unlike several rural WV counties with declining enrollment, has been facing major challenges with declining revenue through the state's student funding formula.

Julie McKown asked for Woodward's resignation
related to a personnel decision made by him

The board and those attending watched a video presentation of a mission project involving Calhoun bus driver Tim Whipkey to Hati. Superintendent Woodward read a letter from the Hati group recognizing Whipkey's contributions.

The board approved hires for Save-the-Children.

The board hired Andrew Metheney as Treasurer/Chief School Business Official effective April 12 and approved two policies, one related to use and possession of electronic devices and another related to grading.

They also conducted a public hearing regarding the 2016-17 school calendar and heard a number of reports, making several personnel decisions.

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