By Bob Weaver

Controversy surfaced at Monday's Calhoun school board meeting over multiple laptop computers used by county teachers and being able to maintain the school system's large computer driven technology program.

Calhoun board members indicated there is a failure to provide maintenance and support services using a part-time technical employee from RESA.

While all county teachers already had a laptop, a problem reportedly surfaced since some teachers received a second laptop for attending a seminar this past summer.

The teachers were told that computer "cannot be taken away from them," according to a teacher's statement at Monday's meeting.

"But not every teacher has an updated laptop," said Superintendent Jane Lynch, who has been trying to redistribute the computers to "make sure every teacher has a highly operable laptop."

Calhoun is among a few West Virginia counties that "has been blessed with computer technology," said CM-HS principal, Karen Kirby.

All classrooms have two to four computers for student use, in addition to white board technology.

Board president Lee Evans said he understood teachers had a choice about which laptop to relinquish for recirculation, "but some of the teachers didn't want to give them up."

A few teachers apparently complained to the State Department of Education about relinquishing a laptop.

Lynch indicated she did not want to be more specific about the issue, because it seemed to be "creating bad feelings," to which board member Cynthia Dale replied "There's bad feelings everywhere."

The technology issue continued to surface during the meeting, centered on the county not having a full-time technology specialist.

Currently, a computer specialist comes to the county a few hours a week from RESA to upgrade and repair computers.

Board member Mike Wilson expressed concern that necessary work is not getting done to the school system's computer driven technology program.

Superintendent Lynch said, after reviewing the current budget, she believes there is no money to hire a full-time computer specialist.

President Evans said he understood last year that such money would be available, but indicated it has been shifted to teaching positions with the increase in kindergarten students.

The money apparently would have been available after two key positions were eliminated, the Director of Curriculum and Director of Federal Programs.

"Work orders on computers are stacking up," said board member Dale, with the RESA employee unable to get caught up, although Superintendent Lynch said the work orders are "pretty much up to date."

"We need a full-time computer person," said board member Joy Starcher.

Lynch responded, saying "Until we get money, there is a problem," that Title II money cannot be used for technology jobs.

Board member Steve Whited said he had serious concerns about maintaining the large computer-driven system.

"We may regress with our technology program," he said.

Board member Dale expressed concern about a new job posted by the superintendent as Director of School Improvement, to which Lynch said she needed help to keep on top of the continued demands, indicating she had assumed a larger number of duties when key positions were eliminated.

Since the county's Finance Director resigned and her replacement resigned, Lynch said Betty White and Kelley Houchin have been working in that position temporarily.

Calhoun is among the small rural counties that does not have a number of assistants and dedicated positions to deliver service, requiring a shift of limited funding for teachers and basic services.

"We are looking at every option to address these problems," concluded Lynch.