Exactly what factors contributed in largest part to
the Calhoun County schools deficit has been
speculated upon and discussed at great length. One question remains:
“Who will fix it?”
At stake when voters take to the polls on Tuesday,
Nov. 4, are a number of state and local offices and a county school levy
that calls for funds in excess of $700,000 to be raised annually for
five years, in order for the
Calhoun County school system to fund routine
operations and expenses.
Ideally, the levy will facilitate the purge of a
budget deficit that had, at the end of the 2013-14 fiscal year, exceeded
According to school officials, without the
corrective measures already taken by the superintendent and board of
education, the amount might potentially have reached the $2,000,000 mark
by end of the 2014-15 fiscal year.
In keeping, at least in part, with his pledge,
Woodward hosted a public question-and-answer meeting on Monday in the
CM/HS auditorium. The meeting, lasting roughly an hour and 20 minutes,
was attended by approximately 25 people. Except for a few, the meeting
was attended almost entirely by those who are either current or past
school system employees.
In an Oct. 16 interview with the Chronicle, finance
director Dan Minney expressed his disappointment that during the last
attempt at passing the levy in May, so few people had attended any of
the three meetings held to answer questions and inform the public on
matters regarding the deficit, school budgeting and financing, and what
the levy’s passage would mean to the school system and its students.
He felt that “people need to become informed and
make informed decisions.”
If Monday’s meeting was any indication, the trend
alluded to by Minney continues, due possibly to miscommunication
regarding the time of the meeting.
A flier prepared and issued by the school system
lists benefits from the levy as:
--Preservation of the free breakfast and lunch
program. Woodward told of principals taking steps to ensure that every
in-need student had plenty of food to take home with them in the event
that inclement weather or any other cause might close schools for an
extended period of time: “They take these kids aside and fill their book
bags full of food.” Woodward said continuance of this practice is a
priority and the levy will provide the means to see that it continues
--Continued funding for 4-H and the WVU Extension
Service. Woodward said that the Calhoun FFA
is an excellent program, “one of the best programs in Calhoun County,”
and that the levy is essential to maintaining a partnership with the
extension service in continuing programs that have produced exceptional
and prestigious results in the past.
--Recruit and retain high quality teachers.
Woodward said that there are currently non-certified personnel teaching
some of the classes in Calhoun schools. Non-certified substitutes have
been called upon to fulfill the challenging demands and expectations of
teaching those classes: “We can’t afford to go to the necessary job
fairs to recruit high quality teachers. We cannot expect to sit here and
have them come to us. They aren’t going to come,” he said. Woodward
suggested that more aggressive recruiting tactics are required to help
ensure the presence of certified, quality teachers in Calhoun
--Provide transportation for extracurricular
events, such as field trips and after-school activity buses. Woodward
pointed out that levy funding will pay for establishment and continuance
of after-school tutoring and further instruction.
--Maintain and repair school facilities. Woodward
said that teachers were compelled to use part of the one day they were
given to prepare their class-rooms for student instruction and learning
to do custodial/maintenance work due to the absence of the appropriate
personnel as a result of cutbacks in contract days enacted to help
diminish the deficit: “This decreased the time teachers had to prepare
for education of students.”
--Free admission for all Calhoun County
residents to athletic events, shows, and concerts. When questioned on
this, Woodward said that would apply only to senior citizens and those
on fixed incomes.
Woodward added that the majority of Calhoun
graduates will likely enter into career/technical fields of endeavor and
employment instead of college.
He said that the system must adequately prepare
students for a demanding, challenging and high-tech world and that high
level technology in the classroom will be one of the primary and
essential needs serviced by the levy: “We have to put the tools in those
students’ hands that they can walk out of Calhoun schools and show those
people we are prepared to do this job.”
More information from the meeting included:
--The first year of indebtedness was 2011.
--The levy will cost nothing for those covered by
the Homestead Act.
--Woodward promised to keep the school board
constantly aware of financial dealings: “If we keep the board more aware
of the money we are spending, then we should never be in this situation
again. Once we are out of it, unless the legislature changes the funding
formula, then we can be in the black all the time.”
--We have determined that we will feed each child
in Calhoun schools at least two free meals per day,” said the
--Learning supplies, technology, pens, paper and
books must be placed into the hands of students.
--Students should be encouraged to participate in
fine arts programs such as art and music: “We want parents and the
general public to come in and see the talents these kids have and the
things they can do.”
Woodward said he felt the meeting was productive
and positive: “The questions were good, a school budget and its workings
are difficult to fully discuss in just one meeting. The state has told
us that we have a deficit we have to pay, and we can’t pay it.”
Woodard went on to point out that community
prosperity and well-being are contingent upon the quality of education:
“It impacts a wide range of community factors, all of which education
has a direct impact upon.”
Causes for the deficit have been cited as:
decreased student enrollment, non-funded state mandates, a flawed state
per-student funding formula, short sightedness, and lack of communication
among key personnel and departments.
There may not be only one answer to “Who will fix
it?” Some have suggested the State. Others see it as the responsibility
of the citizens of Calhoun County.
Woodward, in an earlier interview, invoked the
Hilary Clinton adage that “it takes a community to raise a child,”
adding that we all, whether we have students in public schools, have a
duty to see to it that all children receive a quality education, because
“they will someday be the leaders of our community.”
He encouraged voters also to not let anger over the
past, ruin the future: “The future is good. We will fix this.”