February 13, 2014
On Jan. 13, a letter to the editor appeared in the Point Pleasant Register, written by Alice Click, questioning recent educational decisions made by the Mason County Board of Education.
Mrs. Click has every right to question and criticize actions taken by elected officials. However, with the exercising of the right comes a responsibility to back up assertions, accusations, innuendos and misinformation with true facts. In her efforts to inform the reading public about recent events at Leon Elementary School, she has grossly misrepresented the facts concerning the proposal to build a regional school in the Leon/Buffalo area.
We also find her accusations of discrimination against the Leon community by the board to be prejudicial toward our members and downright preposterous.
When the West Virginia School Building Authority approached the Mason County Board of Education about the regional consolidation proposal, we were surprised. We had no inkling this was even being discussed. We listened to members of the Leon faculty at a subsequent board meeting, and our fist inclination was that we would not go forward. Later, we were invited and decided to attend a meeting of the Putnam County Board to discuss possible positives and negatives about a proposed regional school. We went with the intent of trying to get the school located in Mason County. They indicated to us that the site they had was better, cheaper, and more centrally located from the farthest distances students would have to travel to the school site. We left their meeting with the feeling they did not want the regional school anywhere but Putnam County. We were absolutely not “sold,” as Mrs. Click has asserted and would have you believe. Apparently the Putnam board did hire an architectural firm while awaiting our final decision. We have no control over which individuals or what items appear on the Putnam County Board agendas.
Immediately after the SBA approached us with this proposal, we made it perfectly clear to our superintendent and all others with a need to know, we wanted all discussions and actions to be open and above board. We didn’t want to give even the appearance that we were trying to hide anything from anyone. Mrs. Dickens and some of her staff did attend a meeting at Leon Elementary School to answer questions as truthfully as possible based on the preliminary information we had at the time. Whether or not she was successful was, of course, problematic. People hear what they want to hear.
There is always a certain amount of fear and apprehension about the unknown. We knew they would not want to lose their community school. At the same time, we felt this was a chance to at least listen about an opportunity to provide those students with a new school that we probably could not afford by ourselves. When there was so much unknown, we didn’t want people starting unfounded rumors and being upset when there was no reason to be overly concerned at that time.
Members of the Leon Elementary School faculty came back to the next meeting and asked questions to which their community wanted answers. At our suggestion, they formed a committee made up of faculty, staff and community members to meet with us so we could have a productive discussion and get all questions answered and concerns aired.
During our meeting with their committee, discussion items included busing, staffing, scheduling, local involvement, the quality of education, taxation, and the short amount of time given us to decide were thoroughly discussed. Following that meeting the board met privately to discuss what our final decision would be. We came out and announced we were not going to proceed with the regional school proposal. More than 100 citizens attended the board meeting that night. When we made our announcement, everyone cheered and clapped. We did not hear anyone booing. We thought they were satisfied, as were we.
We feel this was a perfect example of an elected body listening to the concerns of its citizenry and making a joint decision. How many times have you seen this actually happen? We feel this kind of cooperation should be applauded and not criticized.
We would like to agree with Mrs. Click that Leon Elementary School does have dedicated honest teachers and staff. However, we would like to extend that dedication and honesty to teachers and staff in all Mason County Schools. Our students could not have achieved the success they have if not for them. We are proud of all our personnel and students.
As far as we are concerned, the regional school concept between Leon and Buffalo is dead. We have no idea why Mrs. Click would want to dredge up something that was decided months ago. She has accused others of having political motives. Maybe her reasons are political as well.
In the end, our focus will be to maintain Leon Elementary in the best possible condition we can with the resources we have available to us. Leon Elementary School is more than 60 years old. We cannot change that. None of us have ever heard that the state was going to close Leon Elementary School. Nothing would make us happier than to be able to build a new school for the Leon community.
The board officially invited Mrs. Click to attend the Jan. 28, 2014, meeting of the Mason County Board of Education held at 6 p.m. at the Mason County Career Center/Hartley Building. Ms. Click did not attend. We would like to further extend this as an open invitation to her to come and bring some positive ideas about ways to improve the Leon Elementary academically and structurally. Ms. Click may also want to share some ideas on ways to fund these improvements.
We appreciate the chance to respond to Ms. Click’s letter.
Members of the Mason County Board of Education
Randy Searls, president
Greg Fowler, vice-president
Tom Nunnery, member
Dale Shobe, member
Paul Sayre, member