MASON COUNTY — Mason County Schools employees had their first day back on the job on Wednesday and six current and former staff members received awards for their achievements during an opening ceremony at Point Pleasant Junior/Senior High School (PPJSHS).
Mason County Schools Superintendent Suzanne Dickens welcomed those attending and then continued on to recognize the six individuals for their dedication and their service to Mason County Schools and the students. Taking home the award for Principal of the Year was PPJSHS Assistant Principal Kent Price. Second was the Service Employee of the Year award which went to PPJSHS Custodian Michael Hopson. Following Hopson, Deborah Barnett, teacher at PPJSHS was named the Teacher of the Year.
Following the teacher of the year award, Dickens recognized Rhonda Tennant as the recipient of the Carol S Miller Reading Teacher of the Year. Following this award, Dickens named Naomi Lanier and Sally Darst as the winners of the Serivce—Emeritus award and the Professional—Emeritus award, respectively. Following the presentation of these awards, Dickens also recognized those staff members who were stepping into new positions for the 2012-13 school year as well as employees who were completely new to Mason County Schools.
Dickens then addressed the crowd of educators about the upcoming school year and provided several updates on past issues. Dickens began by discussing a West Virginia Office of Education Performance Audit (OEPA) report performed in Dec. 2010, shortly after she became superintendent. Dickens stated there were 101 items on the OEPA report that needed correction. Dickens continued, saying a year later in Dec. 2011, Mason County Schools received another OEPA report, which Dickens said was described as a complete 180 turnaround. Dickens stated that 99 out of the 101 items had been corrected.
Dickens also discussed Mason County Schools’ ranking among other West Virginia counties when it came test scores. Previously, Mason County was ranked 44 out of 55 counties. Last school year, Mason County increased its ranking to 33 out of 55. The current ranking of Mason County has not been released yet, but due to rising test scores among students, Dickens stated she expects Mason County’s ranking to be somewhere in the 20’s. Dickens also stated that due to increasing test scores and the OEPA report in Dec. 2011, Mason County is no longer considered to be a ‘near take over county.’
Dickens continued discussing the upcoming excess levy and the current deficit. As previously reported, at the end of the 2011-12 school year, the deficit had decreased down to $650, 000 from a previous amount of $2.8 million. Dickens stated the deficit is currently under $500, 000. When discussing the excess levy, which is up for renewal in Nov., Dickens reminded the employees of the benefits they receive from the excess levy, as well as discussing the benefits for the students and everything the excess levy pays for. Dickens continued, saying the excess levy pays for all of the athletic coaches, school nurses, and now will pay for some arts programs, as well as several other extracurricular and co-curricular trips and transportation. Dickens added that this excess levy is not a new tax but merely a continuation of the current levy. She also encouraged employees to spread the word about the importance of this levy and what the loss of benefits and activities will take place should it not be renewed.
Following this opening day, Mason County Schools employees had two more “school” days to prepare for the arrival of students, who first day is Monday, Aug. 20.