Wood BOE: No action on Stadium Field

PARKERSBURG – The Wood County Board of Education on Tuesday took no formal action on Parkersburg High School Stadium Field, but reiterated the discussion over who should pay for work completed on the project will soon come to an end.

The board also gave outgoing Superintendent Pat Law an “unsatisfactory” evaluation rating for the 2013-14 school year.

Wood County Prosecutor Jason Wharton attended Tuesday’s board meeting, bringing information on a possible repayment plan on Stadium Field. Before public discussion could begin, however, board President Tim Yeater called for a private meeting, saying the issues fell under attorney-client privilege. All board members approved the executive session.

The board took no formal action when it returned to open session 40 minutes later and no plan was presented to the public Tuesday.

“We’re trying to bring some closure to this activity,” Yeater said. “It’s an important issue, it’s a community issue. I think everybody is working diligently to find closure on that.”

The school board earlier this year agree to pay $455,000 owed for work completed on the home-side bleachers, but officials have maintained the PHS Stadium Renovation Committee should be held responsible for the cost. Board members have said the committee misled officials by saying it had a $600,000 loan, but later revealed it had only drawn $200,000 of the loan and could not draw upon the remaining $400,000. The committee also is accused of running up the cost of the project by adding items and demanding an accelerated timeline for work to get the stadium open for PHS’s opening game last fall.

The committee has said through other officials its priority is repaying the $200,000 loan from area banks.

“There is no question there is a payment due,” Yeater said Tuesday. “We want some equity on how we approach that. The banks are owed money and the county is owed money. We think there ought to be some equity in the priority of who is paid back.”

Yeater asked Law to continue to work with Wharton, school officials and committee members on a repayment plan. The board has asked for the $455,000 to be paid back within five years.

In other business, the school board Tuesday completed an evaluation of Law, giving him low marks in several areas.

The board had debated on whether to conduct the evaluation as Law will retire when his contract ends June 30, but ultimately moved forward with the process while citing state requirements.

Yeater read from a prepared statement, saying Law had failed in two of three areas targeted for improvement by the board at the end of the 2013-14 school year. Yeater said while student achievement showed improvement and Law had made strides in academics, he had failed in the areas of administrative leadership and handling of personnel issues.

“The internal issues and events that plagued the administration, our school system and our employees over the past year, combined with how these issues were managed, we concluded these areas showed a lack of leadership, control and governance,” Yeater said. “The board felt there was a lack of accountability and answerability due to a lack of proper evaluations and communication throughout Wood County Schools.”

Yeater said those issues caused damage to the board’s and school system’s public image.

“Dr. Law has received an unsatisfactory evaluation for 2014,” Yeater said.

Law did not comment on the evaluation.

The board also voted Tuesday to modify this year’s school calendar to make up for days missed to bad weather. The changes already have been publicized, but still have to be approved by the state.

Judy Johnson, director of curriculum and instruction for Wood County Schools, said ultimately the district doesn’t have a choice.

“We just can’t make up any more days,” she said.

The changes extend the last day of school for students to June 10. Some teacher training days during the year had already been reclaimed as instructional days. The district missed 15 days of instruction this day and was only able to make up eight of those days, Johnson said. The school system also had six unscheduled two-hour delays due to bad weather.

The school board voted 5-0 to expel a student for violation of the Safe Schools Act. The student was identified only by a case number.

The board was scheduled to vote Tuesday to approve the suspension of an employee without pay from Feb. 14-20, but instead changed that to termination effective immediately and approved that action. The item had been tabled at a previous discussion. The employee was not identified.