Marion County School Board bids Farley farewell

David Kirk, Times West Virginian, Fairmont
·4 min read

Apr. 20—PLEASANT VALLEY — The Marion County Board of Education formally accepted Superintendent Randy Farley's retirement at its meeting Monday night held at East Fairmont High.

Board members voted to accept Farley's notice of retirement and then took turns thanking him for his 46 years of service to Marion County Schools.

"As always, I wish our retirees have as many years in retirement as they had in service," said Richard Pellegrin, board member. "That would make Mr. Farley over 110 [years-old]."

Fellow board member Thomas Dragich shared Pellegrin's sentiment.

"He brought us through this pandemic," said Dragich. "He really helped us, and guided us through Charleston."

Dragich's thanks, however, were followed by concerns for education, in general.

"We're losing a lot of young people, young people are leaving the profession," said Dragich. "I think we need to take a long hard look at some the requests made tonight and recently."

Monday's meeting began with Brad Gilbert, senior professor of aviation technology at Pierpont Community & Technical College, representing their aviation program and the dual-enrollment courses they offer to high school students.

The board later voted to approve the contract between Marion County Schools and the program and offer those classes to the students. The program allows high school students to get on the fast track to attaining a certification in aviation engineering.

"We're very excited, truly," said Gilbert. "We're doing this now already with Harrison County and Taylor County."

Board member James Saunders asked if Pierpont's move from the Fairmont State campus, scheduled for 2022, would affect the program.

"We'll do our best so it doesn't," Gilbert said. "That's above my paygrade."

Next, Kim Higgins, principal of Monongah Elementary, took to the stand and gave her concerns about the shortage of teachers for the first and second grades at her school.

"I hope my requests are taken seriously," said Higgins.

Higgins says Monongah Elementary lost a first grade position for the next school year, bringing their number of first grade teachers down to two. Also, a second grade teacher is retiring and the position is not being filled.

"With that being said, next years first grade class we have 45 students and four returning from home schooling," said Higgins. "Which will give us 49 students to start the school year."

Higgins went on to lay out the impossible task of fitting those students safely into only two classrooms.

"If didn't have anything else in the [class]room, just student desks, each student would have 24 square feet or space," said Higgins. "But that's not the case. Our rooms have cabinets, they have manipulatives, they have to have a space to put their bookbag, their lunch box.

"So I'm asking for those additional teachers in first and second grade, and I would like to know now or before school starts."

After Higgins' presentation, the board asked for a copy of her points and left it at that.

Afterwards, a group of four students from North Marion High were recognized for their accomplishments at the state thespian festival. The four were given certificates signed by Farley.

The students were Melody Maddow, a senior, Len Batson, a senior, Eva Tennant, a sophomore and Caitlin Brooks, a freshman.

"I think that sometimes, especially with the arts, things get lost," said Donna Costello, board vice president. "So, thank you for recognizing these students."

The second half the meeting was filled by the superintendent's report, which included a report from BOE Treasurer Scott Reider who discussed money the district received from recent COVID relief packages.

Marion County Schools were allotted $32 million in aid from the government and much of the money went to technology for remote learning and supplies for social distancing and safety.

"You have to use these dollars how the federal guidelines say they have to be spent," said Reider. "Our charge was, 'prepare your kids for distance learning, prepare for safe classrooms.'"

But with this newest relief package coming in soon, the board hopes to have a bit more freedom.

"[The Government is] hinting at some more flexibility," said Reider. "What that could mean we still don't know."

The Marion BOE will meet Tuesday afternoon at the central office at 1 p.m.

Reach David Kirk at 304-367-2522 or by email at dkirk@timeswv.com.