By MIKE WILLIAMS
Pulaski County Schools honored four of their best for the 2021-22 school year during their meeting Monday evening, recognizing two top teachers, its top employee and top bus driver.
Pulaski Elementary School’s Becky Moles was named the school division’s top elementary teacher for the year, while Pulaski County High School’s John Jewell was named top secondary teacher.
School Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers noted there were so many worthy nominees for Teacher of the Year it was decided to name two – one for elementary grades and one for secondary.
Moles teaches fourth grade at PES and has taught in the county for 21 years. She was described as a “dedicated teacher who serves as a role model for her students and encourages her students to be the best every day.”
In her spare time, Moles enjoys hunting and fishing. Siers noted Moles was the only nominee for Teacher of the Year who bagged a 10-pointer last hunting season.
Jewell serves as the math department chair at PCHS and often serves as an administrative substitute when needed.
“He works tirelessly to make sure his students are successful and does so with the utmost enthusiasm,” his nominator said.
Amber Lockhart, school nurse at Pulaski County High School was named as Employee of the Year.
Lockhart, it was noted, was instrumental in the development of many of the school system’s district-wide COVID plans and served on numerous committees to help protect schools.
“She is also known as a creative contributor to many PCHS activities and programs,” her nominator said.
Carl Yost was recognized as the division’s Bus Driver of the Year.
Jess Shull, Director of Operations said Yost “on paper” has driven a school bus for 38 years, but had driven several years before that, even when he was in high school.
Yost operates Northside Chevron in Fairlawn and has helped the school system with towing services for years.
“Carl is the type of person who would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it,” Shull said.
Each schools’ nominees for teacher of the year and employee of the year were recognized during the meeting.
Following the recognitions, Rebecah Smith, Principal of Pulaski County Middle School and Jennifer Bolling, Principal of Pulaski County High School presented Siers with a gift from the school division’s principals and assistant principals.
“We would like to say a special ‘thank you’ to Dr. Siers,” Smith began.
”We recognize it takes a special person in the role of superintendent, knowing there is a level of responsibility that includes being responsible for the education, welfare and safety of the students and staff for the entire school division.
“You have been met with many challenges in the five years you have been here with the COVID pandemic, policies from the state, accreditation ups and downs, the loss of special people to our school division and so much more.
“Sometimes you don’t get the ‘thank you’ that you deserve so we wanted to – as a group – to let you know we really appreciate everything that you do for us in our school division,” Smith concluded.
“That’s surprising and a first,” Siers exclaimed. “When Rebecah said my name I thought, ‘oh gosh, she’s asking me to resign too!’”
“Well deserved,” noted School Board Chairman Dr. Paige Cash.
Chris Stafford, Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Business Operations reviewed for the board the school system’s ESSER funding plans.
ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funding comes from federal ARPA (American Rescue Plan) grant funds. Pulaski County has been awarded $8.1 million in such funds to be used by Sept. 30, 2024.
Stafford said the funds are in the form of a reimbursable federal grant, which means none of the funds are sent to the school system in advance, but are used to reimburse the school system for approved expenses.
ESSER funds are primarily to be used for capital projects such as roof replacements, HVAC installations, school buses, etc. However, 20 percent of the funds – $1.6 million for Pulaski County – must be reserved to measure and address the impact of lost instructional time due to COVID.
Currently Pulaski County Schools are conducting learning loss programs involving 65 staff members and some 560 students. That effort will continue into the summer with summer school programs.
Most of the rest of the ESSER funds will go to projects such as roof replacements at Critzer and Snowville elementary schools and a partial replacement at PCHS; an HVAC upgrade at the PCHS CTE Center; replacing exterior doors at both PCHS and Critzer; an HVAC unit at PCHS and replacement of 11 school buses.
Finally, the funds also provided a $250 incentive for each school division employee who provided evidence that they were fully vaccinated against COVID.
Student Dress and Narcan Policies
The school board heard draft policies on an updated student dress policy and Narcan administration.
The policy on Narcan is a requirement before it can be used in schools for the emergency treatment of opioid overdose.
Mary Hall, Director of Nursing, noted that in the past year there had been situations in county schools in which Narcan could have been used.
All school nurses completed training last week for administering Narcan, and Narcan is available in school clinics.
Siers said plans are to train all administrators in the use of Narcan as well as all middle and high school teachers before the next school year.
“Unfortunately, drug overdoses in public schools are becoming more and more prominent,” Siers said.
Hall said there had been “a couple” of fatal overdoses in New River Valley schools recently.
She noted athletic trainers and coaches would also be trained to administer Narcan as well.
She added that Narcan can be used safely without fear of consequences.
“It’s not going to be harmful or anything like that,” Hall said. “If it actually is an overdose it will help to bring them (student) out of it.”
Honoring Buck Blevins
Vice Chairman Tim Hurst told the board he had been approached by at least a couple citizens asking that Buck Blevins be recognized in some way by the school system. Blevins died unexpectedly last Friday.
“This past week Pulaski County lost an icon in Buck Blevins who contributed to Cougar football for years,” Hurst stated. “He was a manager for Coach (Joel) Hicks and everybody who knows anything about Cougar football knows who Buck Blevins was.”
The suggestion, Hurst said, is to name the 63 steps leading from the fieldhouse to Joel Hicks Field in Dobson Stadium after people who had made contributions to Cougar football.
“There have been so many people within our community that have contributed and played a huge part in the success of high school football at Pulaski County, as well as other sports,” Hurst said.
He suggested placing the names of such contributors on the risers of the 63 steps.
He asked that the issue be discussed more at the June meeting of the board.