Ohio County Schools Seeks Better Communication With Contractor

Ohio County School Service Personnel Association President Jerry Ames, also vice president of the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association, thanks Ohio County Board of Education members for retroactively allocating attendance incentive bonuses for 43 school district employees who had missed work while on approved federal leave during the recently ended school year.

WHEELING — Ohio County Schools officials are learning that some important details aren’t necessarily included in the scope of construction being paid for through a $44.2 million bond issue approved by voters.

Ohio County Schools Assistant Superintendent Rick Jones spoke of the matter during Monday’s meeting of the Ohio County Board of Education. He said he recently looked down the halls at construction happening at Bridge Street Middle School and noticed new doors on every classroom. Old doors, however, remained at the entrance to the main office and any rooms that weren’t classrooms, and he questioned why.

Jones learned through conversations with project contractor McKinley and Associates that the school district’s construction contract — and the bond passed by voters in 2018 — called only for replacement of “classroom doors,” and didn’t stipulate new doors for any other rooms.

“When I hear classrooms doors — that means all doors to me,” he said.

Jones said the school district and the contractor now are trying to work through the miscommunication.

The good news is the work at Bridge Street Middle School came in about $500,000 under budget, and the school district is now requesting pricing for the replacement of all the doors, according to Jones. He told board members the school district can’t assume such details will be included in costs, and that there needs to be better communication with McKinley and Associates when work at other schools is bid out in the coming months.

“What I would love to see is greater scope of the detail of the work,” board member David Croft told Shawn Doyle — a former Ohio County Schools teacher who now works as a representative for McKinley and Associates. “We could go back to the board room, and I could show you the posters that went around telling of what we were going to do. … The voters voted on that ballot based on what we were going to do.”

Doyle said McKinley and Associates would be “more intentional” with the scope of work in school bond construction projects being bid out next year. He said McKinley’s website listing progress on construction work as it is being accomplished “needs to be more consistent with the work that is being done.”

“I agree 100 percent,” Doyle said.

Board member Molly Aderholt asked that more detail be included in the description of work as it is listed on the website, so that school officials might notice if new doors have been installed on classrooms and not anywhere else.

“There have been misses at other schools where there were things we thought were obvious that weren’t included in the scope, and we’re having to deal with them,” she said.

In other matters, board members unanimously voted to make a change in their policy that allows members to call in to participate in no more than two board meetings each fiscal year. Previously, the member calling in was not permitted to partake in private executive sessions by the board during the meeting, and they now will be permitted to do this.

Member Sarah Koegler participated by phone in Monday’s board meeting, though there was no executive session during the meeting.

Board members also unanimously voted to make a change to the school district’s “Incentive Plan for Faithful Attendance.” Under this change, employees using their allotment of 13.5 personal leave days during a school year still may receive their annual $1,350 incentive bonus if days missed were covered under a federally approved leave of absence.

At their June 12 meeting, the board voted to retroactively provide the attendance incentive to 43 employees who had been granted leave this past school year under the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act or Workers’ Compensation. Monday’s action by the board established the move as school district policy going forward, board President Zach Abraham said.

The next board meeting will be at 6 p.m. July 8 at the the board office, 2203 National Road, Wheeling.

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