WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Putnam County schools won't receive funding to hire someone to help at-risk students chose a career path, Superintendent Chuck Hatfield said after a board meeting Monday night.The state Department of Education turned down the county's Dropout Prevention Innovation Zone Grant application, which sought $300,000 to hire someone to work at the county high schools and help students explore career possibilities outside of college."We're disappointed it wasn't funded. We thought it was a worthwhile project," Hatfield said.At the beginning of the school year, Putnam teachers began to stress things like punctuality and work ethic as part of a movement to get students ready for the workforce and to choose a career path.The employee the grant money would have paid for would have helped train teachers and counselors to promote career options to students who might need extra motivation, according to Hatfield."The biggest thing we were really looking forward to was bringing expertise," he said. "We have counselors, but not necessarily career counselors."Despite the setback, Hatfield said Putnam school officials would continue looking at other ways to encourage students to stay in school and explore career options.Schools that the state Department of Education approve as innovation zones receive waivers to state policy, which lets them try out new, research-based strategies in an effort to improve student learning.The new Buffalo High School was given the maximum innovation zone grant funding, $300,000, in January.In 2010, the county's high schools received $24,000 to develop plans to reduce the dropout rate. Also, Hometown Elementary received nearly $11,000 to introduce courses featuring robotics and other technology for children in pre-kindergarten through third grade.Earlier this month, the Department of Education approved grants for Cabell, Pocahontas, Lincoln, Upshur, McDowell and Nicholas counties, Greenbrier West High School and Doddridge and Wheeling Park high schools.In other business, 10 Putnam schools received exemplary status from the West Virginia Office of Education Performance Audits and the state Department of Education, Hatfield told board members.Confidence, Eastbrook, Hurricane Town, Mountain View, Poca, Scott Teays and West Teays elementary schools, along with Poca Middle and Hurricane and Winfield high schools, all qualified as exemplary, according to Hatfield.Also at the meeting, Hatfield recognized the county's employees of the year.They are: Richard Grim, principal of Buffalo High School, administrator of the year; Debra Howard, physical education teacher at George Washington Middle School, teacher of the year and middle school teacher of the year; Anita Robinson, teacher of orthopedic-impaired students at Winfield Elementary, elementary teacher of the year; Cindy Wandling, alternative school teacher, high school teacher of the year; and Don Thornton, service employee of the year.Adele Groom, who teaches health at Hurricane High School, and Dovetta Harless, a fifth-grade teacher at Lakeside Elementary, were also recognized for celebrating 40 years with Putnam County Schools.Reach Kate White at email@example.com or 304-348-1723.