Putnam schools has difficult time filling driver's ed/health position

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- The Putnam County school board proposed eliminating one full-time position at Poca High School and creating two part-time jobs after an unsuccessful search to find a qualified candidate to fill an opening at the school.According to Putnam Superintendent Chuck Hatfield, the school has been unable to find a teacher qualified to teach both driver's education and health, so county officials proposed splitting the subjects into two half-day jobs to find candidates certified in either area."It's the first one we've had that we haven't been able to fill," Hatfield said. "This is going to be a problem going forward, because to my understanding none of the colleges or universities even offer driver's education certification anymore, so as our existing folks retire, it's going to become more difficult for us to offer driver's education."Barbara Brazeau, personnel director for Putnam County Schools, said she believes the county's problem stems from the elimination of safety training programs offered at colleges and universities with education programs, such as Marshall University, West Virginia University, Concord University and others."Our institutions in West Virginia have stopped offering the program," she said. "In fact, one county I spoke with said they sent an individual to Nebraska to secure the certification."The program is often included in collegiate education curriculums as an add-on endorsement in safety, and Brazeau said because it is an elective program, many prospective educators opt out of the certification.
"I'm not sure when they discontinued it," Brazeau said.Hatfield said the certification was often sought by college students focusing on physical education and health, but that they have seen fewer instructors with the certification, and that many high school students choose not to take the class in favor of focusing on more college-ready courses."It used to be that automobile insurance companies offered a discounted rate if your child had completed the program," Hatfield said. "Many of them aren't doing that anymore, and I'm not sure why that is, but it shows there's not as much incentive for kids to take the course."In the short term, the board hopes to find a retired instructor willing to take over the course until a qualified candidate is found.Also Monday, the board approved the purchase of six school buses for $572,010 from Heritage International Trucking.The next regular meeting of the Putnam County school board will be July 1 at 7 p.m. at its central office in Winfield. For more information, including meeting minutes and agendas, visit www.putnamschools.com.Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.
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