By Sarah Plummer
For the Daily Telegraph
Stanaford Elementary School parent James Suggs spoke about what he deemed “gross neglect” at Tuesday’s meeting of the Raleigh County Board of Education.
Suggs said something went “terribly wrong” with the two-and-a-half hour early dismissal on Nov. 16. He explained that busses at Stanaford Elementary evidently left the school with students at least 30 minutes ahead of schedule.
While waiting to pick up their seven-year-old son from a bus stop near Mahan Street and Hunt Avenue, Sugg’s wife received a call from her employer at 1:02 p.m. saying her son was at her office and in tears.
Suggs, who became emotional during the recollection, explained that his son was dropped off early at the bus stop. When the boy discovered his parents were not home, he knocked on the doors of two neighbors before walking to his mother’s work.
The second-grader walked down Hunt Avenue and onto Ragland Road, heading to his mother’s work at the Solid Waste Authority. Another school bus driver saw the young boy on Ragland Road, stopped to check on him, and gave him a ride the rest of the way to the mother’s office.
“I am just thankful that he was not taken, attacked by a dog or injured, but something went horribly wrong,” Suggs said. “Something needs to be done to make sure this never happens again.”
Suggs said he has been made aware that students from other schools were also dropped off early.
Board President Richard Snuffer agreed with the parent that students should not have been dropped off early and told him actions have already been taken to ensure the mistake would not happen again.
Superintendent Jim Brown extended an apology to the parents, whom he said he has had personal contact with already this week. He told them schools and bus drivers were provided an exact time release for each school and agreed the bus should not have left the school until 1 p.m.
“It was a system breakdown. The release was planned two months in advance and the schedule was explicit for every school,” he said.
Brown reiterated that the school has taken action to limit the chances this might happen again.
Also during the meeting, the school board approved the recommendation that Michelle Moore be hired as principal of Sophia Soak Creek Elementary. Moore is currently the director of program development for RESA 1 (Regional Education Service Agency).
After the meeting, a Raleigh County parent working with Boy Scout Troop 103 refurbishing used bikes for Mac’s Toy Fund shared his enthusiasm for Raleigh County School’s electronic notification system.
“I get calls from Superintendent Brown,” joked Steve Wellman, whose son attends Beckley-Stratton Middle School. “It really takes the guess work out of schedule changes and gives parents reminders as the changes approach.”
The board will next meet at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 11 at the county board office on Adair Street, Beckley.