Parent addresses communication with BOE

After an alleged terroristic threat made by a Buckhannon man last week, the Upshur County Board of Education addressed the communication concerns of two local parents during its Tuesday meeting.

Brian and Ja’me Brandish of Buckhannon addressed the board with their concerns regarding the telephone threat that allegedly referenced the Newton Conn. school shooting. Tony Vincent Herndon, 45, of Route 3, Box 249-D, was arrested following the call to the county board office.

“Being a native of Connecticut, that really hit home what happened in Newtown,” Brian Brandish said. “To have someone reference that, then not be informed that said threat was made until I saw it in the media, was slightly disturbing to myself, to my wife and to other parents we’ve spoke with.”

Superintendent Scott Lampinen said that sometimes it is not always possible to inform parents of a situation immediately, because it could potentially incite panic.

“We could have put something out there after that fact. That’s something that we can look at, that’s for sure,” Lampinen said. “We can’t tell everybody what our safety plan entails all the time.”

Ja’me Brandish said that she had to deal with two similar threats in the same week. She said she is an employee of Sharpe Hospital in Weston where a coworker, Ron Morris, 51, of 3120 Murphy Creek Road, Weston, allegedly made terroristic threats.

“I went from dealing with the same situation at work to dealing with the same situation with my child,” Ja’me Brandish said. “We’ve had to look at, how do we make it safer for the employees? How do we make it safer in the future when other issues occur?”

Lampinen said that the call came in to the board office by late morning and law enforcement responded quickly. He said the board spoke with all schools individually about the situation and worked closely with law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office.

Board president Teresa Bellamy said, “Now what happened after that, I don’t know, I do think we need to start somewhere with talks of how we can better address these things.”

Both Lampinen and Bellamy said they had children enrolled in the school system. Lampinen also said he was pleased with they way police handled the situation.

“They took the lead in the investigation, (I’m) very pleased with them,” Lampinen said. “I would take every precaution possible, not only for mine, but for all (children). The system that is in place did work. We were in contact very early on with law enforcement.”

Brian Brandish and his wife also asked about starting a safety committee to address how to make the county schools safer for children. Lampinen informed them that a safety committee was already in place, and that it recently welcomed two new recruits. Members of the public are permitted to participate on the safety committee.

“I think we’re doing a lot of great things in Upshur County. I think we’re looking out for the safety of our students,” said Brian Brandish. “That’s why the events of last Thursday were kind of disturbing.”

Herndon had been banned from school property a few years ago, Superintendent Scott Lampinen said last week. Herndon was arrested by the Sheriff’s Department and is facing a felony charge of making threats of a terrorist act.

In other news, Lampinen announced that the new state board superintendent of schools, Dr. James Phares, wants to attend a board meeting in all 55 counties of the West Virginia. The Upshur BOE is planning to invite Phares to a meeting in February or to the next board meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 22 at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School.

The school board also discussed a social media policy pending implementation to define social media expectations for employees. Lampinen said the policy will be made available online and copies are available at the board office for any member of the public who is interested.