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High Schools Are Given ‘Conditional Accreditation’

August 22, 2012
BY LAUREN RIGGS - Staff Writer ( , Wetzel Chronicle

Magnolia and Paden City high schools now have "Conditional Accreditation" from the Office of Education Performance Audits Team. This status is a result of follow-up audits conducted at the schools in April 2012 after both schools received scathing reviews following initial audits in March 2011.

At Monday night's meeting of the Wetzel County Board of Education, Superintendent Diane Watt stated that during the initial audits there had been "several things to improve upon," but that during the exit interview of the follow-up audit there were only a "few minor things."

The reviews were conducted at the specific direction of the West Virginia Board of Education, with the purpose of investigating the reasons for performance and progress that are low and declining at MHS and for the declining graduation rate and student achievement at PCHS.

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As for Magnolia High School, although adequate yearly progress has been made more recently on WesTest scores, there were still concerns in regards to the special education subgroup. The special education subgroup declined to zero percent proficient on both tested areas on the 2010-11 WesTest. On the 2009-10 WesTest 11.76 percent were proficient in mathematics and 17.64 percent proficient in reading/language arts. On the 2008-09 WesTest 10 percent were proficient in both areas. The OEPA reports that the school is working with the West Virginia Department of Education, Office of Special Programs, in instruction for special education students.

The OEPA team still found two teachers not using instructional time productively. They also found that instruction using higher order thinking skills was not observed in these classes. The remaining English classes showed improvement.

The inappropriate "Alfonso ball," described as a modified softball game in which students would throw the ball at other students, was no longer being played in physical education classes, but the OEPA still expressed concern over the lack of participation in physical education classes. The teacher stated that students could sit out of physical education, but it would cost them up to five points on their grade for the day. The OEPA found this practice did not elicit high expectations for the students.

The OEPA also found MHS to be non-compliant when it came to standards of counseling services. Neither of Magnolia's two guidance counselors was spending 75 percent of the work day in direct counseling with the students. One counselor met with students approximately 35 percent of the time and the other met with students less than 10 percent of the time. The OEPA reports, "While each stated that they had counseling paperwork to complete; administrative duties, bus duties, cafeteria duties, etc., were not assigned (to them)." Such duties were cited by the counselors in the previous review as reasons for counseling students less than 25 percent of the work day.

The OEPA report states that their recommendation for library/education technology access and technology application was not followed. It states that while the computer laboratories were being frequently used, technology was only being used in half of the classes.

Although there was no evidence of tobacco use in the building on the day of the follow-up audit, there are still concerns as to chemicals being unsecured in Room 213 of the high school: "Hydrochloric acid and methanol were easily within student range and could be removed from the chemistry room without the knowledge of the teacher."

Perhaps the most shocking report out of the initial audit was alleged bullying that was taking place at Magnolia High School. The initial audit stated that seven teachers reported that the principal was bullying them and employed intimidation against teachers; they had noted that Principal Schmalz's brother was Board President Michael Blair and their jobs could be in danger if they went against the principal. The teachers stated that there were more teachers who wanted to talk about the bullying issue but would not due to fear of retaliation.

The follow-up report indicates that overall the teachers indicated they were not intimidated by the principal and there was no bullying. "A small pocket of teachers stated that bullying remained an issue; however, a strong majority of the staff indicated that the principal was making tough decisions and this was being perceived as bullying or intimidation."

The OEPA concludes, "Five of the original deficiencies remained as either not corrected or partially corrected. The principal must actively pursue remedies for each of these deficiencies as the school could be issued Low Performing accreditation status and the county could be issued Non-Approval status if they are not corrected."

The most recent audit at PCHS found them to still be noncompliant with the issue of appropriate lesson plans. The OEPA's Follow-Up Education Performance Audit Report states that "of the 16 teachers at Paden City High School, three teachers' lesson plans could not be followed by a substitute teacher. Information was so sketchy that the lesson for the day could not discern the West Virginia 21st Century content standards and objectives (CSOs). These plans lacked coherence in projection of skill development."

A new issue found was PCHS's use of student office aides. The OEPA found that there was no direct instruction and no CSOs being addressed through the use of office aides. They found that "this practice did not encourage high expectations in student achievement."

Graduation rates still managed to be a concern for the staff at PCHS, but the OEPA found that the school had begun a variety of programs and practices to increase the rate and believed that with continuing these programs, the graduation rate would increase.

Watt reported that on Sept. 5, a representative from the OEPA will be observing both PCHS and MHS. Watt, herself, will be reporting to the OEPA on Sept. 5; this fall, there is expected to be another team evaluating both high schools.

Both reports state that each school has "Conditional Accreditation status with a January 15, 2013, date certain to correct the remaining findings." The OEPA report adds for Magnolia, "If the noncompliances are not corrected by the Date Certain, the school will be recommended for Low Performing status and the ensuing consequences."



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