Local School Improvement Council reports from Long Drain School and Hundred High School were presented at the Sept. 16 meeting of the Wetzel County Board of Education.
LDS Principal Paul Huston stated his school had done a "pretty decent" job on two out of three of last year's goals. Huston noted the school was able to make improvements to the playground and facility and also had an excellent Red Ribbon Week last year. However, the principal expressed disappointment that LDS had been deemed a "support" school for last year's school year.
This rating comes from the West Virginia Department of Education, which released data from its new accountability system Sept. 4. This new accountability system replaces federal yearly progress requirements of No Child Left Behind. This past May the state of West Virginia received approval for the new system. This new accountability system puts each school in one of five categories, with a "success" ranking at the top and a "priority" ranking indicating areas that require the most improvement and resources.
A "support" designation, as LDS received, means the majority of student groups at these schools did not meet annual academic goals and the schools failed to reach goals in attendance or graduation rates, student academic growth, and student success on WESTEST 2. A support ranking means that learning gaps exist between student groups at these schools.
"Support" schools will be monitored and must partner with their local RESA on an improvement plan.
Huston said he would like to be a transition school, at least.
As for WESTEST 2 scores, Huston said LDS performed better in the reading part of the exam than the county, but was still behind in the state. The situation was the same for the math part of the exam. As for science and social studies, Huston said the school was behind the county and state average.
"One thing that I think will help us, and I think is a good thing, is that our teachers had an opportunity through the county office and state of West Virginia to receive training on the new standards," Huston stated. "Not only did we receive the training, but we were provided with the opportunity to come back and collaborate with each-other."
Huston then spoke on the positive aspect of collaboration: "For any school or organization to be successful, you have to have collaboration, and the day of one mind is not going to be effective . . . One asset I have really seen since the beginning of the school year is collaboration among teachers in coming together to improve our school. Collaboration is crucial, and I really think it's going to pay off."
Megan Baird, the school's new guidance counselor, then introduced to the board her new program for LDS: Girls On The Run. Baird explained this program was one she had administered in Monongahela County when she was a counselor at Mountain View. "It's been running for three years and is sponsored by Mon General," she said.
Girls On The Run is not just a running program, Baird noted. "It's a self-esteem program.
"One of the big issues in grades three through five is self-esteem, helping girls be self-aware . . . and you know, that's something girls everywhere struggle with, especially within Appalachia," Baird said. If we could give them a little extra leg up, some mentors, some other women who have been through it, to give them a self-esteem boost . . . The running aspect would promote physical, mental, and emotional wellness."
Baird said participants spend two days of the week in her program. For the first half-hour of the session, participants do a nationwide curriculum. "We talk about anti-bullying tactics, being aware of our bodies, being aware of our emotional health . . . For the next half hour, we run. Most of the time, the curriculum is built in to the running. Participants are given something to think about during the run. I think it's a great aspect to take into their adult life."
Baird is looking forward to starting the program in February and hopefully club participants will run a 5K in Morgantown, W.Va., in May.
Baird also provided the board with information from a school bullying survey that was completed by LDS students. Baird said from these results, she could determine that a small percentage of students are being bullied. To combat bullying, Baird said some students recommended that adults be out in the hallway more and be more aware of bullying during recess. Furthermore, Baird stated some students would like to start an anti-bullying club.
Huston then discussed anti-bullying tactics he was implementing at LDS, such as an anti-bullying film he asked the staff to watch at the beginning of the year; Huston noted he might ask parents to come in and watch the movie. Furthermore, Huston reported that at a National Bullying Conference, one of the best presentations he listened to focused on speaking to parents about bullying and social media.
He strongly recommends everybody in the Wetzel County School system have Crisis Prevention Intervention training in regards to identifying the signs and identifying the anxiety and steps that lead to a crisis, . . . "If you can identify them and figure out what's going on and take that proactive step, you're better off and everyone turns out okay most of the time."
Another survey completed by students, dealing with drugs and alcohol was discussed by Huston. "You know in our community, we've had several people that died over drug-related incidents, and it affects kids and the whole community," he said.
Huston also presented board members with the school's annual Safe and Productive School Report. "I'm not going over it step by step, but it included a breakdown of school data, by location and rank, and the interesting thing is 48 percent of the vast majority of our discipline is on the bus; classroom was 29 percent."
Huston stated one idea LDS had was to have a bus training for the students on how to ride the bus. The training would especially be for younger kids. Huston noted: "They like to stand up, turn around, lean over the seat, and put their feet out in the aisle."
For minor disciplinary issues, Huston requests that drivers call parents. "Most of our drivers are good about that, so I know when a driver comes to see me, they've already talked to the parent a couple of times."
"Is there any way you can bring in retired bus drivers that have never had real issues, that they can explain to the new bus drivers some of the things they did?" Board Member Linda KIrk asked.
"I made a recommendation that I thought any new bus driver should have a mentor like a teacher," Huston noted. "But you know that's not something in the state regulations, and it's extra money."
In regards to bus disciplinary issues, Board Member Carolyn Gatian then suggested Huston allow bus drivers to type up letters to parents, introducing themselves and their own special rules for the bus.
Huston stated he thought it would be a great idea and further added that he would like to see drivers watch their bus camera footage once every couple of weeks. "I don't know how we'd make that happen though," he noted.
Parent Teacher Association member Melissa Anderson then spoke on behalf of the PTA. Anderson thanked the board for the school's new counselor, Baird, as well as thanked the board for keeping the art, music, and physical education programs at Long Drain School. Anderson explained that the programs are a blessing to the school, especially considering "so many institutions have opted to cut those programs . . . I think it's essential to a part of our students' education." She also thanked the board for LDS's school nurse: "The fact we are able to have one here more often is something that is very important to us."
Anderson presented the board with a "wish list" of items Long Drain School would like. Anderson requested a full-time nurse at each attendance area. "I was in the 10th grade the first time I saw an asthma inhaler and the asthma attack that went with it . . . That's something that a lot of these kids live with on a daily basis. We have several kids with severe Epi-pen (required) allergies." Anderson cited the National Association for School Nurses' claims that school nurses increase attendance.
Anderson then requested a Spanish teacher for Long Drain School and Hundred High School, someone that could possibly serve half-time at LDS and half-time at HHS, and finally a new gymnasium floor was requested, as well as painting the exterior of the school. Anderson explained that she believed LDS was the only grade school in the county that does not have a hardwood floor.
As for accomplishments related to the PTA, Anderson said a new PA system had recently been implemented at both LDS and HHS. The cost of this system was $16,000.
Anderson said the PTA would like to make new improvements to the playground; though one issue remaining is the fact that when the creek floods by LDS, the playground is flooded as well.
HHS's new principal, Daniel J. Gottron, then spoke to the board with an update on HHS:
Gottron stressed the importance of promoting academic success for all students, as well as teaching students to take take individual responsibility for learning and life after school. "With any activity or club they are involved in, students should take responsibility for their behavior and actions," Gottron noted. "And we need to stress that they have a choice in how life and school will go."
The principal said he wanted to ensure that members of the community and parents will feel safe sending their students to school and added that one big part of this is school discipline. Gottron provided the board with a printout of school discipline thus far this year. "We've been fortunate that we haven't had any major incidents this year," he noted, adding, " and we are hoping that will continue."
Gottron said consistency with discipline is key. "I've spent time and have been diligent in trying to address small things before they turn into big things. I've made that a focus. I'm working on addressing these things early and consistently. The plan is it will help to minimize larger problems in the future."
"Another thing I've tried to stress with kids who have received a referral, is to use it as an opportunity to teach appropriate behavior and let students know what they did is unacceptable, to suggest what they could do next time. What I've seen is not many repeats of the same offense by the same students."
Gottron said one focus of his is to increase communication between the school and community. "We have a communication void, and we are hoping to take steps and take action to improve that, to improve communication and involvement." Gottron stated he hopes to implement a monthly calendar to send out to the community. Also, Gottron stated he wants to keep the school's website updated, noting that the website just recently had data on it from 2010. Gottron has since removed said data.
Gottron said one idea to help combat disciplinary issues is to implement more awards and assemblies; for instance, the school recently had a positive behavior kick-off. "Ms. Jeanine Watson took the initiative on that. She had Hundred Spirit gear and West Virginia spirit gear, so I had a raffle for students and gave some items out." He added, "This week we are implementing Hornet Bucks program, where students can receive a Hornet Buck for good behavior. Those Hornet Bucks can be used for admission to school events."
Hundred High School has also implemented clubs at the school: "Mr. Albright actually saw our student club kick-off. It was our first club meetings, and between our staff, I was very happy. We had 10 or 11 different clubs with at least one faculty sponsor, and that's something I was happy with. With a small faculty, we were able to give our students lots of options. Every student found something they wanted to be a part of."
Gottron said another goal is to "better utilize community partners and resources. "Mr. Huston and myself had a lunchtime meeting with our bank partners, Union Bank and First Exchange," he noted, as a first step.
As with LDS, HHS was also deemed as a support school. To improve academically, Gottron said the school implemented silent reading. The school will set aside 20 minutes a day. "Students get to choose what book they bring in and are able to spend 20 minutes reading. We are hoping to get in 100 minutes of reading per week. The idea is that it will go a long way in helping them think on a higher order and solve complex questions."
As to being a support school, Gottron explained: "One thing I've learned in teaching and coaching and everything I've tackled in life is that you don't go from 0 to 100 immediately. You don't go from a place of need to a place of success instantly." Gottron further said it was not realistic to say that HHS would be above state and county averages by spring 2014. "It's realistic to show we'd begin to get there . . . That's an academic goal, to grow in all content areas, and we will see that reflected in 2014 test goals."
Gottron said he would like to see more students take Advanced Placement courses. "We have several AP courses offered and are fortunate to have qualified teachers . . . It'd be great to see more students get the college credit."
Gottron said his favorite goal would be for an increase in attendance. He referenced a banner he recalled seeing in second grade that stated "If you miss school, you miss out." He said, "Students attending school and being in class is so crucial to their learning. If you aren't there, you can not receive instruction and you cannot receive materials." Gottron said his goal is to see 94 percent attendance.
As for positives, Gottron referenced the new clubs implemented at HHS, the smooth transition with the number of faculty, and the student Unlocking Potential committee. "This is a committee of students who have shown to be solid citizens," Gottron explained. "They are meeting with our guidance counselor to talk about positive things our school can implement, positive incentives, to help students feel connected to our school."
Hundred High School has also implemented an Occupational Health Services and Occupation club, created by the Math/Chemistry teacher. "When I asked her what she'd like to sponsor or see at the school, she mentioned this club. I'm not too familiar with it, but there's regional, state, and national competitions. I'm all about competition and giving our kids the chance to compete and succeed."
After further adding that the school has started a creative writing club, the principal noted: "We've tried to do a better job in involving our students in this school. We've gotten our student council back up and running. Our presidential candidates are going to give speeches this Wednesday in the afternoon, and we've also given a student voice to the morning announcements . . . I think that is why we've had less instances of misbehavior, because students are starting to connect with the school."
Gottron also credited Virgil Wilkins with getting the students involved. "At the end of your packets you will find a list of summer activities and summer achievements of (Wilkins') FFA students, and that's something I'm very proud to have stepped into with the school, with such a great program. I express gratitude to the board and county office to allow him to work with these students and give them opportunities to continue through the summer months.
Haley Moore, HHS's senior class president, then spoke briefly to the board, expressing gratitude to Gottron. "In our four years of high school, we've been through our (fair share) principals," Moore noted."(Mr. Gottron's) gone above and beyond to get to know teachers, staff members, and students as well," she remarked.
Moore then expressed gratitude toward Wilkins as well. "He's been an important man, teacher, role model, and mentor . .. He puts all his energy in making sure students know what they need to know . . . His replacement will be starting in the next few weeks, and I hope his replacement will follow in (Wilkins) footsteps and look out for kids in the community."
"Wilkins has made FFA an important part of our school. Ninety percent of our school, if not more, is part of FFA."
"Sports are also important," Moore said, "whether it be football, basketball, softball . . . the community is a good support. They always go out and bring our little school together. Supporting our school and teams brings the community and everyone together, to cheer, applaud, and come together. In a way sports brings us together, as a family."
Moore then referenced the three girls that attended Girls' State last year, as well as the one boy from HHS that attended Boys' State. "While spending one week at Wheeling Jesuit they learned about government, voting, and what it means to run for different offices. Each day they learned about different governments-city, state, and federal. Afterward they had a talent show, to express themselves."
"We had four students attend, and from what I heard, they had the time of their life . . . Also last summer, we had a student attend the Governor's Honor Academy with around 200 other West Virginia scholars."
Moore said she is also a member of the Unlocking Potential Club. "We come up with awards for students, talk about tardiness, student behavior, school, and class attendance. We are all interested in different things, we bring our own little flair to the group."
In closing, Moore said that all of the things she mentioned made her very proud to be a Hundred High School student.