BY LAUREN MATTHEWS
New Martinsville School and Magnolia High School both gave Local School Improvement Council reports to the Wetzel County Board of Education Monday night. Monday night's program began with an enthusiastic musical performance by the NMS band.
With the new West Virginia Department of Education ranking system for schools, New Martinsville School was identified as a focus school. The WVDEP describes this as meaning that learning gaps based on academic progress on the WESTEST 2 between student groups are too large.
Since being identified as a "focus" school, a group from Regional Education Service Agency has come down to assist the school with instructional strategy, modeling group teachers and working on basic classroom discipline.
New Martinsville School has a variety of academic/support services, including reading intervention specialists; speech, physical, and occupational therapy; hearing and vision impaired services; school counselors, a school nurse; teachers certified in gifted, mental impairments, learning disabilities, autism, and behavior disorders; English as a second language; differentiated instruction; Honors English classes, high school credits offered in foreign language; two media centers; a student assistant team; 21st century learning, and support for personalized learning. Support for Personalized Learning is a statewide initiative that "suggests flexible use of resources to provide relevant academic, social, emotional, and/or behavioral support to enhance learning for all students."
Besides highlighting the several above-mentioned support services, the handout distributed to the board and audience Monday night also highlighted the various technology services available at NMS, including five computer labs with over 25 computers in each; computers in every classroom, interactive whiteboards, ELMO document cameras, and accelerated reader and math programs. Those are just a few of the many technologies available to NMS students.
NMS highlights fine arts through music and art classes for students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade; an art enrichment after-school program; instrumental music and choir for grades five through eighth; Wetzel all-county band; a school-wide production of Seussical the Musical, and "An Evening with the Arts."
School activities and programs at NMS were also highlighted for the audience, as well as the various athletics offered through physical education and health classes.
NMS describes their core beliefs as the following: to provide all students with the opportunity to fulfill their potential by creating a challenging, supporting, enriching, and safe environment for learning; to strive to meet the needs of all learners and to recognize each student's uniqueness; to encourage all students to realize their full potential; to challenge all students and staff to establish a school community of learners; and students, parents, communities, and educators are partners in the lifelong learning process.
Principal Kathi Schmalz was the first to speak on behalf of Magnolia High School for their LSIC presentation.
Schmalz stated that her students have recently studied the 1960's, including studying discoveries of that time, as well as studying papers written certain weeks of that period. "It was an amazing experience," Schmalz said. She further remarked that MHS has welcomed the Common Core with open arms. "We are working on keeping students engaged and working hard to implement the Common Core."
Schmalz said her students recently completed the first benchmark. "I've never seen scores like I had seen this time . . . Students are starting to take responsibility for their education."
MHS was given an index score of 62.23 percent for this past year, which fell below their index target of 71.3588. However, MHS was above the average of 55.3611 percent for high schools.
"Our kids are doing well," Schmalz said. "They are not far from where they need to be, and with that being said, our students are not afraid of a challenge."
Currently MHS has six college classes, eight honors classes and five Advanced Placement classes. Schmalz said that most of the classes are filled, in fact some are overfilled.
"Magnolia is working hard," Schmalz said. "We are doing everything we can to reach our goals. We have a great LSIC group who are looking for ways to improve. I've got to say we have a great staff and I'd put them up against anyone."
Teacher Mark Lemasters then followed up Schmalz's presentation with one of his own concerning technology at Magnolia.
Lemasters stated that MHS offers two levels of business applications courses and students tend to do "very well" mastering Microsoft Office applications.
He further stated that MHS recently acquired new wiring and all of their servers are no longer located in MHS and are now located at the county office, if not the Wetzel Center for Children and Families. "So far we've not had a lot of problems with that," he noted. "If not, we've had a more productive use of time."
Lemasters also said smart boards had been installed in the Special Education curriculum. He stated the instructor is very excited about using this technology with the kids."
Also, Lemasters noted, that every teacher at MHS now has an iPad. "We are expending that to the Read 180 program, and we are going to push out that curriculum on the iPad instead of using computer labs." Lemasters said there are currently five computer labs at MHS.
Lemasters said currently there is one student each taking Japanese and Chinese. "Both of those are very tough courses," he noted. "I sometimes wonder how they are making it through."
Lemasters said Magnolia's yearbook is fully online. "Students are becoming more proficient in technology and applications. Math One and Math Two are meeting Common Core standards by going into the computer lab and working on additional problems and projects."
After Lemasters' presentation, Student Council President Shelby Sands and English/Spanish Teacher Stacy Barcus gave a PowerPoint presentation on MHS's year thus far.