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Schools Will Implement Initiative

By Staff | Aug 5, 2009

New Martinsville School Band Director Amanda McPherson, left, and her husband, Valley High School Band Director Benjamin McPherson, right, received an Excellence In Music Leadership Award Aug. 3 from Wetzel County Superintendent of School Bill Jones, at center in the photo. (Photo by Bill Abraham)

The Wetzel County School System will implement a new “Fast ForWord” reading initiative this year, approved by the board of education Monday and aimed at improving reading skills for all students, as well as improving Adequate Yearly Progress results.

The $500,000 cost for the program, designed by Scientific Learning Corp. of Oakland, Calif., will be paid through federal “stimulus” funds. Company training for coordinators and staff will begin next week. The company has placed the program in several West Virginia school districts through its office in Washington, Pa.

County Superintendent Bill Jones said Fast ForWord has been in place for three years in all 22 Marion County schools, all of which met AYP criteria in the last two of those years.

The company says the program develops and strengthens memory, attention, processing rate, and sequencing-the cognitive skills essential for learning and reading success. The strengthening of these skills results in a wide range of improved critical language and reading skills such as phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, decoding, working memory, syntax, grammar, and other skills necessary to learn how to read or to become a better reader.

The board of education Aug. 13 voted to add nine building coordinators for the program this year-one for each school except New Martinsville School, which will have two coordinators because of its size. These coordinators, selected from among existing school system employees, will report to the school principals.

School System Treasurer Jeff Lancaster estimated the cost of sustaining the coordinator positions would be about $1,300 each per year, paid with year-end “carry over” funds of budgeted, but unspent, money from the previous school year.

Educators emphasized that the program supplements curricula, not replaces it.

Jones presented an Excellence in Music Leadership Award in behalf of the board to county music teachers Amanda and Benjamin McPherson for their work with the consolidated OVAC Band, which performed at the All-Star Football game.

The two presented a short video clip of the band’s halftime show, which was-by any standard-a Rose Bowl level performance. Benjamin McPherson, band director at Valley High School, noted that fans blocked the band’s exit from the field until it performed an encore.

Amanda McPherson is band director at NMS. Five of the McPherson’s parents and grandparents attended the meeting.

Blaine Duggan of the Dallas, Texas-based Energy Education Corp. presented the board with his company’s Chairman’s Sustainability Award for the school system’s excellence in energy conservation. The company designed the school system’s energy conservation program, implemented nine years ago.

In addition, Energy Manager Margaret Sine told the board that, during that period, its plan has saved the school system $1,785,690, or 28 percent, of the $6,314,064 in water and other utilities expenses it would have cost without the program.

“The program has been successful,” Sine explained, “because we have made behavior changes, participated in training, and have reduced the amount of time we run our equipment.” She estimated that, if the school system continues to save at the present rate, “We will have saved $1.89 million after 10 years in the program.”