Hundred, Long Drain Schools Report Activities And Goals
The Wetzel County Board of Education started out their annual meetings with Local School Improvement Councils in a strong way Sept. 20 as Richard L. Ochsenbein, principal of Hundred High School, and Paul C. Huston, principal of Long Drain School, presented outstanding reports about their schools.
Ochsenbein began by introducing John Jennings, the president of the school’s LSIC. Jennings is in his second year of teaching biology at HHS. “I feel very fortunate to be here at this school,” said Jennings, who added that the staff and students work like a family and made him feel welcome. He also noted that the school has many young faculty members with enthusiasm and veteran faculty with wisdom. “In my opinion Hundred High School is on the verge of great things,” said Jennings.
Like Jennings, Ochsenbein also had his first year at HHS in 2009-2010. He thanked the students and staff for making it wonderful. In fact, the school had three new teachers last year: Jennings; David Pudder, math, chemistry, physics; and Jonathan Pollock, English. After the retirement of Myron Seese they hired Justina McGarvey from the Morgantown area to teach history.
The meeting included a moment of silence for English teacher Chris Roberts who passed away in May.
The always scrutinized WesTest scores were a topic at the meeting, with Ochsenbein saying he has tried to make some fair comparisons. “What we’re looking for is growth,” he said. The only growth the school saw was in ninth grade math and 10th grade reading/language arts.
“Mathematically we’re lower than what we need to be,” said Ochsenbein. The school is looking at depth of knowledge questions, but falling short in questions that are more than just regurgitating information. Consequently, the school is working with RESA 6 in trying to target how to improve that skill.
While the WesTest scores could use some improvement, Ochsenbein pointed out that their ACT scores, a nationwide indication of college readiness, were excellent. “Are our kids getting ready for college? Not just yes, but a resounding yes! We’re blowing them away,” boasted Ochsenbein.
He also outlined several improvements at the school including the Advisor Advisee program’s success in addressing a variety of issues of safe and drug free schools. They worked with local law enforcement to do random searches last year. As a result of the efforts, the incidents of tobacco use went down from nine in the previous year to two; drugs, three to none; alcohol, none this year; battery, five to one; fights, six to four; bomb threats were eliminated when they had one in the previous year; and the only increase came in harassment incidents from three to five. Ochsenbein thinks that increase may be attributed to better awareness.
Ochsenbein also talked about the Unlocking Potential program that includes a two-year grant that provides $5,500 for positive behavior support this year and $5,000 for next year. They are rewarding students every nine weeks, reinforcing elements of the Challenge Program that is continuing through Chesapeake Energy.
The Unlocking Potential program held a tailgate party before Saturday’s football contest against Paden City High School. Ochsenbein said that was in an attempt to increase involvement of parents and allow them to see teachers outside of the school environment, which can be an intimidating place. Other various events are planned to reward students for doing “the right thing”.
Finally, Ochsenbein gave a list of requests to the board. They included having a Spanish teacher instead of a virtual teacher, a full-time counselor, a school-wide mentoring program, and the addition of a core teacher next year to facilitate a more rigorous course load. Ochsenbein said they currently offer AP Literature and AP Calculus and they hope to add more AP courses after new teachers attend the AP institute next summer. However, they can’t offer any core electives like psychology or economics without some help.
Huston had LSIC President Victoria Stevens, a LDS student, introduce his talk with the board. She did a commendable job at public speaking.
For five years in a row LDS has met AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress). “It’s the students and the staff,” cited Huston. “They all work hard. It’s a reflection of our community.”
Once again the WesTest was a big topic of discussion. Out of 156 West Virginia middle schools, LDS ranked 21 in math, the top 13 percent, and 17th in reading/language arts, top 11 percent. “I’m very pleased with those numbers. We’ll do our very best to stay where we’re at,” Huston told the board.
While eighth graders had their scores drop in both categories Huston said those same students did better than any other school around on the ACT Explorer test, like at HHS.
He explained how the school works as a whole to keep the school’s performance high. Personally, Huston said he was impressed that the Kindergarten through second grade teachers wanted to see third grade data so they could see what they could do to help educate the students to meet the WesTest goals in the future.
Board Member Bob Patterson inquired about the reason for the increase in the reading/language arts scores. Huston quickly answered that the implementation of the Response to Intervention program building-wide made a huge difference, as did the Ticket to Read and Fast Forward programs.
Huston also told the board how he sat down with each LDS student to go over their WesTest scores. Not only did he present to them the student report that WesTest creates, but he ran his own numerical report that showed each child’s performance in the current and previous year.
“That was one of the most powerful experiences. I’m going to continue to do that,” he said, even though it was difficult.
The kids loved that he took the time to meet with them and it gave the students a better understanding of their performance, enabling them to talk through the report with their parents.
Huston told the story of one student whose heart obviously sank when he saw the WesTest report that called him a “novice” in each category. But when Huston showed him his numerical spreadsheet where it indicated the student had improved by at least 10 points in each category, the student gained some confidence.
Board Member Linda Ritz said she is not a fan of the WesTest, so she was very pleased he did that. “I think you may be doing a lot more for those students than you’re realizing,” said Ritz.
Board Member Willie Baker also said it is one of the best things he has ever heard at a board meeting. “I really like that,” he said.
The LSIC goals for the coming year are to continue to meet AYP; work on cleaning up the school’s appearance, and try to build a better environment for the kids with older students making lessons for younger kids. The latter was a goal last year that Huston said, “We didn’t achieve that goal at all.” One of the biggest detriments was the weather that caused so many missed days, so they couldn’t pull kids for those extra activities.
He presented two requests to the board. He asked them to look into having the creek dredged again as the playground often gets flooded. After it was dredged about nine years ago it seemed to help. He also asked the board to fund a coaching position for the school’s cross country team. The school funded the position this year. While other middle schools have funded football or volleyball coach positions, LDS doesn’t have the participation numbers for those sports.
Finally, a discussion was held concerning the drop out rate at HHS, the statistic that kept them from meeting AYP. Baker asked what can be done to cut the drop out rate.
Huston offered that it might help if they could figure out a way that HHS students don’t have to wait two years before they get to the tech center. He further said they are trying to figure out a way to get some seventh and eighth grade students to the high school for some specialty classes like vocational agriculture and home economics.
“If you want to keep kids in school, you have to give kids things to do that are meaningful to them,” said Huston.
Ochsenbein said 12 students are being transported to the Marion County Technical Center in Farmington, plus Rex Rush teaches the clean energy lab within the school.
Ochsenbein further said they are working at putting some of the fun back in school.
Counselor Beverly Van Scyoc said one of the biggest problem is that every year HHS gets a number of transfers from schools such as West Greene, Valley, and Paden City high schools, and those are the ones who drop out. “We graciously accept everybody who comes, and then they drop,” said Van Scyoc.
Ochsenbein noted that of those students who started at HHS in the ninth grade, none have dropped out.
Also, once a student drops out, even if they re-enroll or earn a GED, they still count as a drop out in the record books. HHS had five or six student re-enroll this year. “Sometimes high school takes more than four years,” added Ochenbein.
“It’s good to have high standards, but they have to have some reality to them,” said Ritz, of rules not taking into account students who are shuffled around.
Director of Students Support Service Sue Villers said that of the 33 students county-wide who had dropped out at the end of the 2009-2010 school year, nine have re-enrolled somewhere and one passed the GED.