NMS And MHS Outline Goals
The Wetzel County Board of Education convened in the auditorium of Magnolia High School Nov. 1 to hear annual reports from the Local School Improvement Councils for New Martinsville School and Magnolia High School. During this meeting New Martinsville School Principal Fay Shank made a bold proposal to the board to implement a one-hour delayed start time once a week for both NMS and MHS to allow greater time and productivity in the already practiced Common Planning time.
This planning time for the West Virginia Department of Education’s Collaborative Team Network has been only 20-25 minutes long and Shank believes a longer meeting period to discuss teaching practices and techniques would lead to more thorough discussions and result in better classroom instruction for the students. Shank impressed upon the board she hopes a plan of this sort could be enacted as soon as the second semester of this academic year.
Shank explained that the common planning time is specifically used to identify at-risk students, below mastery students, and develop cross-curricular lessons, intervention plans, and SAT referrals.
“If we were allowed that time it would afford us opportunities to collaborate data and work together across grade levels and share strategies to best meet the needs of the students,” Shank stressed. “It’s a major change to the students, the faculty, and the community. But 20 minutes is not nearly enough time.” If provided, this extra time would allow for vertical planning/alignment, lesson studies, action research, peer observation and coaching, and evaluation and improvement of instructional practices.
Board President Mike Blair stated he could support something of that nature. “I think we should look at all county schools and implement all eight facilities on the same track,” Blair suggested as he asked Superintendent Bill Jones to evaluate the situation and proposal. Jones said he would have to evaluate the impact Shank’s proposal would have on the community and examine how best to attack this idea.
Also during the meeting Shank went over New Martinsville School’s yearly LSIC report with the board. It was noted that pertaining to WesTest scores several grade levels improved from last year at or above the county/and or state levels, however that wasn’t true for all grade levels at NMS.
Grades three, six, and seven improved across the board in both mathematics and reading/language while grade four declined slightly in both areas. Fifth grade improved in math, but dropped in reading/language and eighth grade showed the opposite results: showing a decrease in math but an improvement in reading/language.
“It’s not all about the WesTest scores,” Shank noted. “That’s one snapshot on one day. You need multiple snapshots throughout the year.”
In the annual report Shank outlined their five-year strategic plan, and shared several goals to reach their mission statement: Education individuals for success in the 21st Century.
These goals include the following: All students will be educated in a safe and drug-free learning environment that supports academic achievement; all students in the Students with Disability subgroup will demonstrate increased achievement as evidenced on the WesTest through 2014; all students will achieve mastery or above on educational standards as measured by state assessments for 2009 through 2014; all teachers in every content area will utilize the West Virginia 21st Century SOs; and through the use of technology integration in the classrooms, student achievement will be maximized, student learning will be enhanced, and 21st Century skills will be improved.
Technology coordinator Pat Bland listed to the board that NMS presently has close to 600 computers, five labs with modern Operating Systems, laptop carts used daily for presentations and research, and netbooks for teachers. Bland also noted how important GradeQuick has become for daily communication. Parents are able to access the teachers’ individual web page where assignments, announcements, and handouts are made available. The program also allows parents to access their child’s grades.
In addition to teaching the students these technological skills, “We also must provide training for our teachers,” Bland stated. “I’ve seen many teachers go kicking and screaming into the 21st Century, but I can tell you that our whiteboards are being used daily.”
Board member Linda Ritz commented with concern. “It almost sounds like paper and pencil are obsolete.” Bland stressed she’s very proud of their gains in technology, but that homework is still assigned to be done on paper and that physical writing skills remain a priority in learning.
Magnolia High School’s LSIC also presented their annual report to the board. Before giving their presentation the MHS choir entertained those present with a beautiful arrangement of “America The Beautiful.” Amanda McPherson, recently appointed president of the LSIC, first outlined the LSIC’s mission statement: Working together; learning together; succeeding in the 21st Century.
Principal Kathi Schmalz then presented ways in which the school further plans to meet and exceed their goals. Schmalz outlined that through culture, relationships, professional development, and embracing rigor and relevance the school would overall reach achievement across the board for the school, faculty, and most importantly, the students.
Schmalz explained a student and staff survey was conducted to gain a better understanding of what was valued and expected at MHS. Schmalz stated that consistently students are saying they just want to be understood. “Change needs to take place,” Schmalz said. “What we value here is football, and athletics. But I also want students to see the importance of academics.”
The theme of change was prominent in Schmalz’s presentation. In connection, Schmalz told the board they are sending teams of teachers to other school to see what’s working elsewhere, noting that so far one of the major differences is that teachers are asking a lot more questions, taking students deeper in the knowledge.
Of course Schmalz understood that it’s tough to make big changes. She stated teachers simply can’t teach students the same way they were taught.
“Today’s world doesn’t allow anyone to be successful simply with recall,” Schmalz said.
Board member Willie Baker asked Schmalz how well the older teachers were accepting the changes, to which Schmalz replied, “They’re learning on their own that what they’re doing now isn’t working. Their kids are disengaged. We are taking people out of their comfort zones but we’re also preparing students for their unknown futures.” Baker agreed, “We have to make the changes for the students.”