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Board Hears From Schools

By Staff | Nov 5, 2008

In the photo, members of the Magnolia High School Choir—the first such group at the school in 10 years—perform at the Nov. 3 meeting of the Wetzel County Board of Education with a unique Aborigine folk song, “Tungare”, which translates to “We sing”. At right are board members Linda Ritz and Bob Patterson. (Photo by Bill Abraham)

The Magnolia High School Choir launched the Nov. 3 board of education meeting with a unique Aborigine folk song, “Tungare”, which translates to “We sing”. It is the first choir Magnolia has had in some 10 years.

The award-winning New Martinsville School Choir appeared next with its presentation of “Elijah Rock” to the great pleasure of board members and others present at MHS for the meeting.

Board members next heard reports from the schools’ principals and Local School Improvement Councils on their plans for the 2008-09 school year.

MHS Principal Kathi Schmalz told board members that MHS students exceeded WesTest/AYP goals for last year, as reflected in a 5.5 percent increase achievement in both science and reading/language arts. She also pointed to an eight percent jump in math scores.

Schmalz also reported her school’s 94.5 percent graduation rate, an attendance rate of 94 percent, and a dropout rate of only 1.5 percent. All the indicators are within the guidelines for Adequate Yearly Progress benchmarks established by the state department of education.

She also said the students and staff are working to meet or exceed next year’s more rigid AYP guidelines with several initiatives, including “stretch learning”, that is designed to provide more challenges to students and more time for them to work on improving weak areas.

MHS mentors are available before classes begin three days a week to come in early to work on improving weak areas in their academic performance.

JoBeth Simmons, president of MHS’ Local School Improvement Council, outlined its core beliefs and goals for the coming year. Those beliefs include providing a safe learning environment and providing rigorous and relevant instruction.

Simmons said the LSIC goals include having all students in the disability subgroup demonstrate increased achievement and bringing all students to or above mastery level on 21st educational standards.

MHS Assistant Principal Marilyn McWhorter told board members she was impressed early on that Magnolia is “truly a student-oriented school.” McWhorter, a veteran teacher in the Marshall County School System, is in her first year as an MHS administrator.

Although NMS did not meet AYP for the 2007-08 school year, it’s LSIC and principal’s reports closely paralleled those for Magnolia High School. NMS-with the largest single population of special need students in the county-failed to meet AYP levels in that area.

However, Principal Fay Shank pointed out that NMS’ scores for all students, including those in special education, still exceed county and state averages for the same students.

Shank said the students and staff at her school already are implementing programs and new initiatives to raise WesTest and AYP standard for the current school year. Chief among those efforts are differentiated instruction and a program designed at early detection of at-risk students.

She also noted that NMS teachers continue to participate in Professional Learning Communities that allow them to observe other teachers in the classroom as they implement strategies for improving WesTest/AYP performance.

Treasurer Jeff Lancaster reported that the school system had received some $209,190.69 in new funding to help implement 2008-09 instructional and support objectives.

The largest single amount, $209,000, is the result of Gov. Joe Manchin’s pledge to help local schools implement their school access safety plans. Another $32,000 will help fund the fresh fruits and vegetables program at Short Line School.

In addition, a $1,000 contribution from PPG Industries will assist in the school system’s career endeavors programs. PPG, a Partner in Education with several Wetzel County schools, has made a similar contribution for several years.

The board approved the first reading of revisions to two policies, the second and final revision of a third policy and tabled consideration of a fourth policy revision.

Initial approval was given to awarding a $500 bonus to administrative and service personnel who announce their retirement on or before Feb. 1 of any calendar year, providing they complete the current school year.

Assistant Superintendent Jay Yeager, who sought approval of the revision, explained that the West Virginia Legislature last year set aside a fixed amount of state funds for such bonuses to teaching personnel. Since that funding is limited, it is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

Yeager said the lawmakers have now authorized local boards of education to extend those bonuses to administrative and service workers, to be paid from locally-generated revenues. After those bonuses have been awarded, Yeager said any left over funds will be applied to qualified teacher bonuses if state funds for a year have been exhausted.

The board also approved a revision of its policy on pay periods, making 24 such periods uniform for all school employees. Treasurer Jeff Lancaster said 24 pay periods already is in place for most employees and the policy revision applies that configuration for all employees.

The second and final revision was approved for a policy on student assessment that makes the county’s advanced placement grade-point system conform to that mandated by the state board of education. That policy becomes effective immediately, while the previous two move to a second reading at the board’s next regularly-scheduled meeting, 7 p.m., Nov. 17 at the central office, 333 Foundry St. in New Martinsville.

On member Bob Patterson’s motion, the board tabled consideration of a measure that would revise a policy on providing uniforms to transportation employees.

The board approved a request from Rebecca Goddard to allow her home-schooled daughter to participate in the band program at New Martinsville School. It also approved a request from an out-of-county parent to allow her daughter to continue attending a Wetzel County School.

In addition, the board okayed a request from Young Life to use a school bus to transport students and chaperones to and from Camp Caesar, near Cowen, W.Va., for the Young Life Fall weekend Nov. 7. Tri-County Young Life will be responsible for the cost of fuel and bus operator’s wages associated with this request.

Before adjourning, the board approved several changes in the employment of professional, service, and extracurricular personnel.