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Short Line And Valley Update School Board

By Staff | Nov 5, 2008

The Wetzel County Board of Education was treated to a multi-faceted and media presentation Oct. 20 as they learned about the achievements and goals at Short Line School and Valley High School, who hosted the meeting.

SLS Principal T. Jane Beckett told the board that her Local School Improvement Council had set four goals for 2007-08. Those were reiterated for the 2008-09 school year, with two additions geared toward improving performance on the WesTest.

The new goals are that the school will implement research-based strategies for improving student achievement in the areas of mathematics and reading/language arts. Beckett noted the tests in those two areas on the WesTest count for meeting Adequate Yearly Progress.

The four goals that have carried through from last year to this are:

-All students will master or exceed grade level on 21st Century Learning Skills.

This goal was not met in the 2007-08 school year.

-All students in the disabilities subgroup will demonstrate increased achievement as evidenced on the WesTest.

-All students will be educated in a safe and drug-free learning environment that supports academic achievement.

There were some issues that threatened the learning environment at SLS last year, however Beckett said they were dealt with immediately. Also, this summer the school put into place some anti-bullying measures. “Those kids have been dealt with immediately this year,” said Beckett.

-Through the integration of technology, student achievement will improve, student learning will be enhanced, and students will improve 21st century skills.

“We have done many things and continue to implement study groups and research-based strategies,” noted Beckett.

Further, she listed three major accomplishments at the school in the past year:

-The addition of white boards and projectors to 24 classrooms has begun. They have already held one training session for teachers and will hold more in the future.

-A new wooden gym floor is completely installed. It includes set-in volleyball standards. Also, a new score clock is in place and bleachers are to be installed the first week of December. “Hopefully before the first junior high basketball game,” said Beckett.

To keep the new floor in good shape, all students were required to bring new, cheap gym shoes that are kept at the school for use on the new floor. If a student could not afford new shoes, then they were able to wash and scrub an old pair to be used in the same manner.

-The school received a fresh fruits and vegetables grant of $33,580 that provides a fruit or vegetable snack to every child every day.

This accomplishment was of perhaps the most interest to the board. SLS students passed out samples of the snacks. “The kids love them,” she said. “They wanted seconds and third with the berries.”

SLS was one of 25 schools in the state to receive the two-year grant. Superintendent Bill Jones informed Beckett of the grant opportunity on a Thursday. It was due on the following Monday. The school originally received only $10,000 for the program, but then it was increased to $33,580. They will be eligible to apply for the unique grant again. “They want to get the idea of eating healthy to the young kids,” said Beckett.

The school’s teachers also include a teaching component with the snacks. For instance, the day pomegranates were served, many children were first introduced to the uncommon fruit.

Brian Jones, director of ancillary services, noted that Beckett is doing a great job with the grant. Most grantees only get a snack to each child once throughout the week, but Beckett is stretching the money to make it possible to give a healthy snack to every child every day. She said some grantees take some administrative costs out of the grant, but she just does the needed paperwork as part of her regular principal duties.

Based on the free and reduced lunch rate, Brian Jones noted that only two schools in the county would have qualified for the grant. The services director does not believe any county received more than one grant.

The VHS portion of the program started out by two selections from the VHS Marching Band led by Director Ben McPherson and Field Commander Ava Morris. They also provided the board with compact discs containing the recent band and choir concert.

“I’ve got a fantastic faculty, I’ve got fantastic kids, I’ve got fantastic parents to work with,” raved Principal Shawn Coen.

Despite all of these advantages, VHS has had some trouble keeping students in school. Last year VHS had a graduate rate of 78.7 percent, less than the 80 percent needed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress.

“That has become our big goal,” said Coen.

They plan to do that by increasing the number of students using peer mediation and adult mentors, encouraging increased involvement in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, provide parent and student education for alternatives to dropping out of school (like GED, home-schooling, transferring, and Mountaineer ChalleNGe academy), and utilizing the Prevention Resource Officer as a mentor and deterrent for misbehavior.

Other initiatives are to increase student interest through the use of differentiated instruction based on learning style inventories conducted during the advisory period, get the advisory program that allows students to research and explore various career opportunities well established, increase use of 21st Century Learning tools such as Smart Boards and Nova-5000s, and increase opportunities for students to participate at the Mid-Ohio Valley Technical Institute.

The SEEDS grant of $25,000 for each of three years is in its second year. The first year the money was used for Smart Board training. “Now the teachers have an opportunity to collaborate,” said Coen.

A board was established in the teachers’ lounge where they can tell each other what they are doing in the classrooms so maybe they can cross reference and reinforce tasks in other subjects.

Following Coen’s presentation, the board members played a game of VHS Jeopardy where they learned many facts about the school, including that students can earn an impressive 35 college credit hours while at VHS. “This is a very creative way to present an LSIC,” noted Amy Difffenbach, board member.