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Petition Set To Remove Williams

By Staff | Oct 28, 2015

An online petition moving for the removal of Wetzel County Superintendent Leatha Williams has garnered more than 750 signatures, as of press time.

The petition, accessible at change.org was created by Wetzel County parent Christina Coulter and is titled “Wetzel County Students and Teachers Deserve Better.”

Coulter said she created the petition “in response to the overwhelming feelings of negativity, frustration, disrespect, and confusion that parents, teachers, and students have regarding statements and actions made by our superintendent, Leatha Williams.”

Coulter said Williams’ portrayal of educational doctrine, her delegation of plans and policies, and delineation of educators are in direct opposition of what “WE embody as a county.”

Coulter said Williams has openly discussed her plans to change current policies and procedures in Wetzel County Schools but has caused mass confusion and aggravation due a lack of communication. Williams has allegedly challenged teachers that question her new agenda to “resign, relocate, or retire,” according to Coulter.

Furthermore, Coulter noted that she has spoken to nearly 100 teachers in the county, from every school, and has been told that some of the “best and brightest teachers” are considering resigning, relocating, or retiring if Williams continues as superintendent.

Coulter said that approximately 700 of the signatures she had collected through Monday are from individuals who reside in the county; half of those citizens live in the Reader, Pine Grove, and Hundred areas.

“In Mrs. Williams’ three short months as superintendent, she has made it abundantly clear to the citizens of Wetzel County that she does not represent what we feel is an adequate leader for our students and teachers,” Coulter said.

Coulter added that she is encouraging all Wetzel County residents to attend the next board of education meeting at New Martinsville School on Monday, Nov. 2 at 6:30 p.m.

“We are using our voices and our right as citizens to stand up for what we feel is an injustice to the education of our children and the degradation of our teachers.”

School Board President Mike Blair released a statement Monday regarding the petition. Blair said in order to respond to the situation, he wanted to discuss concerns that have been facing Wetzel County Schools for a few years.

“At that time of our superintendent vacancy, we were a program driven county, and as a board we were not seeing results in terms of student performance. We knew we had to change the direction of leadership and instruction to better prepare our students for their future endeavors. As the board, we searched for a curriculum based candidate, which led to the selection of Mrs. Williams as our superintendent.”

Blair included the following points:

– As a board, here are some points of our concern. 1) Recently released information regarding the top 10 school system in our state included Monongalia #1, Ohio #2, Tyler #3 and Marshall #5. We are surrounded by counties achieving these results. Our county’s assessment results are proven data that our county was low in test scores. The results from the West Virginia Summative Assessment 3-8 and 11, our ACT results and our FAFSA completion of 47%, are multiple points that prove a change was needed.

– Additionally, we have had a focus school in our county for the past three years that has not met established targets. With House Bill 2381, Wetzel County was notified we have 3 additional schools performing in the bottom 20% of the state. With that said, 50% of our schools are in this category and as a board change had to be made. If student achievement is not made in these schools, they will be either classified a priority or focus schools and/or could receive a letter grade of “F” from the West Virginia Department of Education. The state will then intervene in the schools and could appoint leadership, change school calendars, curriculum, etc.

– With the few points listed above, it is obvious that our system had to change leadership to benefit our students. We had to focus on the standards, different teaching, instruction and increasing student achievement. Many trainings have been provided and will continue throughout the year as well as other supports to assist each school with the changes. This includes items such as hiring instructional coaches. Mrs. Williams personally provides training to our county and school administrators who then work with our school leadership teams. School principals are responsible to build capacity for change in their buildings. Our board meetings recently have been held at the local attendance areas for LSIC meetings. Principals have reported that during the first 9 weeks, the ICA (Interim Comprehensive Assessment) testing results are showing our student achievement has improved from last year.

– As for the petition, Mrs. Williams has inherited many issues since her employment, but she has worked diligently to do what is best for our students to improve achievement levels. I would ask all parties involved to focus on what is important, our youth and improving our county’s performance. Publishing documents as this only distracts from the bottom line. Our children are our future.

Williams submitted the following statement regarding the petition:

Although I would not normally respond directly to a petition like the change.org petition, I thought that this would be a good opportunity to explain some of the values and goals of the Wetzel County school system and to dispel some inaccurate rumors.

Since July 1, 2015 when I became the Superintendent, the administration of Wetzel County Schools and the Board of Education have worked together to develop the Wetzel County Schools Mission Statement and Core Beliefs which are:

The Mission Statement

Wetzel County Schools strives to create productive citizens and collaborative communicators that are prepared for college and career success. Therefore, Wetzel County Schools will support and promote engaging, standards-based personalized

learning.

Core Beliefs

The staff of Wetzel County Schools will:

1. Provide a positive, respectful, and nurturing learning environment to assure safety and dignity to all stakeholders.

2. Collaborate to provide a rigorous, engaging, standards-based learning experience which supports personalized learning.

All students of Wetzel County Schools will:

1. Become productive, successful, knowledgeable, responsible, and caring citizens who are civically engaged.

2. Develop skills through rigorous learning that will allow them to be excellent communicators and collaborators with strong interpersonal abilities that will foster career success.

3. Productive members of a safe and tolerant learning environment.

In short, our goal as a school system is to provide an education for each student based on his or her specific needs. To do that, we must collect significant amounts of data through various assessments and then use that data to provide meaningful individualized instruction for each student. That is a long way from the old days of ?sit and get,? where a teacher lectured to a classroom of seated students. Under that system, the students who understood were fine and those who did not understand were often out of luck. Worse still many of the students who passed the tests and earned decent grades failed to learn important concepts that were necessary for future learning. But those learning deficits usually went unnoticed because educators were not trained and did not have the right tools to address the specific learning needs of each child.

As Wetzel County Schools moves toward individualized standards-based instruction, evidence-based decision making and learner-centered classrooms, our staff and students will experience and have to adjust to significant change. But the hard work will be worth it.

We are now early in the implementation stage and it is natural for there to be a productive struggle during this time. To assist our staff with these changes, supports have been put in place. I meet bi-monthly with the principals and review and reteach when I have learned of an issue that needs to be resolved. We have monthly professional development on literacy and mathematics for our teachers. We have hired instructional coaches to support teachers at the school and classroom levels. We have bi-weekly Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) led by the instructional coaches for teachers. We have just started our Leaders of Literacy Team and are providing all teachers with texts for school level studies on close and analytical reading as well as writing from sources.

Through our School Leadership Team Academies professional development was provided to our teacher leaders on the instructional and content shifts within the learning standards, professional learning communities, Support for Personalized Learning (SPL), instructional strategies, and data collection from formative and interim assessments. Our principals and teacher leaders were responsible for taking that information back to individual schools and training others in the schools. Moving to a data-driven educational system is hard work for all stakeholders. This system is very different from the program-driven educational systems of the past and I recognize that change is hard. But this is the right course for our students.

Additionally, we are sending out two surveys this week to collect data regarding SPL and technology needs. We have also given the School Climate Survey in all schools (as requested by the principals) and will use this data to target needs in each school. All parents and students were included and given the opportunity to have input through this survey.

We have a solid plan for improving student achievement by determining the specific needs of each student and designing instruction to meet those needs. Executing this plan will take considerable time and require patience. As stated above, I know that change is hard. As the chief executive officer of the Board of Education I appreciate that frustrations with these changes are likely to be aimed at me. And that?s okay. I can take it and gladly do so because I know that what we are doing is right for our students and their futures.

Thank you for providing me with this opportunity to better communicate with the citizens of Wetzel County about the changes taking place in their schools. I will strive to be a better communicator as we move forward.