At the Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting Monday night, board members, Pocahontas County High School principal Joe Riley, educators and students debated the change in the high school’s schedule from block classes to a seven-period day.
Concerned with the dropout rate, the board asked the high school last year to look into making changes because it felt the students were struggling with the block schedule.
Riley took on the task and configured a seven-period day and shared the changes with PCHS staff January 6. The final schedule was shared with the staff again earlier in the day Monday.
“That’s what I’m looking at,” Riley said of the information he shared with the board. “I put out this paper this morning for the staff to look at. The staff is concerned about making this transition, and they have legitimate concerns. They have legitimate questions about why I’m doing it. I feel like there are some good things that can come out of the seven-period day.”
Riley said the staff asked him to consider a modified block schedule or to revisit the block schedule because they are concerned if a student fails a core class, it will be harder for them to make it up in a seven-period classes.
Several individuals voiced their opinion on the change. Assistant principal Kristy Tritapoe said she is very concerned and agrees that a modified block should be considered.
“I have major concerns with this schedule – major concerns,” she said. “When he presented this this morning, we kind of thought we were going to look at modified block, but this is what we have. We got from the meeting last year that you all said we have to go to a seven period a day schedule, but we did look at it as a staff, and I asked multiple questions this morning of Mr. Riley.
“What is the plan?” Tritapoe asked. “Where is the safety net for these kids because if they are in these classes all year and they fail, what are you going to do with them because we don’t have a solid credit recovery program in the summer anymore.”
The board explained that it asked the school to change to a different kind of schedule because graduation rates were down, dropout rates are increasing and the number of students dropping out of college after graduating from PCHS is increasing.
The board said it felt the schedule at PCHS was part of the issue.
PCHS junior Hunter Tankersly said he felt the change would cause issues for the upperclassmen because they have already planned to double up on core classes in the block schedule. For example, in the first semester, they would take Math 5 and second semester, Calculus 1 or another college level class.
“I think that having a seven-period day is really going to effect a lot of juniors – maybe not so much the students who are just coming into the high school – but a lot of juniors because we’ve kind of relied on being able to take a class next year, and we’re trying to double up on classes next year. We’re not going to be able to do that,” Tankersly said.
While most spoke against the change, Marlinton Middle School principal Dustin Lambert – a PCHS alum –said he is a proponent of the seven-period day schedule.
As a student at PCHS, Lambert had block scheduling. He also did his student teaching at PCHS in the block schedule, but then he left and taught at Lincoln County High School for four years where there was an eight-period day schedule.
“I’ve got to tell you, none of these issues that you guys are voicing ever came up at Lincoln County High School,” Lambert said. “It was consistent. We had opportunities for our students to prevail. It worked. So for us to say that we’re going to stay in the same boring setting that’s been here for how many years, it’s not working.”
Lambert said that in a 50-minute class, his students were more engaged than they would have been in a 90-minute class, like he witnessed at PCHS.
“I am a huge proponent of the seven-period day because I have taught in it and I’ve experienced it, and I can say it is so much better than ninety-minutes,” he said. “I couldn’t say that if I had not moved away and taught in that setting, but I so much prefer that setting because my students were with me – for fifty minutes – they were with me. At the high school during my student teaching, it was a constant battle to keep them focused.”
As the board listened to the opinions shared by both sides and reviewed the packet of information Riley provided, it was split on which schedule is best.
Included in the packet was a list of pros and cons for the change that the staff gave Riley to share. Board member Steve Tritapoe said that looking at the pros and cons, it seemed the cons outweighed the pros and therefore, the choice was easy.
“Your cons are outweighing your pros,” he said. “If you got your cons down a lot lower than your pros, to me that would be a simple choice. I’d like to see the cons lower than the pros.”
Riley said he would look at the schedule and take the concerns into consideration, but he wanted the board to make a decision soon, because he plans to have students finish the 2016-2017 school year with a schedule in place for 2017-2018.
“I want to have the kids’ schedule before they get out this summer,” he said. “There will not be any scheduling the first day of school. That is entirely stressful for the staff and it’s too stressful for the kids. They need to have something whenever they walk out the door. That’s what we’re looking at.”
The board thanked Riley and all those who shared in the discussion about the schedule.
MMS receives free high tunnel
Marlinton Middle School principal Dustin Lambert informed the board that the school recently received a free high tunnel from the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.
Lambert explained that there is no cost for the board to install the structure, but he did need to ask permission to build the high tunnel.
Margaret Worth, who is teaching the horticulture elective at MMS said the students are excited to work with the high tunnel and have found ways to incorporate math and science in the class.
Worth added that she has worked with several community members who have volunteered time and equipment to get the high tunnel up and running. Worth was accompanied by students Ryan Robertson and John Fitzgerald who both shared their enthusiasm for the project.
• PCHS athletic director Kristy Tritapoe said she is concerned with the lack of money in the athletic’s general fund. She is worried she won’t have enough funds to begin the fall season next year.
The board said it was concerned, too, and scheduled a work session to meet with all the high school coaches and Tritapoe to address the issues. The work session is Monday, February 20, at 4 p.m.
• In miscellaneous management, the board approved the following:
• Shannon Alderman and Gina A. Hardesty as volunteer basketball coaches at Hillsboro Elementary School.
In personnel management, the board approved the following:
• Requested transfer of Carolyn Pennington from itinerant special education classroom aide/bus aide at Marlinton Elementary School to itinerant early childhood classroom assistant teacher/classroom aide/bus aide – preschool special needs/preschool at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, effective for the 2017-2018 school year, at state basic pay. Term of employment is 200 days.
• Resignation of Rosanne T. Zeni, due to retirement, as teacher of early education at Marlinton Elementary School, effective at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.
• Requested transfer of Ryan C. Alderman as school bus operator for Pocahontas County Schools from his current run to a new run, effective January 25, for the remainder of the 2016-2017 school year, at state basic pay. Term of employment is 88 days. Term of employment shall be 200 days each year thereafter.
• Abolishment of position, itinerant special education classroom aide/bus aide at Marlinton Elementary School, effective at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.
• Employment Patricia G. Cochran, Pamela G. Friel, Amanda G. McCarty, Shelby L. Snead and Holly L. Strader as substitute aides for Pocahontas County Schools, effective January 25, for the remainder of the 2016-2017 school year, as needed, at state basic pay.
• Employment of Pamela G. Friel, Amanda G. McCarty and Sherri Mullens as substitute cooks for Pocahontas County Schools, effective January 25, for the remainder of the 2016-2017 school year, as needed, at basic state pay.
• Employment of Timothy Wade as substitute custodian for Pocahontas County Schools, retroactive to January 10, for the remainder of the 2016-2017 school year, as needed, at state basic pay.
• Employment of Pamela G. Friel as substitute custodian for Pocahontas County Schools, retroactive to January 11, for the remainder of the 2016-2017 school year, as needed, at state basic pay.
The next board meeting is Monday, February 20, beginning with a work session at 4 p.m., followed by the regular meeting in the board of education conference room.