The Pocahontas County Board of Education was thrilled Monday evening as Superintendent Terrence Beam and Director of Student Services Ruth Bland reported on the results from last year’s standardized tests.
Students in third through eighth grade and 11th grade were tested in English/language arts and mathematics. Fifth, eighth and 10th grade students were tested in science. The students excelled in all fields, but really shined on the mathematics assessment.
“Our sixth graders on our math scores last year on the assessment finished fourth in the state,” Beam reported. “Our seventh graders finished sixth in the state. Our eighth graders finished first in the state. Our eleventh graders finished first in the state.
“All of our middle school and high school students – the lowest we scored was sixth in the state, which is phenomenal,” he continued. “Congratulations to those kids and those teachers for doing a bang-up job in their math program.”
Bland supplied board members with a table which showed the students’ achievements compared to other counties in the state and illustrated that several grade levels were above the state percentile in proficiency.
“All in all, a very, very nice showing with our test scores,” Bland said. “I will tell you, I think the focus of instruction on group work, working together, talking through – otherwise known as Number Talks – with the elementary students has shown an increase in test scores. This math they are doing is hard. It’s very hard. It’s nothing like I ever did when I was in school.”
Despite the tough math, the students and teachers have gone above and beyond to make sure they comprehend what they are learning.
“Those teachers that have worked hard and have stepped up to the plate for that professional development – that embedded professional development – is what’s made the difference,” Bland said. “We need to transfer that to our reading/language arts instruction, also.”
Beam agreed that the teachers have worked hard to ensure the success of their students. He added that math coach Joanna Burt-Kinderman has started working in the elementary schools, and he believes the test scores will continue to rise due to her help there.
“I think you’ll see, as time goes by, our math scores in elementary will start reaching these same kind of benchmarks,” he said.
The board congratulated all the students and teachers for a job well done.
• Pocahontas County High School principal Joe Riley gave a report on a new program he has implemented with local businesses. Riley said he realized at last year’s graduation ceremony that several students had not planned the next step in their lives.
Riley said he wants to help students who want to enter the workforce right out of high school. He has worked with several CTE [Career and Technical Education] completers to get students part-time jobs in the field of their choice.
“I had some kids that wanted to go to school part of the day and work part of the day,” Riley said. “When I looked at that, I thought, ‘okay, well this could be an opportunity because they were actually CTE kids, meaning once they graduated, they were either going to go on to a trade school or they were going into the workforce.’”
Riley worked with several students and managed their schedules in order to allow them to take core classes part of the day, and work at a local business the rest of the day.
“I have one student placed with Ryder Construction,” he said. “I have one welding completer that’s placed over at Beckwith Lumber through Maple Leaf in the truck shop. I have another student that is with Buster Varner and Varner Construction that’s a welding completer. I have another that is a ProStart completer that is working at Station 2 Restaurant, and then I have one more that is a natural resources completer working for Jody Spencer at Watoga.”
The students who have been placed in part-time positions understand that they have to keep their grades up in order to graduate and keep the job they have. Riley said he has kept tabs on the students and they are doing really well. He said the employers seem to be happy, as well.
“I think that’s what we’re looking for for a lot of these kids,” Riley said of the program. “If we can get them jobs then they’re making a transition out of high school and we’re not having to worry about them. They’ve already got the skills. They can just keep building those skills.”
Riley also reported that he is trying to expand the advanced driver’s ed class to become a CDL certification class. Driver’s ed teacher Bill Brown is working with the students and had them drive a standard truck, but he would like to get a dump truck or larger truck to give the students a better feel for driving those types of vehicles.
Riley said he talked to bus mechanic Ian Bennett who is helping him outfit an old school bus for the students to practice with, but he hopes to find a local business that might have an older, large truck to donate to the class.
• Director of maintenance Ron Hall gave a report on the status of the sprinkler and fire alarm systems at Marlinton Elementary and Green Bank Elementary-Middle schools. He stated that the systems are functioning properly and currently meet the fire marshal’s standards.
Hall added that he has received estimates on replacing the sprinkler systems and said it would cost approximately $250,000 per system to replace. It would cost another estimated $100,000 to replace each fire alarm system.
At this time, the systems are in working order and Hall said he will continue to work hard to keep them that way.
• Board attorney Jason Long discussed several issues with the board, including whether or not it is legal and right for the board to use insurance money for a project other than those for which the money was earmarked.
The issue has been brought to the board for the past several months after it was made public that the board is looking at buildings to possibly relocate the board office. The board has a line item of insurance payouts for the current board office building from several flood damage claims. The board intends to use the funds to repair or relocate the office.
After receiving questions about why the funding wasn’t used for other issues the school system is facing, including repairs to school buildings, Long said he did research and reached out to the West Virginia Department of Education and came to a conclusion he shared with the board.
“The hot topic is whether the board can take these funds and use them for other needs including facility issues at other locations,” Long said. “That’s a decision left to the board – a business decision of the board. The Department of Education’s recommendation is, and I quote ‘to spend the insurance proceeds on the facility that was originally damaged.’”
Long added that the Department of Education said student safety is of the utmost importance, but it is unwise to utilize the insurance funds for anything other than the board office.
Sharing his own opinion, Long agreed, stating that the board has a touchy decision on it’s hands.
“At some point you will be deliberating and discussing whether or not it’s in the best interest of the school system to make that move, but at the end of the day, when I’m asked to give you an opinion as to whether or not you can legally utilize those funds elsewhere, sure,” Long said. “Do I think it’s the best idea? No. Does the state department believe it’s the best idea? Absolutely not.”
Long concluded by saying he has worked with the board for a long time, and he knows the board has the students’ best interests at heart and, at the same time, knows to do what is legally right.
“I’ve worked with this board for years and there’s nothing more you all think about than the best interests of students,” he said. “To think anything otherwise, in my opinion, is laughable. It is tough for all of you to be in the shoes you are in.”
The board thanked Long for his opinion and advice. At this time, the board has not made a decision on relocating the board office.
In the interest of space, miscellaneous management items will appear in the September 21 edition of The Pocahontas Times.
The next board meeting will be a Local School Improvement Council meeting Monday, September 25, at 3 p.m. at Pocahontas County High School.