At the board of education Local School Improvement Council (LSIC) and faculty senate meeting Monday night at Pocahontas County High School, principal Francis LaBounty addressed the board with concerns about the school’s schedule.
“Looking at the master schedule, I had planned originally that we would stay with the original block scheduling which is four classes per semester, totaling eight classes per school year,” LaBounty said. “Looking at that with the transition each semester, we are just inhibited with what we are able to offer students.”
LaBounty asked the board if it would be possible to change the schedule to seven or eight periods a day which, with finagling, will give students more options to the courses they can take.
“I’d like to get these test scores raised, and I’d like to provide more options to our students,” he said. “Those are two main goals that I have. I originally thought to try to create as less friction as possible just adjusting a couple of the blocks so we can run two classes through the whole school year, but again with the transition between semesters and having to assist the students with their scheduling needs, I think more is needed.”
PCHS transitioned to the block schedule system in 1996, changing from seven classes all year to five classes a semester. The last block was split, allowing students to select five classes, two of which ran all year.
LaBounty said he is leaning toward an eight period day but he is still researching the best possible options to offer the maximum amount of classes per year.
“I really think an eight period day is best here and I could really come up with some scheduling options that we could look at,” he said. “We really need to increase our higher level courses. We need to have some more AP courses and we just need more electives for our kids.”
The board was in agreement in explaining to LaBounty that the important thing is to get the teachers to agree to the change. The board is not needed to approve the change, it is up to the administration.
Several teachers in attendance said that they will work with the schedule that is given to them and agreed that if it is best for the students, they will find a way to make it work.
Because the idea is in its infancy, there are many pros and cons to consider and LaBounty said he plans to work with his staff to create the perfect schedule.
“I really haven’t heard any arguments against [the change] that really make me want to lean toward staying [with block] because in my mind, it’s all about the students and their best interest,” he said.
Spanish teacher Mali Minter and Green Bank Elementary-Middle School science teacher Anne Smith reminded the board and LaBounty that all the schools in the county must be considered with the schedule change.
“Green Bank already has a full day,” Minter said. “It is at 45 minutes [per class]. Will it add to their day? They go the longest of any school in the state. That’s something to consider.”
GBEMS has the longest school day of all the schools in the county and if minutes are added the schedule at PCHS, GBEMS would have to add to its schedule as well due to the bus schedule.
The board told LaBounty the schedule change would be up to him and his staff.
• LaBounty presented information on the progress of PCHS, as well as areas that need improvement.
PCHS was ranked a success school on the new West Virginia Accountability index score. The school met all the annual measurable objectives: observed growth, 2.73 out of 5; adequate growth, 4.75 out of 10; graduation rate, 26.45 out of 20; and total index score, 61.31 out of 100.
The staff is focused on improving the school climate and Westest2 scores.
LaBounty added that the school is offering incentives to raise attendance. The names of students who have fewer than five unexcused absences each semester are put into a drawing for a gift card.
• Assistant principal Derek Lambert reported that the Option Pathway program, formerly the GED Option, is going well. Six of the eight students enrolled in the program have already passed the GED test and several more will finish the program in the spring semester.
The Option Pathway program is designed for students who have dropped out of school or are considering dropping out. Lambert explained that half of the day is dedicated to GED courses and the other half, the students are in career and technical classes.
The program has lowered the dropout rate and gives students a chance to earn a degree. With the new program, students will receive a PCHS degree, not a GED degree.
Lambert said one success story includes a student who received a degree and qualified for the Promise Scholarship offered by West Virginia University.
All students receiving a degree through the Option Pathway program have the opportunity to participate in graduation day and “walk across the stage.”
• Agriculture teacher Sammantha Bartley reported that the vocational program is ranked in the top 10 percent of programs in the state. One hundred percent of the career and technical education (CTE) students passed the reading section of the Work Keys test, 98 percent of completers passed the test and 97 percent were positively placed in jobs after graduation.
• Music teacher and band director Bob Mann gave an update on the music program. The marching band was named the West Virginia State Division 1A Champions and were finalists in the Atlantic Coast Championship. The concert band is preparing for ratings and the spring concert. Several band students have the opportunity to participate in Honor Band programs offered at Virginia Tech, West Virginia University and Marshall University; and West Virginia All-State band.
The board of education will hold a hearing concerning the school calendar on Monday, February 3, at 7 p.m., at Marlinton Middle School.
The next board meeting will be Monday, February 10, at 7 p.m. at the board of education conference room.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org