MES students share solutions with BOE

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

At the board of education Local School Improvement Council meeting Monday at Marlinton Elementary School, students shared money-saving solutions, as well as information on projects implemented at the school.

Members of the Buckeye Winners 4-H Lego Robotics Team presented their project to reduce trash in the community. The students turned their attention to the milk cartons thrown away each day and found a solution for reducing the amount of trash coming from the schools.

“One of the things we noticed was the amount milk bottles thrown away each day, so we came up with a different plan,” Rachel Burns said.

“Each month, Pocahontas County uses 29,338 eight ounce milk bottles that are thrown into our county landfill,” Scout Tankersly added. “That is the equivalent of six thousand cubic feet each year. It would take only ten years to fill all the classrooms of Marlinton Elementary School with milk cartons.”

The team’s solution is to use milk dispensers and washable containers to be used at meals served at the school.

“We would like the schools to switch to milk dispensers and washable cups,” Haley Spencer said. “Each dispenser will hold fifteen gallons of milk and cost $2,265. Dishwasher safe cups will cost six hundred dollars for each school.”

Although there is an expense to initialize the new program, the students found the school will save money in the long run.

“The milk dispenser is cheaper than the bottles,” Connor Spencer said. “It would save the county $3,454 every month in milk expenses. The reduction in trash would save our environment and our community.”

The board thanked the team for their presentation. Interim Superintendent Terrence Beam said he would look into implementing the program and joked that he should hire the students to work at the board office to help them save money in other areas.

The student council also gave a report on the projects it has implemented this year.

Haley Spencer said the student council and MES staff will travel to The Greenbrier November 14 to wrap Christmas presents. The presents will be donated to the Family Resource Network for the county Angel Tree.

Kya Barb reported that kindergarten, first grade and second grade students are collecting items for needy children overseas, and third through fifth grade students are collecting items for the military. The items will be placed in shoeboxes and mailed overseas prior to Thanksgiving.

Cameryn Boggs added that the student council created a skit promoting school attendance. The skit will be aired on WVMR.

Staff focusing on improving students’ skills

Fourth grade teacher Brian Smith gave a report on the school’s test scores and programs the staff is using to improve the students understanding and ability to implement their knowledge.

“One of the things we did this year is we shifted all of our Title I resources to the earlier grades – K-2,” Smith said. “The idea was to move those interventions to the earlier grades and focus on that solely, and trying to head the problem off instead of waiting until they are in fifth grade and try to give them support.”

The schools is also implementing technology in the classrooms. Programs are used to track the students’ progress and as part of classroom lessons.

“We’re finding ways to use [iPads] more effectively than just for games or things like that,” Smith said. “How can we make that a meaningful tool for a kid to use where they are interested and also engaged in coursework? We have classroom performance system student responders, just things where the kids can be more interactive in a lesson.

“We have sets of [student responders] in the building and that’s just basically – I’ll put an activity up on the screen, the kids can send in their answers and the answers will pop up on the screen,” Smith continued. “We can see student data immediately, know how they did and did they understand the question. We can do multiple choice. They can do numerical answers, so there’s a lot of different avenues that we can do there.”

The school is focusing on improving math and reading scores, but more importantly, improving the students’ abilities and getting them on or above grade level in those subjects.

“Most classes do some sort of math fact tracking, whether it’s just basic addition and subtraction, or multiplication and division,” Smith said. “It seems so simple sometimes to think about how important that is, but in fourth grade, I can’t teach fractions if they can’t tell me what five times eight is. We just can’t get to that next point and we have to get to that point or try to, so we find ways to put in some of those really basic things with weekly fact practice and assignments at home.”

In the fourth grade, Smith has his students track their scores by making a graph on the computer. The students are able to see exactly where they stand in the class, and they are also learning to use math in a computer program.

In reading, the school has adopted the STAR Reading test, which tests the students reading skills each nine weeks. Results from the first nine weeks have revealed that more than half the students in second through fifth grade are below grade level in their reading skills.

“There’s some pretty scary numbers up there if you look at them and see where we have holes with our kids,” Smith said. “If you look at that overall, fifty-five percent of our students in second through fifth grade are below grade level in reading. So, over half of our kids can’t read on their own grade level.”

While the test revealed a large portion of students are struggling, it also showed that 25 percent of the second through fifth grade students are above grade level in reading.

“We have some kids who are reading four or five levels above their grade level, so we have a very large spectrum of students at this school as far as the differences,” Smith said. “We’re looking at ways to challenge all those students – not just the ones below – but the ones who are way above and keep them moving into those upper levels.”

Smith said the reading scores are the main reason why the school shifted its Title I resources to the lower grades, to catch the problem before it is too late. At the same time, the school is looking for ways to support the students in the upper level classes who are also below grade level in reading.

“How do we, at the same time, support that seventy-one percent in fifth grade who are below grade level?” Smith said. “We’re finding ways to do that with interventionists.”

After Smith’s presentation, Beam thanked him for his data and said it was refreshing to see the school is not hiding its problems and is, instead, looking for ways to help the students improve.

“I think it’s refreshing that you point out your scars,” Beam said. “It’s easy to hide those scars sometimes and not let anybody know you have them. You point it out – with the seventy-one percent of students not reading on grade level [in the fifth grade]. Instead of hiding from that, you’re addressing that as an issue and you’ve got a plan for it. That’s exactly what we want. I don’t look at that as a negative. I look at that as a positive.”

LSIC chair Kaitlyn Goins also reported on programs and ideas implemented in the school to improve school climate and the students’ experience at Marlinton Elementary School. Programs include community participation, family involvement, positivity in the school, collaboration between teachers and implementation of new instructional materials.

The board thanked the students and staff for their presentations.

Interim Superintendent Terrence Beam informed the board that Philip Anderson will take the vacant principal position at Marlinton Elementary School.

Beam said Anderson will hold the position at least until Christmastime and may become the full-time principal.

In business management, the board approved the following:

• For Timothy Joshua Corder to attend “Music for All” conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, November 11 through 13. Lodging to be paid for by Mr. Corder and all other expenses paid for by the board of education.

• Shirlene Groseclose to travel to San Diego, California, November 19 and 20, to attend ACTFL – National Foreign Language Conference. All expenses will be paid by WVFLTA.

The next board meeting will be Monday, November 9, at 7 p.m., at the board of education conference room.

The next Local School Improvement Council/Faculty Senate meeting will be Monday, November 16, at 1 p.m., at Marlinton Middle School.

Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at sastewart@pocahontastimes.com

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