Student transfers cause concern for board of education members

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

After approving the transfer of two Marlinton Middle School students to Green Bank Elementary-Middle School for the 2015-2016 school year, board of education members voiced concern at the May 26 meeting as to why students would want to transfer out of their district.

While it is legal for the board to allow students to transfer to a new school, it prefers to keep students in their districts.

Board president Emery Grimes asked Superintendent Dr. Donald Bechtel to look into the issues at MMS that may be causing the transfers.

“We need to look into this and see why,” Grimes said. “It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to meet with these parents and find out exactly what’s going on and let’s do it quickly. It’s bringing a lot of hardship on these parents whenever they have to take them to another school. They ought to be able to go to a school that’s in their district instead of going another thirty miles somewhere else.”

Two of the parents requesting transfers – Morgan McComb and board member Jessica Hefner – gave some explanation as to why their children want to transfer to GBEMS.

Although her daughter said she wants to play basketball at GBEMS, that is not the main reason for the transfer, Hefner explained.

“It’s also because things aren’t really being done right at Marlinton Middle School,” Hefner said. “I’m not saying I have a perfect child because I do not, but I’ve never had her in detention. It is constantly a battle.”

McComb said his daughter began asking to be transferred last year.

“The thing that bothers me more than anything is the fact that she’s lost all respect for that school when she sees a difference in the way one kid is treated as opposed to the way other kids are treated,” he said. “You get tired of fighting the battle.

“The kids see the frustration of the teacher,” McComb continued. “A teacher that I’ve been telling her since she went there was actually a nice person. Three weeks ago she told me she really is a nice person and she really can teach when she wants to. Something happened the last two weeks and she comes home and tells me she [teacher] needs to retire. The kids are blunt. The stress on the teachers leads to the climate of the classroom.”

Both McComb and Hefner said their children are having a hard time in the classroom and feel that certain students are treated differently than others.

“When she came to me four, five, six months ago and said, ‘Mom, I’m not learning anything – the only reason I’m learning is because you’re teaching me,’” Hefner said. “I get to the point where I can’t do it anymore, I feel. So when my child tells me that she’s not learning, it concerns me.”

While there are issues, McComb said it is not the entire staff at the school causing problems.

“There are some outstanding teachers at Marlinton Middle School,” he said.

GBEMS science teacher Anne Smith spoke up and asked the board and Dr. Bechtel to investigate the entire story and hear what the teachers at MMS have to say.

“You’re asking great questions and I’m really glad you’re investigating it, please, look at the teachers’ side, too, and the administrators’ side, too, to get their feedback, as well, so you can have a complete picture,” Smith said. “I know, Dr. Bechtel, when you were at our school, I just felt like we could be heard. People were saying some pretty blunt things, but it was in a good environment in which we were being listened to and I think when you’re gathering data, you need to be able to do that.”

Grimes shared his concern and agreed that all sides of the story need to be heard.

“Year after year, when we get the same calls about the same administrators and the same teachers from different parents, we need to find a solution to the problem,” he said. “That’s where we’re at. You’ve got to look at the whole angle.”

Although the board approved the transfers, Grimes said they are not set in stone.

“We voted to transfer these children,” he said. “If we come up with a solution and you want to reconsider, you are more than welcome to do so.”

Boothe named Honorary Knight of the Golden Horseshoe

Dr. Bechtel recognized GBEMS teacher Thomas Boothe who was recently named an Honorary Knight of the Golden Horseshoe for his dedication to teaching West Virginia history to students.

Bechtel said that in the 11 years Boothe taught history, he had 20 students win the Golden Horseshoe.
Boothe told the board he was honored to be nominated for the award and talked about the day he was knighted.

“I wouldn’t have gotten the award if I didn’t have awesome students,” he said. “The kids I had at Green Bank the last eleven years were motivated to do well and they had a love for the state. I just tried to instill that in them and let them know how important it was to take the test, and try to win it.

“It was a great day,” he continued. “I was tickled to death to be able to get the award for the twenty kids and what they’ve done.”

Boothe was one of five teachers receiving the honor this year.

In updates:

• GBEMS librarian/technology specialist Sue Herold gave a report from the technology training she recently attended in Summersville. Herold learned about new programs teachers may utilize in the classrooms, as well as some students could use at home.

Through the Office 365 program at the schools, a program called One Note allows students to create notebooks for class projects. It also allows teachers to create a class-wide notebook for the students to access at school or at home.

Another program, Mix, is accessed through Office 365 which turns PowerPoint presentations into movies.

Herold also mentioned Zoom West Virginia which is an online program where professionals can look up school data and compare performance and enrollment statistics; and a program called Dyslexiefont, which parents can download for free. It is a program for children with dyslexia. It changes the fonts on the screen to a more readable or understandable font for students who struggle to read.

Dyslexiefont may be download at www.dyslexiefont.com

The board thanked Herold for her presentation and attendance to the training.

Superintendent’s Report

• Dr. Bechtel shared information with the board concerning a recent letter from State Auditor Glen Gainer. The letter stated Pocahontas County Schools will receive $304,632.31 from the state auditor’s office as the final payment allocated for the Federal Award for National Forest Land.

Bechtel also shared the results of the State Track Meet.

In miscellaneous management, the board approved the following:

• For Pocahontas County board of education to take the following action as it pertains to the restrictions placed in the Deed of Conveyance from the Pocahontas County Board of Education to the Pocahontas County Commission, on the property commonly known as the “Slaven Property,” situated in the Green Bank District: The Pocahontas County Board of Education refuses to release the restrictions as set forth in the aforementioned Deed of Conveyance. If the Pocahontas County Commission does not comply with the restrictions in the Deed of Conveyance, the ownership of the property will automatically revert to the Pocahontas County Board of Education.

In personnel management, the board approved the following:

• Employment of Jared Bennett as teacher of English/language arts/reading at Marlinton Middle School, at state basic salary based on degree and experience, effective August 11 for the 2015-2016 school year. Term of employment is 200 days. Employment is contingent upon employee obtaining proper certification prior to the effective date of his employment.

• Extension of unpaid medical leave of absence of Mali S. Minter, through August 1.

• Employment of Ryan Alderman, Keith Beverage, II, and Pamela M. Vanorsdale as substitute school bus operators for Pocahontas County Schools, at state basic pay, effective May 28, as needed, for the remainder of the 2014-2015 school year.

• Employment of Amanda Nottingham, as substitute teacher for Pocahontas County Schools, at state basic pay based on degree and experience, effective May 28, as needed, for the remainder of the 2014-2015 school year.

The next board meeting is Monday, June 8, at 7 p.m., at the board of education conference room.

Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at sastewart@pocahontastimes.com

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