By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Just before the students who earned their way into the Tucker County High School National Honor Society were set to participate in their induction ceremony, the Coronavirus pandemic closed the school doors. While maintaining social distancing and requiring masks, the Tucker County Board of Education wished to recognize these students for their accomplishments.
At the December 21 TCBOE meeting, the 2020 inductees and their advisor, Mr. Chris Wilson, were invited to attend where they were individually announced and handed their certificate in front of the board and Superintendent Alicia Lambert. Those who earned their way into this elite group included Kyleigh Barrett, Averie Bunnell, Caitlyn Eye, Alaira Hudson, Lindsey Hull, Karley Kyle, Sadie Palmer, Gracie Rapp, Karlee Smith, and Emma Wamsley.
Jenese Lansberry wished to address the board to share her concerns with remote learning and the effects it is having on her child and others who have shared similar issues with her. She said at the beginning, her child was receptive to remote learning but she has noted a shift that has occurred resulting in the child no longer wanting to complete the lessons. “I can’t expect my daycare sitters to be teaching my daughter something that is not in their field, nor is it mine, but I’m doing the best I can,” Lansberry stated.
She explained that she, like several parents, begins their day early in the morning when she has to take her daughter to a sitter so she can go to work. As a result, Lansberry is having to work with her child after dinner up until bedtime to complete that day’s assignments. “She’s been struggling with the concepts that are being taught,” she explained, with two hours being lessons online and the remaining six hours being left for the parents to assist with. “There’s got to be a solution, this is not working,” Lansberry stated, “It is ruining our relationship with our children.”
“Let it be the parent’s choice as to whether we send our kids to school to learn in class or whether we do remote,” Lansberry continued. She has been in contact with her child’s teachers as well as the principals. “The relationships between her and her sitters are starting to fail,” she added. Lansberry admitted she knows the board, teachers, and school staff are working hard to maintain the health and safety of everyone involved, but with tears in her eyes asked for an option to help her daughter. “Please find a better solution for the remote learning, some kids can do it and some kids can’t,” she said.
David Koritko, principal at TCHS, assistant principal and career and technical education director William Shahan, Katalin Moore, guidance counselor, and Paul Pennington agriculture and carpentry instructor were present to offer an update from the high school. Koritko began sharing data regarding failure rates amongst his students which began with 30 students and then escalated to 131 before spiking to 167. In conjunction with one of his staff Mr. Strothers and West Virginia University, they developed a research-based map that pinpoints where the students live throughout the county. This allowed Koritko to see a pattern of where the students who currently have a failing grade of a D or F are located which revealed the problem cannot only be a lack of sufficient internet service. “Either it’s a socioeconomic problem or there’s something else going on,” he said, which is the next step in his research.
Shahan gave a brief CTE update as to how the funds were being utilized, the simulated workplace, and what classes were being taught. He also highlighted how the Modernization Grant funds and donations were being utilized, which included ventilation, tool carts, tire repair kits, a brake lathe, a plasma cutter, and other needs.
As far as projected completers expected for this year, there are expected to be two in the agriculture power structure and technical systems, 11 in agribusiness, carpentry has 15, six in allied health, prostart restaurant management with 15, informational management has nine, nine in automotive technology, and nine in automotive collision repair. In 2017 there were 47 completers, 62 in 2018, 43 in 2019, and pending for 2020 are 76.
Board member Jessica Wamsley asked how the students were receiving instruction when they are being taught remote or on the days they are not in the classroom. Paul Pennington, ag and carpentry teacher, gave an example of one of the lessons he gave his students which consisted of constructing a simulated hydraulic system out of cardboard, syringes, and tubing. “I know what you’re asking,” said Pennington, “How are we teaching hands-on remotely, we’re not, I’m going to be honest with you.” He gave further examples of how they are trying to accommodate the students while knowing not all students have access to a shop and the needed tools and supplies.
Pennington went more into detail as to how he and other CTE teachers are working with their students being remote and further explaining the class schedule to become a completer. He said that the students in classes labeled as one or two are in the beginning phases of the skills where they learn the basics and build upon those. Students who are enrolled in a three or four-level course take on the role of foreman and teach those skills to the ones and twos. “So they’re not getting anything new, they’re helping the ones and twos,” asked board member Cathy Hebb. Pennington confirmed that is correct. “I’m just wondering why the threes and fours aren’t getting some of the advanced (skills),” Hebb responded. Pennington responded that advancement is teaching the skills to others.
Board President Tim Turner asked what certification the completers are working towards earning. Pennington said right now the only thing they’re working towards is the NOCTI (National Occupational Competency Testing Institute test). Turner stated he knows there are industry-standard certified recognitions available and each course teaches different skills and the students do not teach each other. He added that he thinks that is what the CTE courses are supposed to be doing is working towards industry certifications such as ASE certification within automotive technology.
Koritko added that with Branson (with Virgin Hyperloop) coming to the area, the need to improve the TCHS CTE program is extremely important. While in a meeting, Koritko became concerned that when people start coming into the area for the hyperloop they will choose to go to Oakland, Md., or Hardy County. The next goal is to add welding to the CTE programs, which is in progress.
Pennington went on to highlight some of the projects being completed through carpentry and agriculture courses before Koritko took back over the presentation. He began by explaining how he is monitoring students who are at risk for dropping out of school, which there are currently six or seven of concern. “It’s really tough right now because our failure rate is incredible, even for seniors,” Koritko stated, which has changed within the last three weeks.
He was happy with how the beginning of the year started with the teachers being three weeks ahead on lessons and the student engagement and attendance high. Unfortunately, once school went virtual that has taken a drastic decrease, noticed greatly during the week of Thanksgiving. “The whole system by which schools operate is not working,” he said.
Safety concerns were discussed along with the positives that have been happening at TCHS. A parent advisory committee, student principal advisory committee, and deans of students group were developed and deemed successful during the time students were in school, though now they are unproductive. “If I can’t get the kids in I can’t do any of these programs,” Koritko said.
Shifting into educational statistics, Koritko shared the IREADY benchmark scores with the board, beginning with the reading. The first graph was school-wide which indicated that only 18 of the 228 students tested were at or above grade level. “Even if this data is partially wrong, it’s catastrophic,” he admitted. The next slide was broken down by grade level scores with him stating, “This shows the error occurred years ago.” According to the graph, 74% of seniors are three grade levels behind in reading skills.
Looking at the math results, Koritko stated, “We are not going to continue the math program at the high school is going to be my recommendation, we are going back to traditional methods.” Of the 299 students taking the math benchmark 156 students were two or more grades behind grade level and only one student tested at or above grade level in the school. When broken down by grade level, 98% of seniors were over two grade levels behind which Koritko said are failing not because of Covid, but because the issues began six or seven years ago.
Board member Chris Gross agreed with the data Koritko presented, sharing he had spent time in classrooms and could see the students were not understanding the skills being taught, especially within mathematics.
Moore concluded the high school report where she shared some of the training and events she has coordinated during the days students were present. Moore is working to develop a counseling curriculum and lesson plan which focuses on career planning and exploration and skill-building and intervention. There are 76 students graduating in 2021 and one student is graduating early, meeting all of the criteria recently adopted by the TCBOE. One student recently dropped out with seven students of concern. Five of those students have been addressed with one student in progress and one student who has had four parent meetings set up, all ending in a no show.
All TCHS seniors will be completing the FAFSA form regardless of plans after graduation and all students will be applying for the Promise Scholarship. Moore stated that 14 students are enrolled in the Eastern Community College courses this fall with 16 registered to take a spring class.
The twelfth-grade students participated in an SAT School Day which Moore provided results for. There were 39 students who took the test with an overall score of 914 compared to the state average of 991 and a national average of 1031. In reading and writing, TCHS scored 477 with a state average of 512 and a national of 523. Math scores came in at 437 with a state average of 479 and a national of 508, with reading and math scales of 200 to 800 possible points. “Math of course seems to be our weakest subject,” confirmed Moore.
There are currently 20 students enrolled in the virtual learning pathway through W.Va. Learns with six being successful with grades that reflect. “However, we are experiencing a high failure rate,” Moore said. Parent meetings have taken place or are in progress to formulate a plan for those students.
At the end of the first nine weeks, 114 notes were sent home with students who had a D or F. Instead of waiting until the end of the semester, TCHS sent out another set of letters to parents of students with Ds or Fs which resulted in 162 letters.
When school returns after the holidays, the 89 students who qualified for the Principal’s Honor Roll and the 24 on the Honor Roll will be recognized and receive their certificates.
The board returned to the agenda where they were made aware of three students who will be leaving Davis Thomas Elementary Middle School to be homeschooled. Finance Director Tracy Teets gave a brief presentation on the Softdocs program which would allow record-keeping to go digital. Programs to perform these tasks are costly and even with a discount offered for December, comes to around $30,000 annually. While the board agreed a better option is needed for recordkeeping efficiency, they were concerned with spending that money at this time. When Turner asked for a motion, no motion was made therefore the agenda item died.
Hebb made a motion to approve the consent agenda items with Wamsley offering a second and all in favor. Those items included the minutes from the December 7 meeting and the payment of bills.
Lambert made the recommendation for the following personnel actions: to accept the resignation of Sylvia Owens, substitute aide and cook, effective December 22, Don Canfield as the extra-curricular custodian at TCBOE effective January 4, and the approval of W.V. Parental Leave as needed for Elizabeth Fansler. It was also suggested to remove Crystal Phillips from the substitute cook list due to not participating in the training. All members voted in favor of the Superintendents recommendations.
The budget adjustments were approved as presented with Teets announcing that she has not received word on next year’s budget, which she usually has by this time.
Lambert touched briefly on the discussion that took place in a Superintendents Association meeting where a new map was requested that would show school-related positive Covid cases versus the community as a whole. It is expected that numbers will continue to trend upwards through mid-January with the holidays, but the plan is to return to school on a blended model for the first few weeks. The goal is to get back in school five days per week shortly thereafter. “We want to get back to five days a week as soon as we can,” assured Lambert, “We know that’s what our kids need.” “We have to,” agreed Hebb.
This concluded the 2020 meetings of the TCBOE who will engage in a work session on Monday, January 4, 2021, with a regular session scheduled for Tuesday, January 19, 2021, at 4:30 p.m.