By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
“Back to school days for Tucker County School employees sounds like it should be a fun get together, but those few days we have before students arrive are jam packed with professional development,” explained Amber Kyle, Attendance Director. “There are so many mandated trainings that all board employees must have to comply with state code,” she added. The day began at 7:30 a.m. and only briefly stopped until 4 p.m. Opening the morning session was Superintendent Alicia Lambert. She welcomed everyone back from their summer vacations before getting straight into business. The staff handbooks were distributed before Lambert recognized the new teachers across the three schools. She also recognized staff based on years of service up to over thirty years of service dedicated to the education system.
Once Lambert finished, Tucker County Board of Education President Tim Turner welcomed back the staff and getting a few chuckles out of the crowd. A representative from the Preston Federal Credit Union spoke momentarily about the services they offer before the microphone was turned over to Denise Spatafore from Dinsmore and Shohl, Law Firm. She said her intentions were to go over sections of the handbooks in depth, hitting topics such as harassment, use of social media, and more. This presentation lasted two hours as she took the time to answer questions and provide scenarios to the staff to ensure full understanding of the policies.
Kyle followed with training known as McKinney Vento. This training relates to students who may be experiencing a difficult living situation, ways to identify a need, and how to make a referral for assistance for that student. Making the schools a safe environment was another topic Kyle covered as well as the Safety Handbook discussed.
Upon her completion, the training went directly into Suicide Prevention Training, provided by Youth Health Services. This hour long course went over warning signs and how to approach students who staff may feel fall into a category as a risk. Teachers and service personnel were instructed on how to handle these difficult situations from the first sign of concern all the way to the student receiving needed services and returning to daily life.
Those in attendance were dismissed to partake in a covered dish lunch before returning to the TCHS auditorium to complete Active Shooter Training, provided by Shawn Dunbrack, Sandy Green, and Kevin White of the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security Emergency Management. This course was an hour and a half in length and involved an FBI generated video of a mock active shooter incident from the planning stages of the assailant to the reunification of the students and their families. Discussion commenced asking questions relating to recommended reactions to certain scenarios if this act of violence should happen in our area. Further training in this area was strongly requested by teachers and staff with reassurance that more training will be offered in the future.
The final training session of the day was conducted by Margo Evick of the Child Advocacy Center. This training was another two hours regarding sexual abuse and neglect. A video was shown of adults sharing their stories of undergoing sexual abuse as a child and they shared their stories. Warning signs were discussed and what being a mandated reporter required of the staff. “We were fortunate to be able to pull in experts from across the state to provide our staff with excellent preparation for the upcoming school year,” said Kyle. “It took months to pull everything together.”
Staff reported to their respected schools on 7:30 Thursday morning for a staff meeting, followed by training conducted by Kim Lipscomb on Family Education Rights to Privacy Act (FERPA) and Title 9, along with Felicia Goldizen and Tracy Teets on payroll and finance. Before lunch, the Faculty Senate came together for a brief meeting to formulate committees in areas such as safety, random acts of kindness, and more. After the staff broke for lunch, they returned to work a couple hours on their classrooms and prepare for the incoming classes.
On Friday, all service personnel was asked to report to the Tucker Valley Annex Gymnasium for training in finance, Stop the Bleed, FERPA, Title 9, and bus safety. TCHS math and English teachers had STAR training and the Career Technical Education (CTE) teachers had a meeting at the career center. Any additional time available the teachers spent working on their curriculum and classroom materials.
Monday served to catch up any training that was not already conducted at the three schools, faculty senate and staff meetings, and room preparations. An open house was scheduled for Monday, August 19 to run from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m. at all schools, welcoming all students and parents to meet their teachers and find their classrooms to aid in their first day of school.