By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
It was Tucker Valley Elementary Middle Schools turn to present to the Board of Education on how the first portion of the 2019-2020 school year has been. The reports began with student representative Addie Hicks. LSIC Representative Amanda Hile said a PBIS Team (positive behavior intervention) recently attended training and student council members are viewing each class to witness positive behavior and serve as school wide role models. Rewards, such as a movie night, are being implemented to encourage positive behavior for students without disciplinary issues.
“New math books were purchased for grades four through eight,” Hile continued which workbooks will be supplied with for the next five years. Laptops have also been purchased as well as the indumentums program, which will be student paced programs to help students who are either ahead of behind on their lessons. “They also instituted a new reading program, Sing, Spell, Read, and Write,” she said. That concluded the year one cycle, bringing Hile to year two of what plans TVEMS have. Intentions are to hire an Academic Coach/Math for Life Coordinator, a Teambuilding Coach with activities already in progress, as well as further funding for the STEM program (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). New mouses for the computers are on the radar as well as ear buds for each individual student.
Hile shifted to a report card the school received on areas of concern, one of which being attendance. “The attendance was one of the things we’re trying to improve upon,” she began. Currently, the school sits at 94.83% attendance rate, “Our goal is to be above 95% with that,” she proclaimed. Letters were recently sent home to parents informing when a child should be kept home due to illness symptoms versus when it is sufficient for them to attend class. “On our school report card, there have been improvements seen in the English Language Arts, but not a whole lot of improvement yet with the math and the science and the other aspects we’ve been looking at,” she said. An Administrative Coach has been added to assist the new principal and vice principal in their new roles and suggestions were made to have professional development days with collaboration between TVEMS and DTEMS teachers to discuss curriculum, schedules, issues with potential options, and idea sharing.
The Pre-K relocation to TVEMS was next on the discussion topics where Hile noted the teachers and staff at the school appreciated the help and support from the administration during this rushed and strenuous endeavor. Teachers had felt that it was a difficult beginning with communication issues as well as the lack of room for the preschool needs compared to what teachers had at the board office building. However, Hile stated the teachers appreciated being in the same location as the other teachers and administration. Parents have also come to Hile with concerns over the split class of kindergarten and preschool students combined.
“Parents have concerns that maybe the kindergarten is not getting the education level as the preschool,” though she feels the teacher is handling that well and could benefit from a mentor to make it even better.
Principal Kelly Thompson followed updating the construction is going well and communication between the school and the workers have been great. A few leaks were discovered but were addressed quickly, “But I think it’s going pretty good,” Thompson confirmed. Vice Principal Ernie Gooding added, “One of the strengths, certainly, is the crews have been good to work with. The few times we have had issues, I think the cafeteria kitchen one day may have been a little messy, but any time we address an issue with them they’ve been really quick to respond.” Some lights have already been installed including areas such as the office, kitchen, and gym.
Thompson shifted gears to the needs of the school including the hiring of two interventionalists especially for the younger grade levels to assist in meeting their goals. Class sizes are of concern as well as the wide range of levels of these students within the classes. “We also were talking about our secretary, to add maybe five days to the secretary contract because she works extra,” she continued. The current contract is 200 days though more days are being worked to assist with screenings and back to school preparations. A security system plan is in place as well as a safer and friendlier environment for parents for getting into the school with the buzzer system. A need for cafeteria tables is also on their wish list with multiple problems arising daily with them. Three are coming soon, but more will be needed. Thompson continued explaining the need for an intercom system, dishwasher repairs, and playground updates and repairs.
Gooding stated the desire to implement CTE introductory courses (Career Technical Education), as well as the simulated workplace. He also feels it may help with some of the hands on learners and may assist some of the disruptive students to find an interest and work towards that program goal. Gooding contacted TCHS CTE Director Mr. Shahan on what programs are active at the high school and what TVEMS can do to get students the foundations to move into these courses. He noted there are only four other middle schools in the state to offer CTE courses such as these. Some areas could be covered with staff already in place but may open up additional part time positions where needed.
Board member Jessica Wamsley stated, “I’m seeing a whole lot of parts of the system running on parallels instead of weaving together like a basket that holds the students.” She, along with others, has mentioned individuals have come up to the board members with concerns they have with the school system. Because of this, she wanted to ensure everything is being expressed to the board from the school administration to ensure proper assistance from them. Wamsley stressed the importance of keeping the lines of communication open. She asked how the Pre-K students are handling the transition from their own school to Tucker Valley. Thompson replied being this is most of their first time experiencing school; they have adjusted well to the transition. She did note one teacher has had to eliminate activities they typically did due to lack of space; however, they seem to be adjusting well. President of the board Tim Turner stated, “Well we knew that it was going to be an adjustment for everyone when we moved the Pre-K up here and we had some challenges that building couldn’t accommodate and to make those accommodations could cause collapse of the building or could have cost a lot of money to make the accommodations, and the money was better spent by moving the students.” He said there are some ideas to assist in these areas in the future and will be considered. Superintendent Alicia Lambert added that some Kindergarten teachers expressed their pleasure in the Pre-K movement because it helped their student feel more comfortable starting at TVEMS when they could see their preschool teacher in the same building.
Turner asked if any of the TVEMS Staff had anything to bring to the board’s attention.
Guidance Counselor Ronda Adkins chimed in stating while she feels things within the Pre-K and Kindergarten classes are going well, “We’ve got like, our seventh grade has 32 kids in one rotation 31 kids in another rotation,” causing a lot of congestion. Productivity and engagement is a huge concern with challenges of a class with that many students. Turner asked how the eighth grade enrollment was compared to the seventh, with classes being in the mid twenties. Physical Education Teacher Michele Mullenex brought up the change in atmosphere when the Ridgeline students arrive and leave quickly and how it affects classroom dynamics. “To be honest with you, I see them (local students) not accepting them in, because they know they’re leaving, so why make friends with these kids who are leaving,” she said. Mullenex worries about with the Ridgeline students they are not receiving the education they deserve and feels “they are truly the ones falling through the cracks.”
Middle School Educator Angie Evans added to the conversation, stating, “We were showing gains in English, and we had smaller classes for English and Reading, more like a literacy class in seventh and eighth grade. Now we have taken class sizes of 17 to 21 and now we’re in classes of 25 to 32, and we’ve taken those two separate classes and now we’ve mashed them into one class,” she explained. This concerns Evans with the progress that was being made may not continue due to these many issues. “The numbers are huge, the problems are many, and the class time is smaller, and we’re on top of each other,” she concluded.
Nationally Board Certified Teacher Kelly Underwood spoke up saying, “I’m at least two to three weeks behind on my lessons, and I teach every day, I don’t not teach, that’s frustrating.” This is a timing issue for the teachers with these large classes. “If anybody tells you class size doesn’t matter, they’re absolutely insane,” she added.
Turner asked, with the size of the seventh grade classes, if an option would be to promote some of the proficient seventh graders to eighth grade would help. Teachers unanimously agreed a few less children benefit wouldn’t outweigh the potential negatives it may cause.
Another option would be to add a middle school teacher to break down the class sizes by utilizing the STEM room and rotating with planning periods.
Before moving forward, Wamsley noted how amazing the school looks and the added color and art work in the hallways. Underwood feels the middle school wing is enjoying the positive behavior awards and Mullenex added Underwood and Kelly Crosten have been offering daily homework help to assist students with any work they need help with. She said this may be something they don’t receive at home but they can get it at TVEMS. Success with the football team, theater program, the high tunnel, and many more areas were noted and highly appreciated by the staff.
Turner noted that at a meeting he recently attended, each board was challenged to review school data to determine what the data shows compared to the reports from the schools.
“When data is pointing to a particular problem, we have to address that problem and I think that’s going to be a good thing.” This could help pinpoint issues within curriculum among other things. “There are great things going on in this school, they’re going on in isolation,” he believes. He knows it’s in all three county schools and is encouraging staff to share those great things with the public.
Under informational items, the only bullet point was regarding the opioid litigation proposal. It was suggested via attorney that the board has been advised to not take any action at this time. Finance Director Tracy Teets offered new information on the Student Success Act of 2019. “I received an email that the West Virginia Department of Revenue has charged the different state agencies with finding 4.6% of budget cuts,” Teets began. This is still in the preliminary stages, but could mean approximately $251,000 worth of cuts to the Tucker County Schools budget. Turner explained this would come out of the additional $800,000 received once it is confirmed this will indeed have to happen. Superintendent Alicia Lambert added a new bill is out for discussion in regards to school transportation. “And what it would require, if it passes and it has a $0 fiscal note attached to it, shocker, and what it would require is a restraint system on every bus for every child for children under five years, under 40 pounds, and an aid on every bus,” she stated. “If that were to happen here in Tucker County we probably wouldn’t be able to transport preschool students because of the costs associated with that and you’re not required to transport preschool students,” she said, though it is strongly opposed. This topic is up for public comment and it is suggested comments be made in opposition of this bill.
The previous meeting minutes from October 21, payment of bills, budget adjustments, student transfer request, and out of state travel and field trip requests were all reviewed and approved unanimously. Lambert recommended the approval of the following for employment: Gina Carroll, social studies and art teacher long term substitute at DTEMS, Erin Marks, mentor teacher for biology teacher at TCHS, Stephanie Burns as mentor teacher for CTE at TCHS, Robyn Nestor, mentor for special education teacher at DTEMS, Melinda Waybright as mentor for first grade teacher at TVEMS, Christine Ward as mentor for fourth grade teacher at TVEMS, Nanette Seligman as a substitute teacher, and Michele Mullenex as mentor teacher for CTE at TCHS. Lambert also requested the removal of Rose Freeman as a substitute custodian for refusal to work when needed, and the employment of Paul Pennington as a ticket taker and Scott Lycliter as a volunteer assistant boys basketball coach at TVEMS. All were approved unanimously.
Under finance and budget, it was up for approval to purchase one new 2021 Blue Bird 77 passenger “Vision” conventional school bus in the amount of $101,648.00. Turner explained this will be funded with the additional $800,000 that the potential budget cuts would be withdrawn from as well. Transportation Director Harry Poling said that this bus will not have posi traction differential, which he felt would cause issues considering it will be on the Dry Fork area route. “They got the idea in Charleston that we don’t need it and I’m thinking it’s going to get us in trouble because we had this trouble back in the seventies,” proclaimed Poling. “So when we let school out at noon for bad weather, there may be times there may be a couple drivers have problems because they’re not allowing us to buy posi traction rear ends,” he added. Poling attended the conference when this announcement was made and he made several attempts to discuss this with the director, though was unsuccessful. According to Poling, there are five counties within the state that truly need this option on their buses due to their weather and geographical area.
The calendar of events were reviewed noting the next meeting being held on Monday, November 18 at 4:30 p.m. which will return to the Tucker County Board Office. Work sessions will be added at the end of the next few meetings to address the superintendent evaluation and prioritize the needs list from the three schools.