By: Lydia Crawley
The Parsons Advocate
Davis Thomas Elementary Middle School Principal Cynthia Shaffer updated the Tucker County School Board on the status of her students at the board’s regular meeting. Shaffer outlined the successes and struggles her students have experienced over the school year.
“I spent two thirds of the year at Tucker Valley,” Shaffer said. “When I interviewed for Davis Thomas, when they asked what I was going to do, I said survive. And for three months, I felt like I was in survival mode. When I’m saying survival, I don’t mean that it was all bad.”
Shaffer said that she plans to change how the kindergarten students are tested next year. “Kindergarten did not take the diagnostic at the beginning of the year. I’m changing that for next year. Don’t know why they were afraid that the kindergartners couldn’t manipulate the system. So what you’re looking at, for kindergarten, is from January until May. So, from mid-year to the end of the year…Next year I’m anxious to see where they are in the beginning.”
Shaffer said that the elementary students had significant growth whereas the Middle School had its share of challenges, especially in regards to behavior issues. “The elementary grades grew significantly (in reading). We still have some work to do in middle school. Going into this position, middle school at Davis Thomas has proved to be a challenge. So, I was dealing with a lot of behavior issues and trying to get things set up and I said at the program, I’m not as nice as Mr. Kaismore and I have higher expectations.”
Shaffer informed the board of her thoughts on why the middle school scores were as low as they were, “So when I look at the middle school score, I hope next year that we don’t see all that red. Right now, I know that they look basically on the minutes versus lessons passed, unlike Tucker Valley and that shows because a lot of them would turn it on and just let the time go and they were finished, or so they thought.”
Shaffer said she has a plan for next year in regards to the problems she has faced with the middle school. “So next year, I’m really going to watch this,” Shaffer said. “Some teachers were more diligent to have students complete these lessons than others. So, that will be different.”
Shaffer also said that there were areas in need of improvement in math as well. “Then math, once again we have areas of growth or areas that we need to improve upon.”
Shaffer informed the board of her plans to combat the behavioral and attitude issues she has faced since March. “So, hopefully, I can’t speak a lot on what happened through the year, but going forward I want to bring back a lot of the academic achievements and recognize kids for the Golden Bears like we used to do when Alicia (Lambert) was principal. Recognize them for their character, their attendance, their grades because I feel like that hasn’t been done in the past and they are like, ‘I don’t care to take this test. What does it matter?’ I spoke with all of the 8th graders before the GSAs and their attitudes were, ‘Why? What makes the difference?’ This determines what you are going to be in in high school, in remedial classes. So hopefully next year bringing back some incentives for students who are doing what they are supposed to will help.”
Shaffer said that the school has potential going forward. “We have room to grow,” Shaffer said. “And I feel like being in this position and starting in August will be a lot different than starting in March. So, hopefully the scores next year will be better. I have confidence. The teachers are excited, I’m excited and hopefully we’ll get the students excited about learning.”
Board Member Cathy Hebb acknowledged the issues that Shaffer has faced since assuming the position as principal in March. “Its difficult to change, especially when you change principals at the end of the semester,” Hebb said. “In the middle of the semester, they know someone is leaving, it’s just like now what? There’s a lot of uncertainty and you should be commended for jumping into that role as enthusiastically as you did…You’re here to be the principal and get the best out of the kids you can. I commend you for that. The scores were good considering because they could have just freaked out, but they didn’t and I think they are going to do better next year. You and your staff did very well.”
The next regular meeting of the Tucker County School Board will be Monday, June 19 at 4:30 p.m. at the Tucker County Board of Education Office, 100 Education Lane, Parsons.