By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
There were several meetings that took place for the Tucker County Board of Education on Tuesday, April 16 at the Tucker County High School. The first was a discussion of the 2019-2020 School Calendar presenting the first educational day as August 20, Thanksgiving week off, and Christmas break observed December 20 through January 3. Spring break will be guaranteed April 8 through 10 and the last day for students scheduled as June 5. Speaking on the calendar was Chris Wilson sharing concerns the way Easter break falls, beginning on a Wednesday resulting in lack of attendance that Monday and Tuesday. Steven Struthers agreed with the comments made by Wilson and his concerns. The calendar meeting was then adjourned.
The second meeting that commenced was a special session consisting of personnel hearings. Two employees were present and wished to have a closed hearing. A third employee participated via phone call earlier that week. During this time, everyone vacated the room with the exception of the employees and the board members for their closed hearings. At the conclusion, this meeting was adjourned before moving on with the evening’s agendas.
The regular session was then called to order beginning with Tucker Valley Elementary Middle School Principal Teresa Brusak’s report. She stated on April 11 the school participated in a Read West Virginia Day where the fourth graders read to the first grade students. On April 15 TVEMS sponsored a “Donuts for Dad” event, which Brusak stated “We had a huge turnout” and Moms will have an event on April 29. Also on May 1 a Math Night will be held at Tucker Valley featuring Candy Land and other math related games.
Stephen Cosner, Tucker County High School Principal, provided the proposed schedule for the 2019-2020 school year. “We’ve done some studies on the block scheduling,” he began as he handed out the copies. A very detailed and in depth power point presentation was presented by Alex Cork, Social Studies teacher at TCHS. Cork is working toward his principal certification and as part of the requirements, he must conduct research which allowed him to provide these details. Cork showed the former seven period school day compared to the current four block day and provided data consisting of credits earned, student and teacher stress levels, testing results, attendance, and much more. He noted, “We find that 100% true in this building that students do prefer a block schedule over the seven period day.” Cork provided data showing that referrals to the office using a four block daily schedule has also be shown to be reduced 25-50%. Also in the presentation Cork showed by utilizing the block scheduling, at the end of the year the students receive an equivalent of five days more instructional time. Graduation rate trend increases 8.22% by utilizing the block scheduling, which is a major contributing factor pulling TCHS towards recommending the blocks. Cork broke down subject performance between the two schedules which more often than not showed improvement with the blocks scheduling over the seven periods.
Wilson also reiterated what Cork was saying and agreed how much more effective they feel their instructional time is utilized along with other teachers sharing the same opinions. Delbert Pennington, Building Construction teacher at TCHS, added it’s almost a requirement for his class to be successful to remain with the block scheduling in order for it to be effective along with all CTE courses. Cork added an example within his social studies class where they utilized the first portion of the block to offer new information and the last twenty minutes were dedicated to an educational game utilizing their newly acquired skills.
“What does the staff say, 100% of the staff surveyed prefers a block schedule, 100% strongly agreed that student’s performance has improved…” along with several other reasons the staff prefers this schedule option. “What do the students say, 90% of the students agree or strongly agree that they feel more in control of my academics with a block schedule, 78% of students agreed or strongly agreed that they learned more in longer classes,” said Cork.
Cosner twent over the proposed schedule showing 9th graders having a full year of math and language as requested, no teaching assistance, and issues with classes through Eastern College are being addressed. “We’re not satisfied where we’re at, I hope you realize that, we do want to improve,” Cosner told the board. Turner brought up the 30% chronic absence issue at TCHS to which Cosner said “I don’t think that’s a direct correlation with block scheduling.” Better communication with parents is high on the TCHS priority list to try and mediate the absence issues as well as backing by the local court system. Cosner did proudly mention, “Our special ed twelfth grade this year is going to be a 100% graduation rate,” and felt blocks had a lot to do with that.
Board member Chris Gross brought up the issue of literacy rates. He gathered some information from the Department of Education stating, “National average for the last 15 years, 16% of all high school students are 100% illiterate and I would love to see those numbers improve.” He expressed concern over block scheduling due to lack of student engagement, attitudes, and morals. He also had concern with students who are enrolled in AP courses who do not belong there, however he was informed the instructors are mandated to allow any child who wants to be in those classes to be allowed. A brief discussion commenced regarding these classes, testing, and homework.
Board member Jessica Wamsley used her children as an example on how she feels about the scheduling. Her oldest son started TCHS when seven classes were still being utilized which she informed almost resulted in her home schooling her children. However, the blocks turned into a positive for him making it easier to do the work for four classes instead of seven. Her daughter is working towards being accepted to a very challenging university; therefore, the extra credits blocks are offering her are very beneficial to her endeavor. Contrary to a lot of beliefs about block regarding doing their homework the last half of their block, she confirmed her children have a significant amount of homework daily. “I will fight tooth and nail to keep a block schedule for these kids,” she concluded.
Board member Cathy Hebb addressed Cosner regarding substitute funds allocated to TCHS, stating “At the end of January each school should have been at 51% of their sub money, and at that point Tucker County High School was at 68% of their sub money at the end of January,” to which there was no response.
Moving on in the agenda, it was noted the last day for preschool is May 16, 2019. An acceptable use policy was provided recently to the board, and being so new it was only briefly mentioned and was stated to be on the next agenda. County Cell Phone Policy recommendations were also presented to the board for review over the next two weeks to address at the next meeting. Once a policy is decided upon, a procedure will be discussed. Several board members expressed concern over the depth of work needed for this topic; therefore a special session will be scheduled to address this topic.
Moving to new business, the meeting minutes were approved as was the payment of bills, budget adjustments, and out of state travel and field trip requests. Use of transportation by Heart of Highlands Trail System for June 22, 2019 was approved as well as approving the Mountain Top Hunting Club as a senior job shadow site.
Under additional business, it was approved to accept the 2019-2020 school calendar, which also passed. Under service personnel, it was recommended and approved to rescind Billy Nestor’s retirement. James Ambrose also submitted his resignation of Head boys Basketball Coach at TCHS, effective June 30, 2019 which passed. The board then went into Executive Session to discuss personnel.
The unfortunate agenda item next on the list was the reductions in force for the 2019-2020 school year. Under Professional Personnel, passing with all in favor with the exception of Hebb, were Teresa Betler, Hannah Evans, Kasie Gafner, James Gilbert, Christine O’Brien, Alison Rapp, Lisa Smith, and Stephen Strothers. Service Personnel were Lisa Corbitt, Craig Hyre, Robert Leard, Gary Joe Meloy, and Stormie Meloy. Within Extra-Curricular listed Delbert Pennington as the FFA Facilitator was removed. Fortunately, several Professional Personnel transfers were also approved, consisting of Teresa Betler, Stephanie Burns, Hannah Evans, Kasie Gafner, Alison Rapp, and Lisa Smith. Contracts continuing next year included that of Emilee Amaro, Stephen Cosner, Kasie Gafner, Kelly Reed, Kelly Thompson, David Bennet, Thomas Harper, and Tina Price. Vice President Daniel “Chopper” Evans left the room since a family member was on the next list to be voted upon. Probationary contracts for Professional Personnel were approved for the 2019-2020 year include Trina Carr, Catherine Chambers, Amber Evans, Hannah Evans, Nathaniel Goldstein, Kelly Guthrie, Matthew Lawrence, Anthony McDaniels, Delbert Pennington, Melissa Trauscher, Kimberly Wamsley, and Kimberly Welsh. Service Personnel included Kevin Gill, Felicia Goldizen, Scott Lycliter, and Stephen Andrew.
The financial statements were presented by Director of Finance Tracy Teets and were broken down by school. The allocated funds for substitute teachers were an item of discussion with Turner asking, “So when a school runs out of sub costs what do you do, just not get subs?” Teets explained the allocation is a total and one school may have to utilize funds from another school to cover substitute needs. Two of the schools have utilized 73% of their sub funds while the third has consumed all but 10% of funds allocated to that school to pay for subs. The average for this point of the school year is approximately 77%. Teets went into further detail regarding the budget stating there’s around $366,000 left to get through the end of this year. “In the past from April until June, we have spent just about that,” she informed. Teets is hopeful the budget will break even to prevent the need to access funds in another account which could result in being placed back on the watch list they just recently were taken off of. The financial report was then approved.
The calendar of events was briefly mentioned with before this meeting was adjourned. The fourth and final meeting of the evening took up with the purpose of approving the levy order and rate sheet for the 2019-2020 school year. Motions were made to approve and the sessions were adjourned. The next meeting of the Tucker County Board of Education will convene on Monday, May 6 at 4:30 p.m. at Tucker Valley Elementary Middle School.