by Kate Evans
The Morgan County School Board addressed at a number of issues including their 10-year facilities needs, board member and parent involvement in schools and mentoring new teachers and principals at a workshop at the end of their November 5 meeting.
School board president Aaron Close raised the need for more school roof replacements as part of their 10-year plan’s future projects.
School Superintendent Kristen Tuttle said that the steering committee for the 10-year Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan (CEFP) had their first meeting, had considered goals and objectives and would be reviewing growth and population projections. The committee will finish their work in August.
Tuttle said that she’d like to get a better 10-year plan in place. The school system had to undergo a process to apply for School Building Authority funds.
Board member Eric Lyda said he doesn’t know what facilities needs there are. He’d like to see 10 small facility things that are low impact to get finished and checked off. Close said that vehicles, facilities, overall maintenance and school needs could be included in the local school improvement council requests.
Close wondered if they should look at a new high school facility or elementary school along with who’s getting tile and bathrooms fixed. He noted that the Economic Development Authority is reporting seeing signs of growth in Morgan County. While there is declining school enrollment, poverty levels are dropping a little and there is an upwards swing in the economy, Close said.
Lyda said that the Paw Paw Schools, Widmyer Elementary and Pleasant View Elementary buildings are all the same age and asked what the plan is for Paw Paw. He also said he is nervous about his kids going to Berkeley Springs High School.
Board member John Rowland said that Berkeley Springs High School was built in 1939. The wiring is old and as more media needs added he wondered how it can be done. The high school also has four buildings with two public streets around it, time involved for kids changing classes and other potential issues. Rowland said that the board needed to look at a new high school in 10 years.
Superintendent Tuttle said that the recommended acreage for a new high school with water and sewer included is around 100 acres. Construction of a new high school would involve land acquisition by the board.
Board members in schools
Close raised the question as to whether board members should be present in schools. Board vice-president Pete Gordon said it keeps the board from being in a little ivory tower making decisions. Board members could help with academic fairs, go to plays and attend sporting events.
Gordon said he enjoys going to the schools and feels welcomed, but didn’t feel it shouldn’t be on a schedule. A few board members may have more time than others to go.
Board member Laura Smith said she wasn’t sure that their presence would help student achievement but asked for a county-wide school calendar so board members would know when events like the Widmyer hayride were happening so they could attend. Anytime board members can be involved, it’s great. It would also help having the community involved.
Smith also wondered if they should have t-shirts or name tags that identify them as board members.
Superintendent Tuttle said they would work on the idea of a county school calendar. Smith suggested using Facebook more. Tuttle said they’re trying to put more on the county school Facebook page so people know what’s going on.
Alternative education for Warm Springs Intermediate School, Warm Springs Middle School and Berkeley Springs High School was decided to be a discussion for principals at those schools along with high school alternative education facilitator Dr. Mike Wilder and middle school alternative education teacher Darrell Bennett.
The strategic planning committee would meet with them to consider whether the alternative education program is best held at the individual schools or at a central location.
The board also discussed how to get parents more involved in the schools and how to help parents navigate the school system when they needed help with an issue. They wanted to ensure that parents turned to teachers, assistant principals and principals. Secretaries were well-versed as frontline staff to direct parents to the person they needed to talk to.
Mentor teachers, committees
Board president Close said that mentor teachers are doing well. Tuttle said that supporting new teachers and administrators is very important. It’s a team approach with elementary and secondary directors and principals providing additional feedback. Some counties hire retired teachers to mentor.
Lyda said he really liked the idea of using retired teachers and administrators since regular teachers have their own classes. Tuttle said that they also need academic coaches to help support teachers.
Rowland thought that the Board of Education committees are very effective now that they are meeting quarterly. Smith wanted all committee agendas sent to all board members in case they had some input that could be added.
The school board also discussed the district-wide focus of math and language arts scores and student social and emotional wellness, volunteer background checks and badges, Career and Technical Education beginning at the middle school, LSIC agendas, additional technical support and vehicle and HVAC replacements. They also touched on House Bill 206 and State Policies 2510 and 2322.