School News

Directors update school board on teaching focus, tools for staff and students

by Kate Evans

The Morgan County School Board heard elementary and secondary curriculum and instruction updates from Elementary Education Director Kandy Pentoney and Secondary Education Director Beth Golden at their December 19 school board meeting.  Updates included strategies, instructional coaching, Paper online tutoring and best practices.

Pentoney said that the elementary goal this year was teacher buy-in and consistent phonics programs for intervention at all schools.  Teachers will be trained on how to teach the five pillars of reading — phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension-with writing being integrated into reading.

For the 2024-2025 school year it will be full implementation using the Science of Reading methodology to teach reading, she said.

The MC SOARS team met in November and December and discussed topics that included common language, data-informed decisions, best practices for teaching reading, daily literacy model and professional learning, Pentoney said.

Pentoney shared information about the MC SOARS team meeting with principals and assistant principals along with the implementation plan, an overview of research and best practices and effective use of iready to increase reading proficiency.

Pleasant View Elementary and Warm Springs Intermediate School had the highest use of iready time on task, she said.

The middle of the year assessment window for iready is January 5-22.  The assessment data will be used to assign literacy tasks as required by House Bill 3035.

Secondary curriculum update

Golden said that the philosophy for increasing student engagement on the secondary level includes creating relationships with students and using high-effect-size instructional strategies and rigorous, relevant content.

These types of strategies include explicit direct instruction, self-assessment, vocabulary programs, concept mapping and problem-solving teaching.

Weston Kieschnick will be leading a January 2 morning instructional coaching session for all instructional staff.  That evening he will do a workshop with the coaching cohort, she said.

All Morgan County Schools employees will have access to a bank of 21 high-effect-size instructional strategies with podcasts and graphics for each strategy.

Teachers will also be targeting skill weaknesses through IXL with a diagnostic focus. The middle of the year assessments will have a standardized testing environment and students will be tracking their goals, Golden said.

Students have 24/7 online, on-demand tutoring with Paper inside and outside the classroom through the ClassLink dashboard, Golden said.  They can get live help with real tutors and can also access a writing review center. They can talk with tutors or use chat.

Golden said that usage of Paper is highest in grades seven and eight.  Some 13% of students are engaged in the platform with 216 hours of support and 582 live help sessions completed.

High school NEEDS project

School Superintendent Kristen Tuttle said school administrators will advertise for architects for the Berkeley Springs High School cafeteria heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) unit replacement project for which the district received School Building Authority funding.  They hoped to select the project architect by February 13.

The school system’s auditor, The Spike Jones Group, had been at Morgan County Schools gathering preliminary information.  The firm sent a letter saying that they would have the audit completed by January 19.


The board approved the Hope Scholarship tuition fee of $642 per class for the 2023-2024 school year.  They approved the Hope Scholarship athletic participation fee of $50 per sport for the 2023-2024 school year.

The school board also approved the out-of-state tuition fee of $10,000 for the 2023-2024 school year.

The school board approved the virtual registration for board members Aaron Close, Laura Smith, John Rowland and Justin Litten for the West Virginia School Board Association Winter Conference on February 9 and 10.


The school board held their second reading of the following policies at their December 19 meeting and approved them:

Policies approved were Group Health Plans 1619, 3419 and 4419, Program of Study Early and Elementary Learning Programs Grades Pre-K to 5, Privacy Protections of Self-Funded Group Health Plans 3419.01 and 4419.01, Privacy Protections of Fully Insured Group Health Plans 3419.02 and 4419.02, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act 3419.03 and 4419.03, Personal Leave and Student Discipline.

Dual credit course

The school board approved the following course and standards as an addition to county’s dual credit policy:

Political Science 101 (American Federal Government) and PSCI 101 Student Learner Outcomes as local standards for WV Political Science course. (7139)

Paw Paw High School prom

Paw Paw High School representatives were present at the meeting asking for approval to hold their spring prom at Landfall Lodge in Winchester.  The board granted their request.


Board member Laura Smith said that the schools have been filled with so many activities and that it’s been really fun.

At the December 6 school board meeting, board member John Rowland noted the passing of Virgil Ruppenthal, former Cherry Run School and Great Cacapon Elementary teaching principal and Widmyer Elementary teacher.  Rowland said that Ruppenthal will be greatly missed.