School News

Paw Paw Schools highlights accomplishments, goals and growth

by Kate Evans

Paw Paw Schools Principal Melinda Kasekamp shared highlights of their school year, academic growth, challenges and goals in her Strategic Plan Update presentation at the March 19 Morgan County School Board meeting.  Paw Paw Schools has 158 students, including 79 elementary (k-6) students and 79 high school (7-12) students.

Mission, success

Paw Paw Schools mission is providing academic, social and emotional learning for all students every day, said Kasekamp.

Student successes include Regional Math Field Day winners, three Social Studies Fair regional qualifiers and two Science Fair state qualifiers. High school student Keil Gee was a state qualifier in the Poetry Out Loud Contest.

Eight of the county Young Writer’s Contest winners were from Paw Paw Schools.

Goals for grades k-6

Strategic plan goals for Paw Paw Elementary are increasing math and English Language proficiency by 8% to be at 40% math proficiency and at 45% English Language arts proficiency on the West Virginia General Summative Assessment (WVGSA) by June, Kasekamp said.

The second elementary goal is increasing fifth grade science proficiency from 0% to 30% on the state exam.

Their third goal is reducing the chronic absenteeism rate by 15% by the end of the school year as measured by the West Virginia Department of Education ZOOM dashboard.

Goals-grades 7-12

Paw Paw High School’s first strategic plan goals is increasing proficiency in math by 9% to get to 30% proficiency and increasing English Language arts proficiency 8% to reach 35% proficiency as measured by the state exams at the end of the school year, Kasekamp said.

Goal 2 is increasing science proficiency from 17% in the 2022-2023 school year to 25% for the 2023-2024 school year.

Goal 3 is increasing SAT assessment proficiency for English and math to 900 for eleventh grade by the end of the school year.   (450 for English and 450 for math)

Goal 4 is reducing the chronic absenteeism rate by 15% as measured by WV ZOOM by the end of the school year.


Above and on grade level IReady mid-year assessment scores increased 7-13% and 9-14% respectively from the beginning of the year assessments, Kasekamp said.

In IReady math mid-year assessments, above levels increased from 4-7% and on level increased from 3-18% from beginning of the year assessments.

Students in grades 7, 9, 10 and 11 showed growth in IXL from the beginning of the year to mid-year.

On the 2023 WVGSA exam, grades 3-6 and 7-8 had more students exceeding and meeting standards in reading subjects than in math.

Eleventh graders exceeded district SAT scores in 2023, but math scores were lower.


The poverty rate percentage for elementary students in Paw Paw for the 2023-2024 school year is 72%.  For high school students it’s 60%.

Principal Kasekamp said that with the 1.6 qualifier, which includes economically disadvantaged families that haven’t sought public assistance, the schools’ poverty rates are 115% for the elementary school and 96% for the high school.

Some 35% of their elementary students and 60% of their high school students are considered homeless.  Kasekamp said that many homeless situations involve multiple families living together in single homes.

Attendance, discipline

Assistant Principal Amber Guthrie said that chronic absenteeism for the elementary school dropped from 18.75% to 15.85% from the first nine weeks of the year to the second nine weeks. Chronic absenteeism for the high school fell from 16.88% to 12.99% from the first nine weeks to the second nine weeks.

There were 47 discipline referrals for the school year so far, Guthrie said. 12 were for disruptive/disrespectful conduct, seven for physically fighting without injury, five for insubordination and five for skipping class.

Kasekamp said that the Paw Paw Schools discipline rate is very low due to classroom management plans and the Positive Behavior Intervention Strategies (PBIS) incentive trips.

Paw Paw Elementary PBIS educational reward trips for students have included the Pacific Eagle Train Ride, Sky Zone, Mid-way Bowling and Antietam Recreation.  High School PBIS activities included the Bowl-o-Rama, Hagerstown Ice, Sky Zone and Harper’s Ferry. Students must meet attendance, discipline and academic rules to be eligible for the rewards trips.


School activities include the Fall Festival, Spirit Week, Read Across America Week, Dr. Seuss Day (had 84 participants), Fire Safety Week, the Paw Paw Elementary Valentine’s Day Dance and Santa’s Workshop.

High school clubs included Just Dance-Wii, Legos, board games, chess club, beautification, karaoke and cookie club.

Special events included Susan Carroll-WVDEP-West Virginia Birds and Snowflakes,  Science in a Box with Carmen Winiarski-WVU Extension Office, Scaling the Universe with Terri Bellows from the Morgan County Observatory and the Cacapon Institute Tree Program. Students enjoy Empowerment U for girls and Mountain Movers for boys.

High school English teacher Alex Arthur and students have created several video productions on YouTube under Paw Paw Pirate Productions.  They include a video of the town’s Christmas Parade and an overview of the Paper tutoring service Arthur uses in class.

Good things

Paw Paw Schools was featured in a article as one of the last k-12 schools in West Virginia, Principal Kasekamp said.

The school has several Read Aloud volunteer classroom readers that include Helen Herlocker, a volunteer reader since 2015.

Paw Paw High School science teacher Megan Bennett was awarded a $15,000 grant for career exploration activities.  The money will be used for professional development, travel expenses, field trips and classroom materials for students, teachers and administrators.


Paw Paw Schools first graders Athena Hazelwood and AJ Ford collect eggs during the school’s Easter egg hunt.
Photo by Amber Guthrie
Paw Paw Schools student Shawn Dick baked a treat for the teachers with teacher Rhiannon Ritenour as part of the life skills cooking class. Photo by Amber Guthrie
Students enjoyed dancing and singing along with Billy B.-The Natural Science Song and Dance Man- when he came to Paw Paw Schools. Billy B did a program on weather and climate. Bill Brennan-Billy B.- is an educator turned performer who teaches kids about the wonders of our planet, nature and science with original songs, dance and fun. Photo by Amber Guthrie
As a Purple Star School that serves military families, Paw Paw Schools chose to honor local veterans by making an American flag out of students’ hand prints and writing a veteran’s name on each hand, said Assistant Principal Amber Guthrie. Photo by Amber Guthrie