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Teachers, Students Air Concerns

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Teachers, Students Air Concerns
By Lauren Matthews - Staff Writer, Wetzel Chronicle

Teachers, students and their supporters gathered at the Wetzel County Board of Education office for the second week in a row to stand in solidarity and protest changes being made in the county's school system. Many of the individuals attribute these changes to new superintendent, Leatha Williams.

Educator Shauna Heil spoke to the board "as a parent and as an educator."

Heil said Wetzel County has long accepted state mandated end-of-year assessments. She said teachers are having a difficult time with the addition of county mandated testing, known as Interim Cumulative Assessments, or ICAs. Heil requested that the board "repeal the mandate for ICAs in Wetzel County. She claimed that the ICAs only give students, teachers and parents a number, with no feedback.

"It gives no item analysis or list of objectives mastered, just a number. A number cannot guide teachers' or students' learning goals," Heil stated.

Heil also told the board that, during the fall, she had attended the Literacy Scope and Sequence training with many other Wetzel County school teachers. Heil said it is pretty typical that teachers plan their reading units from the end of the year and work backward "toward the beginning of the year."

She said teachers started planning their units for May, but were directed to instead plan for March. Heil said teachers were told by county literacy coaches, who were given the plan by Superintendent Leatha Williams, that April and May would be set aside for testing. Heil said that not only would students miss out on two months of reading, they would also miss out on additional reading time due to preparing for the test.

Retired Wetzel County school teacher Terri Glover said despite being 15 years into retirement, she is still very much interested in education.

Glover said she had attended the Nov. 2 board of education meeting and left feeling uncertain about the future of Wetzel County Schools. Glover said in her 34 years of teaching, counseling and working at the county board office, she had never witnessed so much "dissatisfaction and low morale facing our teachers, principals, parents and students."

Glover noted the state's board of education has looked into replacing the Common Core-based standards in the West Virginia education system. She advised that in the meantime, before the standards are replaced, the Wetzel County Board of Education should let "our teachers teach and stop worrying about testing."

"I believe that the system has failed the students. The students have not failed the system," Glover said.

Glover referenced claims made by Wetzel County teachers who said that they were told they could "resign, relocate or retire," if they did not agree with the changes in the school system.

Glover advised that the choices be "respect, restore and reunite."

Glover said individuals in the school system must be role models for students. "If we can't control our emotions and refrain from using profanity or making threats, perhaps we should consider relocating, resigning or retiring."

"This behavior is unacceptable," Glover said. "It is bullying."

Elliot Kendle of the West Virginia Education Association said he sometimes questions the support of educators from elected officials.

"I would be negligent in my duties if I did not point out that having the police clear the parking lot, which had a number of teachers in it waiting for the end of the executive session, was not in any way supportive or productive. The message that was received was one that I truly hope this board did not intend to convey."

After Monday night's meeting, Board President Mike Blair declined to comment on the various speakers at the board meeting. At a special meeting held on Nov. 10, Blair stressed that the board wanted to do what was best for the students.

At the Nov. 10 meeting, Williams stated that she did not think of students as test scores. She said the school system was focused on learning. She said ICA tests are taken to better prepare students for college and career readiness.