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There and back again: 8 class periods may return

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By Jessica Farrish Register-Herald Reporter   

Two Woodrow Wilson High School teachers addressed the Raleigh County Board of Education Tuesday evening on the anticipated change from block to period scheduling.

Woodrow Faculty Chair Vicki Moss asked that teachers be notified of any upcoming changes and that they be allowed an academic year to make a smooth transition.

“Until this morning, we were all under the impression that all of the Raleigh County high schools would be going to the eight-periods schedule for next year,” Moss told the board members. “It is our request that, if this is to change at any time in the near future ... that you consider providing the teachers of Raleigh County a transition year so ... our administrators, counselors and teachers all have input into creating a plan that would best serve teachers and students alike.”

Board Vice President Larry Ford replied that Moss’ request is reasonable.

President Rick Snuffer, who was unable to attend the meeting, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that any schedule changes will apply only to the 2015-2016 school year.

WWHS English teacher MeriBeth Underwood told the board she is concerned about how mandatory curriculum, governmental standards and testing — which are currently accommodated by block scheduling — will fare under an eight-period schedule.

“I was a senior in 1995 through 1996, the year Raleigh County went to block scheduling,” said Underwood. “There was a lot of stress with my teachers, my counselors, my administrators. I remember worrying about how the change would impact me as a student.

“I remember preparatory training for my teachers, discussions about the switch, the strifes ... the statistics that justified the change,” Underwood continued. “But, what I don’t remember is 21st Century Learning, WESTEST 2, ... West Virginia Writes, Smart Balance, Common Core, Ready, College Ready ... the infamous iPads that were not even conceivable ... which now define my curriculum.

“Ironically, almost 20 years later, I stand here tonight a Raleigh County teacher, experiencing this stress just in a different fashion.”

She added that teachers are currently adjusting to the incorporation of collaboration and unification strategies into classrooms, but she did not sense collaboration between BOE members and teachers.

Underwood, who said she favors block scheduling, told the board that teachers were recently required to teach on iPads without any preparation and that she wants teachers and students to be prepared in advance for any changes to scheduling.

“It’s one thing to have an idea, it’s another thing to execute it,” she said. “You need experts for that.

“We’re your experts,” she added. “We’ll work with you, but we have to feel like we’re experts, too.”

The board is expected to vote on the schedule change at the Feb. 25 meeting, Snuffer reported.

A speaker identified as “Mrs. McCormick” asked board members to let Stratton Elementary School parents and parents of other districts know the plans that are in place to address the needs that were identified for that and other schools in the $39.5 million bond call that voters nixed Saturday.

If the bond had passed, the State Building Authority would have added an additional $23 million.

Brown explained that while the needs have not disappeared, the BOE has only $9 million to spend on any facilities in the county since the bond was rejected.

“Reality is, the cost is $72 million, with $9 million from district funds,” said Brown. “The difference is $63 million.

“That speaks for itself,” he said. “It’s $63 million from where we were projecting to be, hoping to be, to where we are now.”

BOE members frankly admitted that they did not have a “plan B.”

“We haven’t had a chance as a board to look at how to proceed,” BOE member Cynthia Jafary said. “We have limited resources of our money ... to address all the needs we have to address since we don’t have money from the state.

“It’s going to take us a little bit of time ... to ... see how we take the money we do have to address Stratton, Shady and LCS.

“There was always a potential the bond wouldn’t go through, but ... at this point, we don’t have a solid plan B.”

Snuffer said Tuesday that board members will hold a meeting in the near future to develop a plan for identifying high facility needs and attempting to fund those projects.

Ford and BOE member Richard Jarrell assured McCormick that parents will be notified of any new plans for the facilities.

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In other action, speaker John Canterbury shared with BOE members the story of Judy Karen Brown, his ex-wife and friend, a Raleigh County teacher who “was one of the best teachers, one of the best people, that ever walked in shoe leather.”

Brown passed away in January.

Brown, the daughter of Mabel Brown, was a dedicated teacher who spent summers preparing for her classes, said Canterbury, who is a former mine boss.

He added that Brown was “the best teacher and best Christian” he’s ever met and that he would’ve liked to have had an acknowledgement of her death from Raleigh County Schools offices last month.

“We ought to be more knowledgeable of the people working for us and doing the job they’re supposed to do,” remarked Canterbury, adding that he did not want to embarrass anyone. “All these people hollering that teachers don’t work ... are very much wrong.”

Cantebury, who was once a teacher, added that most teachers work overtime when needed and spend personal time planning ways to meet their students’ educational needs.

“I just wanted you to ‘meet’ her,” he said, passing around Brown’s memorial card to BOE members. “Because you won’t get to meet her unless you go to heaven.”

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The Woodrow Wilson High School team placed first in the regional Science Bowl competitions and placed fourth in the state competition, earning $250 for the school’s science department.

Diana Chipley, a pre-kindergarten teacher at Hollywood Elementary, was nominated as the RESA 1 candidate for the West Virginia Universal Pre-Kindergarten Teacher of the Year.

Chipley is one of 14 teachers in the state to attend an awards ceremony in Charleston next week, where the state winner will be announced.

A team of 13 Shady Spring High School students, coached by Debra Gallagher, won the state “We the People” competition and will compete for the national title in Washington, D.C., in April.

Student representatives Jade Gravly of Independence High and Kahlen Browning of Liberty High gave presentations.

The BOE went into executive session to discuss the three-day suspension of a middle school sports coach and to address other personnel matters.