Marion County No. 2 in state 'reward schools' program

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By Colleen S. Good
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — Five schools in Marion County are receiving recognition for their achievement in math and English/language arts achievement. Marion County is number two in the state for recognition under the new West Virginia Department of Education “reward schools” program.

The WVDE has designated the schools that are in the top 10 percent of all West Virginia schools in achievement as “high performing reward schools.” In Marion County, East Fairmont High School, Fairview Middle School, Monongah Middle School, Pleasant Valley Elementary School and White Hall Elementary School have all been recognized as high-performing reward schools.

White Hall Elementary School and Pleasant Valley Elementary School have also been recognized as “high-progress reward schools” for falling within the top 10 percent in the state for growth and progress in those academic areas. WESTEST scores are used to determine schools’ progress.

Marion County Schools Superintendent Gary Price said that this achievement is something to be proud of.

“It’s very difficult to make it under either condition, especially to be under the highest percentage in the state, and some counties did not have any (reward schools), or only had one or two,” Price said.

Marion County had five reward schools. The only county with more was Kanawha County, which had six.

Monongah Middle School principal Steve Malnick said his students have been working hard.

“We demand the highest performance day in and day out,” Malnick said. “We take time in the school day, with a period set aside just to work on any deficiencies in our math, English and language arts, and to enrich those students that are achieving at the highest levels.”

David Nuzum, principal at East Fairmont High School, said that they don’t concentrate on test scores, but instead on using the test scores to inform how they can improve their teaching methods.

“We’re not necessarily looking at improving kids’ scores, but looking at ways we can bolster our instruction and motivation to make our scores go up,” Nuzum said.

At Fairview Middle School, principal Steve Rodriguez said that performing well is a yearly goal.

“This is now seven years in a row that we’ve gotten an honor for being in the top 10 percent of schools,” Rodriguez said. “My teachers and students work really hard in keeping that reputation.

“I’m very proud of my staff and my students at Fairview Middle. It makes us feel good that we have met that goal.”

At Pleasant Valley Elementary School and White Hall Elementary School, students not only performed in the top 10 percent of schools in the state, but they are also being recognized for their progress and improvement.

Pleasant Valley principal Kim Middlemas said that support for personalized learning (SPI) has been key.

“I’m so proud of my teachers and my faculty. They work to address every child’s needs,” Middlemas said. “Every child learns differently, and my teachers and I all believe that.”

Middlemas said that she will be buying her teachers lunch at the next Faculty Senate meeting as a reward for their hard work.

“We’ll all sit down and celebrate together,” Middlemas said.

All of the schools said that this achievement wouldn’t have been possible without great involvement from parents and the community.

“It helps to have the support of the teachers, the families and the community. They care that their students do their homework, and that makes a difference,” Middlemas said.

Malnick said that support from the Marion County Board of Education has also been instrumental.

“We have a lot of support from our superintendent, and we appreciate the support we get from him and the central office. They do so much to support us,” Malnick said.

Price said that, within the central BOE office, there were two individuals who helped a great deal — Diane Furman, the testing and math and science coordinator for the county, and Randy Farley, the administrative assistant for curriculum and instruction.

“We’d like to give them a lot of praise for the work they do with the schools,” Price said. “They work with the schools to prepare documentation on what the previous year’s scores are, what their areas of weakness are, and giving them some good information on how to attack those weaknesses, as well as continue to build on the strengths.”

Price said that the schools will receive recognition for all of their hard work at upcoming Marion County BOE meetings.

“I think the achievement speaks for itself. I’ve already said they’re the highest-achieving schools in the entire state, and that really says everything you can say about them in a nutshell,” Price said.

White Hall Elementary could not be reached for comment.