Education and training of teachers and administrators are important priorities of the Jackson County Board of Education.

Agreements with two companies for professional development services were approved at the Feb. 6 regular meeting.

APL Associates specializes in instructional strategies and effective classroom management techniques.

The board approved an expenditure of $11, 313 for these services. Other counties will be participating with Jackson County acting as the fiscal agent for their payments.

Superintendent Blaine Hess said this training is geared towards new teachers and administrators. Refresher courses for those who have previously had the training are offered periodically as well.

“We’ve been using this company to provide training since the 1980s,” Hess said. “They specialize in high yield strategies.”

Title I teachers will benefit from the Seeing Stars workshop whose cost of $7,560 is provided by a grant. This program teaches symbol imagery to address issues with sight words, sounding out words and context.

Board member Jim Frashier questioned the training not being offered to special education teachers. Lisa Cunningham, Director of Special Education, explained Title I teachers work on intensive intervention prior to an evaluation or eligibility for special education.

Hess updated board members Frashier, Bobbi Farrell, Steve Chancey, Ben Mize, and Dan Barnette on school attendance.

“We had a net gain of one student,” Hess explained. “We had 52 students come into our system with 51 students leaving for various reasons.”

Attendance continues to show an increase from the last school year. Average attendance for the current year is 94.05 percent as compared to 93.69 percent in 2018-19. The school with the highest attendance rate in the fifth school month was Kenna Elementary at 95.70 percent with the lowest attendance being Ripley High School at 91.43 percent.

Two legislative issues were discussed at length.

“Superintendents and boards of education are very concerned with any bills dealing with the school calendar,” Hess said. “These bills, like Senate Bill 661, don’t take into consideration many issues such as the alignment with college semesters for our high school students taking college courses during the school year for dual credit. And if boards aren’t given an option to seek a waiver to meet their county needs, this causes a lot of problems.”

All board members were pleased to learn that House Bill 4089 had passed. This bill would amend the West Virginia State Code to change the required teaching of cursive writing from second through fourth grades to third through fifth grades.

When asked about cursive writing instruction in Jackson County, Director of Elementary Education and Staff Development Rhonda Jelich said that cursive is already taught in grades three and four and stressed in grade five.

“We feel second graders are just too young to develop this skill,” she said. “This change, if it passes the Senate, will just reinforce what we’re already doing.”

Other issues to note:

• The Board recognized State FFA Career Development First Place Teams from Ravenswood High School (Plant Pathology; Entomology) and Ravenswood Middle School (Agriscience).

• Kenna Elementary fourth grade students were approved to go to Cumberland, Ohio – May 1.

• A second reading of policy changes dictated by legislative action was held. The final hearing and vote will be addressed at the next regular meeting.

• Revisions to Policy 2510 – Adoption of Instructional Materials, were approved.

• The Board approved the purchase of MacBook Air Laptops, in the amount of $117,580, for instructional use by teachers.

• Revisions to the schedule of Local School Improvement Council meetings were approved.

In personnel items:

Retirements: Robert Moresea, teacher physical education, Henry J. Kaiser Elementary School effective January 31, 2020; Susan Swisher, teacher Title I, Ripley Elementary School, effective July 1, 2020; Pamela Moore, speech language pathologist, Ripley Elementary, effective July 1, 2020; Shirley Wayne, cook III, Evans Elementary, effective July 1, 2020; Rowena Mullins, executive secretary, county office, effective July 1, 2020

Resignations: John J. Moore, substitute bus operator, Transportation, effective July 23, 2020; Jennifer L. Roush, assistant softball coach, Ravenswood High School, effective January 29, 2020; Alyssa Galusha, student council advisor, Ravenswood High School, effective at the end of the 2019-2020 school term; Tim Young, assistant coach softball, Ripley High School, effective February 5, 2020

Employments: Tonia Gorrell, teacher after school tutoring and/or detention program, Ripley Middle School, on an as-needed basis, at a rate of $25/hour, effective for the 2019-2020 school term; Christina Iman, teacher after school tutoring and/or detention program, Ripley High School, on an as-needed basis, at a rate of $25/hour, effective for the 2019-2020 school term; Kelly Rake, substitute teacher on an as needed basis, effective for the 2019-2020 school term; Sara Casto, cook III, half time, Ripley Elementary School, effective February 7, 2020; Tiffany Barnette, Alysia Bryant, Amanda Cooper, Tara Jennings, Austin Leathers, Tiara Lewis, Amanda McCune, Erin Petry, Alison Shumate, Jody Snyder, substitute teacher aides on an as needed basis, effective for the 2019-2020 school term; Ethan Koontz, assistant baseball coach, Ripley Middle School, effective for the 2019-2020 school term; Franklin Howerton, assistant softball coach, Ripley Middle School, effective for the 2019-2020 school term; Anthony Sigmon, HVAC/Electrician, Maintenance Department, effective February 7, 2020; Robin Collins, Scott Cunningham, Bridget Divers, Beverly Fields, Abigail French, Stephanie Southall, substitute custodians, on an as needed basis, effective for the 2019-2020 school term

The board will hold a special closed-door executive session at 7 p.m. on Feb. 17 at the administrative offices to address expulsion of a student. The next regular meeting of the board will be at 7 p.m. on Feb. 20.