Virtual School achievement concerns BOE

Suzette Lowe
Superintendent Blaine Hess and Board President Bobbi Ferrell recognize Belinda Staats (center), retiring from Ripley Elementary with 34 years of service.

Unlike the past few meetings, there were no public comments at the Nov. 5 meeting of the Jackson County Board of Education.

In a short meeting, lasting about 17 minutes, the board was able to complete the business portion of the agenda. The board follows a consent agenda style of meeting which combines a large number of routine items into one item for voting purposes. Each member can request any item to be removed for discussion and a separate vote.

Jim Frazier requested the item dealing with state performance indicators be pulled for discussion.

Frazier asked for clarification regarding the standards that the West Virginia State Board of Education sets to define school-specific expectations.

“Will we be expected to meet the usual standards this year or will a base-line be established,” he asked. “I’m concerned because of so much instructional time missed.”

Superintendent of Schools Blaine Hess said that, while no official update has been received, his understanding is that assessment tests will be given in the spring.

“I believe that the state is intending to ask for a federal waiver for accountability,” Hess said. “We will use the data locally to determine where we are academically and how to build from there.”

Hess informed the board that virtual school enrollment has decreased by 55, leaving the total number of students at 564 until the end of the semester.

Frazier expressed concern about the academic success of those students enrolled virtually.

Director of Secondary Education, Jim Mahan, whose department oversees the virtual school data, said some students have completed a substantial portion of the work required.

“There are some that completed 95 percent and already scheduled their finals,” Mahan said. “Then there are those who have not visited a single class.”

At the end of the semester, academic advancement will be reviewed.

“If students fail their courses, or are seen as having great difficulty, they will not be offered the opportunity to enroll virtually next semester,” said Hess. “The best choice for them would be the traditional classroom.”

Hess also reminded the board that the metric map the state board of education releases on Saturdays, determines school instruction for the following week.

Jackson County was color coded orange for most of last week leading up to the board meeting. If the Saturday map stays orange, instruction will be done remotely with no in-school attendance for the following week. All sporting events would be cancelled, with athletes only allowed to do conditioning.

At the time of the board meeting, there were four COVID-19 cases in the school system, with three being secondary level and one being elementary. Hess said there was one “residual staff member” with the virus.

One retiree was honored at the beginning of the board meeting. Belinda Staats was recognized for her teaching service of 34 years.

In other business, board members Frazier, Bobbi Ferrell, Steve Chancey, Ben Mize, and Dan Barnette approved:

• Local business sites for experiential co-operative learning

• Memorandum of understandings with two firms, Necco and Braley and Thompson for support of the educational needs of children placed in the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Foster Care Program

• Out-of-county student transfer request from Jason E. Parsons from Wood County

• Approved various policy revisions (which can be viewed at to meet policies set by the state board of education or the West Virginia Code; the first reading of additional policy revisions was also approved with formal vote at a future board meeting

Personnel items:

Resignations: Shelley Harris, learning enhancement specialist; Jared Hughes, assistant wrestling coach Ripley Middle; Cara Moore, cheerleading coach Ravenswood Middle

Tranfers: Cynthia Kay, from cook III half-time Ravenswood Middle to Cook III Ravenswood High

Employments: Tracy D. Keefer, parent coordinator, Ripley Elementary; Cara Marra, learning enhancement specialist; Adam Hill, substitute teacher; Ronnette Evans, executive secretary county office; Jennie Walker, secretary Ravenswood Middle; Vincent Riffe, freshman boys basketball coach Ripley High; Stephanie DeWees, assistant archery coach Ravenswood Middle and Ravenswood High; Jennifer E. Steele-Staats, substitute teacher; Anna D. Kimble, assistant girls basketball coach Ripley Middle; Ethan Koontz, assistant wrestling coach Ripley High; Adam M. Rutter, assistant wrestling coach Ravenswood High; Damien Caldwell, assistant wrestling coach Ravenswood Middle

Other: Anita K. Knight, leave of absence for infant bonding, math teacher Ripley Middle; Heidie Bragg, cook III, leave of absence from Oct. 19-Nov. 15; Rebecca Anderson, change in leave of absence ending date from Nov. 30 to Oct. 8; Jacob R. Gandee, authorized certified boys basketball coach and Michael S. Lawrence, authorized certified baseball coach, both at Ripley Middle; Kevin D. Tanner, authorized certified wrestling coach Ravenswood High; List of parent trainers Title I program for Ravenswood Grade and Cottageville Elementary, Teachers on the county textbook/instructional resources adoption committee for English/Language Arts and students participating in Ripley High business cooperative education program

The board adjourned at 7:15 pm into an executive closed-door session for a personnel matter, with no action taken. The next meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Nov. 19 at the county board office.