Achievement benchmarks show success and challenges

Suzette Lowe
Jackson Newspapers

Jackson County Board of Education members were presented with statistics indicating the level of achievement of county students at its Thursday meeting. These benchmarks are based on a sampling of students who are attending classes in person and special education students who may be enrolled in virtual school but whose individual lesson plans require some face to face interactions with teachers.

Rhonda Jelich, director of elementary education, informed the board that data focused on math for students K through eighth-grade. Reading skills were also discussed for students K through fifth-grade and sixth through ninth-grade.

Jelich said there was both encouraging news and some areas of concern. In the 2019-2020 school year, students who came to their respective grades either ready or above ready for that grade was 74 percent. This year it is 65 percent.

The pandemic has had an effect according to Jelich.

“We’re actually not as far back as we feared,” she said. “For math, it’s imperative that students be in the classroom or at least face-to-face with their teachers. Parents simply aren’t able to help with math.”

The encouragement came from the fact that fewer students were below grade level.

“For the first time, we’ve come close to the national average,” Jelich said. “If our students really apply themselves, we can make up the deficit from the pandemic, but it will take work.”

In the area of reading, in 2019-2020, students who were on grade level or above was 80 percent compared to 71 percent for this year.

“The issue is with our primary grades,” Jelich explained. “Our teachers are working with those struggling by making personal contacts with the students to help them with their difficulties. Boys are also an issue. In sixth through ninth-grade, pure reading ability decreases, and boys are trending to under-perform girls by 15 percent.”

Jackson County Board of Education Superintendent Blaine Hess said that the longer remote learning continues, the more requests his office is getting from parents for hot spots to be placed in homes. More students are also accessing the hot spots at various public buildings in the county.

Students from Ripley High School teacher Adena Barnette’s state and local politics classes attended the meeting. When asked if they were receiving direct instruction from their teachers, each responded affirmatively.

Barnette said that she is starting to video some portions of the lesson, with one advantage being able to archive some lectures.

The superintended commended the county’s teachers for “stepping up with remote learning.”

Hess also shared that the county has met all requirements on the efficiency profile required by the state board of education.

“That doesn’t happen by accident,” he said. “People here work very hard to make sure things are done correctly.”

The issue of virtual school students who either have not attended one class or who are far behind in turning in assignments was discussed. Those who are not doing well in virtual classes and must return to in-person for the next semester is approximately 125 students. A total of 20-25 students have not attended any virtual class. There are over 600 students enrolled in virtual school.

“We have tried numerous times to reach those who have not attended a single class,” Hess said. “We have been unsuccessful with both students and parents.”

The devices issued to students who have made no effort to take an active part in their education will be deactivated.

“These students will not be able to access the internet with school devices,” Hess said. “Hopefully this action will get a response.”

As far as in-person school is concerned, Hess said the county is still in red on the metric map.

“We only have four positive cases in our schools as of this evening,” he said. “There are three students and one teacher.”

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

• Approved the Certificate of Substantial Completion with United Construction Company, Inc. for repairs to the Ripley High School Annex Building

• Approved rescheduling Friday, Dec. 18, Faculty Senate day to Monday, Dec. 21

• Approved 2021-2022 school calendar with students first day being Aug. 18 and Aug. 9 for teachers

• Approved a memorandum of understanding with Burlington United Methodist Family Services to provide collaborative support for educational needs for children in the foster care program

• Approved a request from Ava Young for her child to attend select classes at Ripley Middle

• Approved Ripley High wrestling team to attend a regular-season match in Alliance, Ohio, on Jan. 15-16, 2021

• Approved several policy changes to reflect those by the state board of education or enacted by the West Virginia Legislature

• Learned that Rich Casto, county transportation director, is investigating new inventory software

In personnel:

Resignations: Rebecca Henry, substitute secretary

Transfers: Sarah Waybright from half-time Cook III Ripley Elementary to custodian III, Cottageville/Ravenswood Middle; Derek Harpold, from bus operator route #07 to Route #28; Mary E. Hunt, from assistant principal Ravenswood High to itinerant art teacher countywide.

Employments: Victoria Allinder, Michael A. Hupp, Stephen Craddock, Haley Taylor, Roger A. Rose, substitute teachers; Susan Fitzpatrick, cook III half-time, Ravenswood Middle; Tshanina Price, cheerleading coach Ravenswood Middle

Other: Alyssa Galusha, Ravenswood High, leave of absence for infant bonding beginning Jan. 4, 2021; Heidie Bragg, cook III half-time Kenna Elementary, extension of leave of absence to Dec. 4, 2020; Regenia Rawson, bus operator, termination of employment; curriculum developers for middle, high, and elementary schools complete list at

The next meeting of the board will be at 7 p.m. on Dec. 17 at the administrative office.