WELLSBURG - More than 20 Brooke County school faculty members were recognized for undergoing training in new educational standards set by the West Virginia Department of Education and the Brooke County school board heard concerns about the new cell phone policy at Brooke High School at the board's meeting Monday.
Nick Zervos, executive director of Regional Educational Service Agency 6, acknowledged the many Brooke County Schools administrators and teachers who underwent training in new educational objectives to be adopted by school districts throughout the state by 2014.
West Virginia is among 46 states that are part of the Common Core State Standards Initiative begun by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers in an effort to better prepare students for college educations and today's competitive workforce.
SPECIAL RECOGNITION — At Monday’s Brooke County school board meeting, Nick Zervos, executive director of Regional Educational Service Agency 6, recognized many Brooke County faculty members for participating in a training program focused on new standards adopted by the West Virginia Department of Education. With Zervos, they included, from left: Rhonda Combs, the school district’s curriculum director for grades K-5; Jennifer Schiffbauer, principal of Wellsburg Middle School; Stephanie Duffy-Zimmer, a teacher at the middle school; Dolly Kidd, reading specialist for the school district; Billie Jo Falcon, a teacher at Wellsburg Primary School; and Dana Durbin, a teacher at Follansbee Middle School. -- Warren Scott
The initiative offers a framework for state school systems to promote the development of skills in written and verbal communication, analytical mathematical computation and use of computers and various new technology.
Zervos said the initiative's aim is to get away from memorization and regurgitation of facts and move toward applying what has been learned to various tasks.
He said a new state achievement test, known as the Smarter Balance Assessment, will reflect that approach and will be administered to more grade levels to gage success.
A veteran educator and former school superintendent, Zervos called the initiative "the biggest change to education I've seen in 35 years."
He added, It's a new adventure and I think the whole country will benefit from it."
Brooke County staff who underwent the training were: Rhonda Combs and Valerie Smith, the school district's curriculum directors; Dolly Kidd, its reading specialist; and the following principals and teachers: Karen Keener, Ellen Larter, Ken Kearns, Candice Owens, Jim Rowing, Emily Yost, Stephanie Blundon, Brian Rea, Toni Taylor, Dana Durbin, Kelly Eggert, Susan Breen, Jeff Blundon, Diane Rasz, Rich Whitehead, Molly Cribbs, Stephanie Duffy-Zimmer, Tina Zago, Jennifer Schiffbauer, Billie Jo Falcon, Dianna Cornett, Paula Buck, Millie Billiard, Diana Stoaks and Donna Mazzella.
Zervos said the faculty members and others from the Northern Panhandle trained by RESA 6 will go on to train colleagues at their schools.
RESA 6 is a state agency through which the school districts of Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, Marshall and Wetzel counties receive training and services, including computer troubleshooting and collective purchasing of some school materials.
The school board also heard from Stephanie Wine and Laura Perrone, parents of Brooke County students, who said a new Brooke High School policy prohibiting female students from carrying purses to class is excessive.
Wine said, "Female faculty are permitted to carry purses, so why not students?"
Board President James Piccirillo and Superintendent Kathy Kidder said students may bring purses to school but must put them in their lockers upon arrival and not remove them until the end of the school day.
Kidder said female students may carry personal items to class in a small pocketbook or pencil case. She said the reason for the change is to prevent students from keeping cellular phones in their purses.
She noted the board has prohibited cell phones from being used in class after a majority of the school's faculty senate and parents who attended the high school's parent-student exchange day complained they were a major distraction.
Piccirillo said the rules against cell phones and purses in classrooms support the board's two goals of providing a quality education and safe school environment.
Following the meeting, he elaborated, "During the past two years we have expelled numerous students. In 90 percent of those cases, the discipline was the result of cell phone use, cyber bullying, sexting and (possession of) weapons and prescription, non-prescription and illegal drugs and contraband."
He added cell phone use by students has led to interruptions of classroom instruction and confrontations between students and teachers.
Piccirillo said prohibiting students from taking purses, backpacks and gym bags into classrooms probably won't prevent all of the problems but will help. He asked Wine, Perrone and other parents to bear with the board as it evaluates whether the policy is effective.
He said students requiring medication can get permission to use it at school.
Perrone said the new rules punish students who haven't caused problems and aren't likely to deter those who have. She said it also gives her some security to know her children have access to a cell phone, particularly since Brooke schools have been locked down in recent months following perceived threats.
Perrone said it also seemed little input for the policy was sought from parents.
Kidder said each classroom at the high school now has a telephone for emergency use. Assistant Superintendent Marty Bartz said, following the meeting, the school district's automated calling system has been used to alert parents of lockdowns.
Kidder said input was sought from community members on the high school's school improvement council.
But she said to make the public more aware, the board could post policies under consideration on its website as it has done for those that have been adapted.
Policies for student conduct, dress and other issues can be found in the Student Services Handbook link of the website at wwww.edline.net/pages/brookecountyschools.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)