By C.V. Moore
The Fayette County Schools superintendent and staff have developed a three-year improvement plan aimed at addressing the issues that led to the state Department of Education’s intervention in the system in 2010.
The plan was announced at Monday evening’s board meeting. Superintendent Keith Butcher said the county hopes to come into compliance with all indicators of the West Virginia Office of Education Performance Audits (OEPA), including those targeting facilities, by 2016.
“We’re frequently asked, ‘What steps does Fayette County need to take to make sure we comply with all the OEPA standards that were identified?’” said Butcher. “After thorough research of the test scores and needs in the county, we have developed a district improvement plan.”
In 2010, the OEPA recommended that Fayette County Schools be placed under the control of the state, after it had been in nonapproval status since 2007.
The recommendation was based mainly on deficiencies in curriculum and facilities. Personnel, finances and instructional programs were also cited, among many other areas of concern.
The goals of the District Improvement Plan announced Monday mirror the problems that OEPA documented in its 2010 audit report.
The major goals of the plan are as follows:
-- Improve student achievement
-- Improve graduation rate
-- Improve and maintain adequate financial procedures
-- Improve facility maintenance and utilization
-- Improve and maintain adequate personnel procedures and processes
-- Update, maintain and implement appropriate district policies
-- Improve district leadership
Each goal is accompanied by a number of action steps, a timeline, and a person responsible.
For example, in order to improve facility maintenance and utilization, the plan calls for implementation of the Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan (CEFP); energy management; review and prioritization of facility needs based on critical need and available funding; and inspections/reviews to develop a maintenance schedule.
One of Fayette County’s major hurdles has been addressing school facility issues, specifically those that would reduce the number of schools in the county.
“Every major attempt to reduce and/or improve local schools with local resources has been met with deadlock and defeat,” wrote OEPA auditors, likely referring to the overwhelming failure of a school bond that would have funded a consolidated high school.
The system’s CEFP is a 10-year plan that addresses the number of buildings that can be maintained given student population and fiscal realities.
“It’s a very simple point in there — implementation of the CEFP — but that is a very key point,” said Butcher. “That’s not to say that we cannot amend the plan. We can develop a new plan if we need to go to the SBA for a specific project, but we must move forward on a CEFP that moves us in the right direction.”
Board member Leon Ivey asked Butcher about facilities, and whether the entire CEFP would need to be implemented for the state to consider returning control to local voters.
Butcher said he believed that achieving even one phase of the plan would demonstrate the county’s commitment to providing students with the best environment possible.
Board member Pat Gray suggested that specific measures of success be added to each of the goals and action steps.
Fayette County Schools recognized its Math Field Day winners at Monday’s meeting.
“I’ve often heard it said that math and science are the gateway to the 21st century, and to success in the 21st century,” said Butcher. “I want to highlight the importance of math and recognize your accomplishments. Performing at the highest level of math at this point in your schooling is a great accomplishment.”
An audience of the students’ families and teachers at Fayetteville High School’s auditorium watched as a stream of winners took the stage to have their photos snapped with Butcher.
Michael McGraw, who placed first at the 10th-12th-grade level, bounded up to the stage with fist pumps and whoops.
“I’d like to congratulate Mike and his whole family,” said board member David Arritt. “Seems like he’s been No. 1 ever since like the fifth grade. Seems like he’s always at the top of the list. There’s a lot of good people on this list and a lot that’s been on there for a long, long time.”
Fayette County Assistant Superintendent Dr. Serena Starcher gave an update on an addition being built at Divide Elementary.
Starcher reported that the brick, roof, windows, doors, and ceiling tile have been installed, and two rooms have been painted. The HVAC and tile are nearly complete, landscaping is progressing, and paving will happen once the weather breaks.
The “safe schools entrance” is minimally complete, according to Starcher.
“While I don’t want to promise anything, we are hoping we can occupy the rooms this spring,” she said.
During board member reports, Pat Gray announced that Fayette Institute of Technology (FIT) had many winners this past weekend at a competition in Huntington, including the nursing program and the ROTC program.
“We’re very pleased with all the great work coming out of FIT, and all those who support it,” said Gray.
Board member Leon Ivey wants to see a discussion of how the county is supporting students in taking the ACT test, which serves as the basis for Promise Scholarship awards. He suggested offering an elective ACT prep class or finding a way to ensure that all students take the test.
“I think we owe it to our kids to do all we can to get them that money, if possible,” he said.
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