By Stephen Smoot
Throughout the first half of the year, the Pendleton County Board of Education has traveled to schools across the county to hear presentations from administrators, faculty, staff, parents, and, sometimes, students.
Last week, they met with Lisa Roberson, principal of North Fork Elementary, as well as members of her faculty and staff. Board members, North Fork faculty, staff, administrators, and others had tacos and homemade desserts prior to the meeting.
The meeting opened with a second public reading for the Pendleton County Schools calendar proposed for 2024 and 25. Attendees heard about rules, laws, parameters, and other necessary details concerning it.
Nicole Hevener, associate superintendent of Pendleton County Schools, noted that they faced issues that many others do not. She explained that “our weather is very different.” Pendleton County has “to work very hard to make sure that we’re not adding to the days we’re attending school.”
One of the major differences will come from the late date of Easter. Since it takes place on April 18, spring break will be separated from the holiday, but students and staff will still get time off for the holiday.
After the mandatory reading of information concerning the school calendar, Roberson stepped to the front of the room to give her impression of the state of the school.
During the presentation, Roberson shared the progress of the students as a whole since the beginning of the year. Pendleton County Schools does benchmark testing at the start of the year of each student in every school. This helps administration and faculty to track student achievement and faculty effectiveness.
Regular testing numbers showed improvements since the first round of testing. Roberson showed that 50 percent of second- through sixth-grade students met or passed the 50th percentile in reading and language arts, a 19 percent rise. In math, the percentages rose from 40 percent meeting or exceeding the 50th percentile to 59 percent achieving that mark.
She described how the school was “using the reading curriculum with more fidelity” and focusing also on reinforcement of taught skills. She thanked community volunteers, such as Melissa Grimes and others, who come into the schools for tutoring and other assistance.
Roberson also praised the work of a Pendleton County Middle/High School student. “We’re very excited to show off our new mural,” she said of the artistry of Laney Sites-Woods. Roberson also thanked a parent, Josh Clayton, who “spruced up our new entrance.”
She then discussed the different events that the school had put on for students, parents, and the community as a whole. Some were meant to inspire “healthy bodies and minds” and outdoor learning, such as a square dancing class before Treasure Mountain Festival, or Experience Learning’s survival skills and fishing instruction for third through sixth graders at Spruce Knob.
A luncheon for Grandparents’ Day produced “a packed event with lots of love and laughter,” Roberson said.
Students also enjoyed a variety of “club day” activities that combined huge helpings of education and entertainment. These included a science lab where younger students made “slime,” while kids in higher grades built bottle rockets. Other options included music, and also a nature club complete with a ropes course.
Late in October, Elizabeth Harper, NFES Communities in Schools coordinator, and a number of local businesses came together to create both a Trunk or Treat dance party that produced “an afternoon of fun and fellowship with lots of giggles” and also the Fall Fest featuring “a grand evening of games.”
Students also learned basic principles of physics through the annual pumpkin drop.
In November, an afternoon of music and patriotism was held, honoring 14 local veterans with singing, appreciation, and pie and coffee. The school also has a patriotism club to help teach positive values of citizenship.
They kicked off the holidays with a community Thanksgiving lunch that served 12 families. Lots of holiday cheer was on the December schedule with a door decorating contest, the 12 Days of Christmas Food Drive, an ugly sweater contest, and more.
Roberson explained, when asked about school needs, that “our kids need more one-on-one attention,” but added, “we are blessed to have the staff we have in this building.” She also thanked the board for recent upgrades to safety and security, but said the windows needed tint to prevent people from seeing in from outside.
Kellee Waddell from the school’s Parent-Teacher-Student Organization reported that “we had a very strong fundraising year” with a “slight increase in participation by parents.” They plan to send upper grades on a ski trip and adventure days for younger students. She said, “We’re doing well, plugging away, always looking for more support.”
Harper gave the Local School Improvement Council’s report and discussed work done there to support students and beautify the school. They created a rock garden with surfaces painted to resemble book covers, replaced stage lights, and have a goal to replace the bushes outside.
Becky Heavner, president of the faculty senate, closed out the presentation. She focused on the student mindset and behavior through much of her talk.
“We’ve been working with behavior for several years,” she said, describing incentive programs. “The kids are receiving the positive things we’re doing.”
Waddell also shared words of caution, saying, “The kids I’m teaching now are different from kids 15 years ago.” She added that State Senator Amy Grady, also a public school teacher, is leading up the creation of a bill that will address behavior problems that have gotten quite severe in other parts of the state.
“We have talked a lot as a staff,” she said. “We would like to invite anybody and everybody for a roundtable discussion.”
Charles Hedrick, Pendleton County Schools superintendent, replied, “We’ll try to schedule that roundtable after the holidays.” He also praised North Fork, saying, “This has been very much a community school. You all do a wonderful job reaching out to the community. We appreciate all you do.”
- D. Wilkins, Pendleton County Board of Education president, added that “it’s good to see the community come back to the school after COVID. That’s a big deal. It makes a difference.”
Sonny O’Neil, board member, ended with “thank you for the wonderful meal.”