WELLSBURG - The Brooke County Board of Education on Monday authorized Brooke High School to implement a pilot program aimed at encouraging student attendance through experiences that take students outside schools for work, community service and other activities.
A proposal submitted by Toni Shute, the school's principal, suggests students could receive credit for paid and unpaid work experience, volunteering for nonprofit or government organizations and even computer simulations of such experiences, provided they involve state-required educational goals.
The students also will be required to conduct research and deliver presentations on their experiences.
Those who complete 12 hours of community service and miss no more than three days of school won't be required to take final exams.
The experiences themselves aren't new to Brooke High School. Students studying to become certified nursing assistants in the school's career technical program put in 135 hours at Brightwood Center Genesis Eldercare, a local nursing and rehabilitation center, during the second half of their senior years.
And honors students are required to complete a community service project and document their efforts.
But Kathy Kidder, superintendent of schools, said the experiential learning program will be focused more on underclassmen in hopes of raising attendance for those grades.
She said a state law calling for teens' driver licenses to be revoked for frequent unexcused absences and a school policy prohibiting students with more than three unexcused absences from attending the prom have been good incentives for upperclassmen but not so much for freshmen.
"We're going to try this for the rest of the year and consider whether we should do it for next year," said Board President Jim Piccirillo who with board members Brian Ferguson, Jim Lazear and Frank Ujcich supported the move.
Board member Chad Haught opposed it, saying he believes students need the experience of taking exams to prepare for those they may take at the college level.
Brooke High School once allowed students to waive their exams if they didn't miss more than three days of school but was encouraged by state school officials to drop the policy.
The board also agreed to submit a letter of support for three grant applications for prevention resource officers at the high school and Follansbee and Wellsburg middle schools.
The officers are assigned to serve as liaisons between local youth and law enforcement and are trained to respond to emergency situations at schools. They also speak to classes about various legal issues and brought an anti-bullying program to the schools last year.
Brooke County Sheriff's Deputy John White, who was called for comment, noted he and other PROs at Brooke County schools were funded by one or two grants in the past, but as funds for PROs have been cut, the sheriff's department has sought additional grants and financial support from the school board to keep officers at the high school and Follansbee Middle School and add another requested for Wellsburg Middle School.
Currently a $20,000 state grant supports Sheriff's Deputy Larry Palmer's presence at Wellsburg Middle School and a $15,000 state grant supports White's at the high school, while Sheriff's Deputy Darin Pizer's presence at Follansbee Middle School is supported entirely by county and school board funds.
White acknowledged the county also faces competition for state funds from an increased number of PROs in the state.
The first West Virginia county to adopt a PRO, Brooke County has been joined by 27 other counties, with a total of about 70 PROs in the state.
The board also:
Observed a moment of silence for Kurt Gilchrist, a custodian for Brooke County Schools who died Feb. 2. He also was a parent volunteer for the Brooke soccer program, custodian at Wellsburg First Baptist Church, where he was a member; and member of the Wellsburg 4th of July Committee.
Approved the transportation department's sale of a 1994 van and 1996 van to Rod Pattison for $600 and a 1995 van to Bruce Hunter.
Approved the hirings or transfers of Nicole Cowgill as a special education teacher at Follansbee Middle School, Penny J. Frohnapfel as secretary at Colliers Primary School, Cindy Black as a Spanish teacher at Wellsburg Middle School, Amy Pannett as a kindergarten teacher at Lauretta B. Millsop Primary School, Laura Matteson as second grade teacher at Wellsburg Primary School, Holly Kisner as a kindergarten teacher at Wellsburg Primary School, and Monica Biery as vocational home economics/family and consumer science teacher at Brooke High School; Michael Findling as head wrestling coach at Wellsburg Middle School, Ron Javorsky as girls track coach at Wellsburg Middle School, Jason Williamson and Chris Hill as assistant football coaches at the high school, John White and Mark Schwertfeger as assistant baseball coaches at the high school; Edward Fritz as cross country coach at the high school; Amy Bennett and Monica Gray as assistant softball coaches at the high school, with Gray to serve temporarily while the head coach is on maternity leave; Al Gundrum as a substitute custodian and Megan Murdock as a substitute aide.
It approved the resignations of Linda Leavitt, who is retiring as secretary at Lauretta B. Millsop Primary School, effective March 30; and Kimberly Welshans as Title I teacher at Wellsburg Primary School.
Announced its next regular meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Feb. 25 at Franklin Primary School.
(Scott can be contacted at email@example.com)