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HomeLocal NewsEducationThe pandemic upended every aspect of education; however, Carter County Schools have...

The pandemic upended every aspect of education; however, Carter County Schools have fared well.

By: Miranda H. Lewis
Carter County Times

The pandemic shifted learning in an entirely new format in the spring of 2020, presenting a significant adjustment for teachers and students. Because of the unfamiliarity of the situation, the context of teaching during the global pandemic combined with the abrupt switch to remote learning posed a unique set of challenges and difficulties; however, Carter County Schools have fared well. Superintendent Dr. Paul Green accredited this feat to the hard work of Carter County faculty and staff.

The board recognized faculty and staff members from the Educational Technology Department as recipients of The Stillwell Meritorious Service Medal. In 2008 Dr. William E. Stillwell was the first recipient of an award, which now bears his name, recognizing contributions to education technology. The award is also known as the “red suspenders award” to pay homage to Stillwell’s beloved red suspenders.

Prior to this year, this prestigious award was only issued to one or two recipients throughout Kentucky annually.

Director of Technology, Barrett Bush, said the recipients went “above and beyond the call of duty in education technology by providing a connection between teachers, staff and students during the pandemic.” The board extended a heartfelt thank you to the following individuals, Chris Blankenship, Nikki James, Leah Wilcox, Kayla Simmons, Sarah Hicks, Greta Hensley, Nelly Wright, Austin Jackson, Steven Kitchen, and Morgan Jones.

West Carter Middle School principal, Kayla Bailey, told the board about recent successes at her school including the Academic Team, emphasizing Written Assessment and Quick Recall. Bailey expressed immense pride when she told the board that 18 WCMS students were currently taking part at the Kentucky Youth Association (KYA), the nation’s largest mock government in the United States. DeLaney Stevens, Cam Varney, Jalyn Greene, and Rylan Raybourn sponsored a bill targeted at providing mental health screenings for students in public schools; the students presented their bill at the KYA conference in Frankfort where it passed. Bailey also noted extracurricular achievements, highlighting the wrestling team which recently hosted their first match. She gave special thanks to the board for making the match possible, alluding to the acquisition of new mats.

With so many unknowns leading up to 2021-2022 Kentucky Academic Standards (KAS) scores, West Carter High School Assistant Principal Dr. Corey Gee reported scores “at or above average”, with a green rating. Moving forward they are using their test scores to determine areas of improvement and ensuring that all lessons align with KAS.

“Engagement is our top priority,” Gee told the board.

Carter County Career and Technical Center reported that their goal is to score above 70 percent on Pathway exams.

Principal Mary Lou Dehart referenced the carpentry program and shared that the specific goal for this career path is to increase scores to 65 percent for the 2022-2023 school year. She told the board that several changes have taken place this school year, referring to the addition of Heavy Equipment Sciences and Pharmacy Technician career paths as well as innovative virtual technology for welding students. Dehart hosted the special school board session following an open house at the Career and Technical Center.

Heritage Elementary principal J.C. Perkins told the board that the pandemic caused a lot of things to dwindle but community support is at an all-time high for his school. He mentioned that he was happy to resume family nights as well as to be able to host a Christmas program within the next week. While he was happy that his school performed well and earned a yellow rating, he said, there is room for improvement.

Olive Hill principal Cherri Keaton and Tygart Creek principal Joshua Mabry both said that they are pleased with their yellow rankings, considering the lingering effects of COVID. Keaton acknowledged the IT department for making it possible to continue education during the pandemic.

Students at Olive Hill Elementary scored above the state scores in reading (47 percent), math (37 percent) and writing (71 percent). Keaton credited her schools exceptional writing scores to fifth grade teacher, Megen Gearhart. Essential areas of improvement include novice reduction in all student populations, literacy skills and increased engagement, she said.

Mabry reported that students at Tygart Creek scored 55 percent in reading, 50 percent in math, and 60 percent in science and writing. Moving forward ensuring that instruction aligns with KAS is a top priority for his school.

A consensus across principals presenting annual reports was a commitment to using test scores to find areas of improvement to focus on. Students performed well overall on the KAS and their success reflects staff rising to the challenge during the pandemic, the board said.

Ryan Tomolonis, director of personnel, opened discussion for a school-based law enforcement. Tomolonis noted that this would be an opportunity for the board to create their own policies for officers within the school system. He recently visited Montgomery County schools where they have their own security service in place. The first step of the process is to bring the topic to the attention of the board to seek their approval, he said. After addressing startup costs and budgetary concerns, the board members approved the creation of a school-based law enforcement to advance to the next step. Tomolonis reiterated that a vote in favor of the agency did not put any set plans into motion, but was simply an agreement that further discussion needs to take place.

Contact the writer at news@cartercountytimes.com

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