Upshur BOE review shows significant decrease in dropouts

Superintendent Scott Lampinen reviewed the year’s achievements for the Upshur County school system Tuesday, including a significant decrease in the school drop-out rate.

Lampinen said that 27 students dropped out this year, which is down from 61 last year. He said that was a “phenomenal” decrease in drop-outs.

The superintendent, who is retiring at the end of June, also said there has been an increase in the number of students enrolling in Advanced Placement classes.

The BOE voted last week to hire Roy Wager, the school system’s former federal programs director, as superintendent effective July 1.

Lampinen also noted that this year was the first time that the Upshur Board of Education included student representatives. Both Sarah Gillespie and Briea St. Clair served the school board in a non-voting capacity prior to graduating this spring.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Lampinen read a letter from state Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Phares commending the progress that has been made by the Upshur school system. In the letter, Phares recognized the drop-out rate and noted three teachers who received Arch Coal Achievement awards. Phares wrote that the county’s school leadership was “strong” and “stable.”

“By focusing our work on the children, nothing can stop us,” Phares wrote.

Board members said they will put the focus on children when they review the potential for a balanced calendar for the 2014-15 school year.

A resident spoke before the board Tuesday, arguing that the county school system should find other alternatives for improvement instead of implementing a balanced calendar.

Sandy Fealy said that a balanced calendar disrupts the life of the child, the family and the community. She said that schools that really want to make a positive change regarding academics should try other ideas.

“I just believe that there are other ways that we can do the same thing with the same schedule we currently have,” Fealy said. “Why upset that balance? I think definitely we’re on the right track.”

Lampinen said the board will get an early start on the calendar and will host community discussions to get the public’s input on the issue.

“We’ll start very early in the school year to make sure everybody is represented,” Lampinen said.

The balanced calendar proposal has been the topic of recent board meetings. Both the balanced and traditional calendars have 180 instructional days, but the balanced calendar proposes to separate each nine-week grading period with a longer break. Those breaks could last as long as three weeks. The end result would reduce the amount of time off of school during summer break.

The school board already has decided not to implement a balanced calendar for the upcoming school year, but resolved to get an early start on the planning for a possible balanced calendar in the 2014-2015 school year.

“I think the reason we’re all here is because we care about the kids,” Board President Teresa Bellamy said. “It’s going to take everybody in the community to support it.”