During the Feb.11 Carroll County School Board meeting, Beverly Adams-Parker, director of middle & secondary education, informed the board that the Carroll County Public Schools division, as well as all nine schools, has been fully accredited by AdvancEd.
“We chose to do this because it is a national firm and it looks at more than just SOL scores. They visited us last February and conducted a thorough review of all schools, as well as the division,” said Adams-Parker. “I’d like to congratulate all our principals on their success.”
Superintendent Dr. Strader Blankenship added, “I think we have the best administrative staff anywhere in the United States.”
Later in the meeting, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Mark Burnette revealed the top news stories for the school system in 2013. The 12 stories concerning the achievements of the school system were not presented in any particular order.
The accreditation by AdvancEd was on the list, as well as eight of nine Carroll County schools being designated as Fully Accredited by the Virginia Department of Education (VDE). The one school, Gladesboro Elementary School, falling short of full accreditation, received a rating of Accredited with Warning in Mathematics and Reading. Schools must meet or exceed all Virginia pass rate targets for English, math, science and history/social studies based on the results of Standards of Learning Assessments given in grades three through eight and End of Course Tests given in grades eight through twelve to receive accreditation.
Burnette also reported that 99 percent of Carroll County Public Schools’ professional staff and 100 percent of its paraprofessional staff are designated as highly qualified by the VDE, which uses the federal No Child Left Behind Act as the determining factor.
During the past year, the Carroll County Public Schools Administrator Performance Evaluation System, which uses the Goals and Roles Model for collecting and presenting data to document performance that is based on well-defined expectations, and the Substitute Placement and Absence Management system called AESOP, have been implemented. AESOP is an automated service that simplifies and streamlines the process of recording and managing absences and finding substitutes. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can be accessed via internet and phone. Burnette said AESOP had been “very well received.”
The fifth story on the list was the schools system’s upgrades of safety and security. Thanks to a capital investment from the Carroll County Board of Supervisors, Burnette said many division-wide improvements have been made. Electronic buzz-in entry systems with video camera surveillance for school visitors were installed this summer at all 10 county schools. In addition, there are large monitors in office areas for monitoring visitors and students, and cameras in areas identified by the Safety Audit teams as needing additional surveillance. Exterior entrances to all buildings are now locked and closed except when monitored by school personnel during student arrival and departure times. A security card entry system was also installed at all 10 county schools for employees to use at various points of entry using their existing photo identification badges.
Although Burnette said all responses to the new security measures have been positive, Blankenship there was one situation still in need of a solution.
“We still have students moving between buildings. That is something that needs to be addressed.”
Two additional school resource officers have been assigned to schools, crisis management plans have been updated and revised for all schools, and safety audits continued to be conducted on an annual basis. Additional portable radios have been purchased to enhance communication, and digital cameras are in the process of being installed on school buses that currently have old VHS technology. In addition, at least three staff members at each school have been trained in CPR.
Burnette also noted the school system’s capital improvements, thanks to funding by the Carroll County Board of Supervisors. The new HVAC system at Carroll County High School will be completed by the end of February, and new lighting and ceiling tiles have been added to the hallways and corridors, and a STEM lab is currently under construction. A roof replacement has also been completed at St. Paul Elementary School.
Another program that has been a huge success, according to Burnette, is dual enrollment credits students have received through Carroll County High School and the Southwest Virginia Governor’s School. During the 2012-2013 school year, 477 students received 3,745 duel enrollment credits from Wytheville Community College. Based on $126 per credit hour, that translated into $471,870 in saved tuition costs for students’ parents.
New communication links also was one of the school system’s top stories. School Reach contacts parents and staff members by phone using audio and text to inform of school closings, school events and important announcements. The use of IP phones allows five schools are able to make phone calls over the Internet, thus allowing schools to call outside their local calling area without paying long distance charges. All students now have active email accounts with Google Mail, but the accounts are closed to communication outside of the CCPS domain unless requested by a teacher.
Carroll schools are also offering excellence in instructional technology, said Burnette. In addition to having Smart Boards in 296 classrooms, programs such as electronic report cards, online SOL testing, Benchmark testing, student response systems, enhanced instructional training and a mobile device initiative that provides KUNO tablets, Chrome Books and Galaxy Note tablets to some teachers and students.
The KUNO tablets are being used in fourth grade math at Hillsville Elementary School, the Chrome Books are being used in agricultural science classes at Carroll County Middle School and in the first grade at St. Paul Elementary School, and the Galaxy Note tablets are being used in the nursing class at Carroll County High School. In addition, iPads are being used in the third grade at Laurel Elementary School, eighth grade world history at Carroll County Middle School, and in chemistry and physics I at Carroll County High School.
Burnette also spoke of the school system’s Dropout Prevention Task Force. The task force collaborates with the Carroll County Department of Social Services, Family Preservation Services, Mount Rogers Mental Health Department, Office of Juvenile Probation and Court Services, Carroll County Health Department, local churches and other community agencies to assist at-risk students and their families. Through this collaboration, at-risk students are identified earlier and interventions are determined and implemented. As a result, the “on-time graduation rate” for CCHS has held steady at 91 percent, which is above the 2013 state average of 89.1 percent.
“Our graduation rate 10 years ago was 79 percent, so 91 percent is pretty awesome,” said Burnette.
The school system also promotes initiatives to ensure success for all students. Among the programs are Student Assistant Services, which is designed to provide individual and small group assistance to students who have a particular behavioral, psychological or family need. Family Preservation and Mount Rogers Mental Health Services, as well as psychology interns from Radford University and school psychologists, work in conjunction with the school system.
During the 2012-2013 school year, 402 CCHS students received industry certification credentialing by completing a sequence of career and technical education courses and passing a credentialing examination. In addition, 289 students passed one or more industry certification credentialing assessments.
Other programs aimed at helping students succeed are the Cavaliers After-school and Summer Experience (CASE) Program that includes a summer transition program for rising eighth graders, an after-school program during the school year and a variety of opportunities for their families; participation in the Southwest Virginia Governor’s School, and an agricultural partnership with Wytheville Community College and Virginia Tech.
Finally, Burnette pointed to the school system’s Parent Connect program. Each quarter, parents are invited in the evening to one of the schools to listen to a guest speaker and share in discussion on a topic of interest. In the past, presentations have been provided on topics such as depression, substance abuse, college readiness and suicide prevention.
Michael Howlett can be reached at 276-728-7311 or on Twitter@MikeEHowlett