Pocahontas BOE votes to move fifth graders to elementary schools
Marlinton, W.Va. –
Questions about where Marlinton area 5th graders will go to school were answered at the Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting Monday night. After hearing from parents, educators and the community, the board voted 3-2 to reconfigure the 5th grade at Marlinton Middle school to move those students back to Marlinton Elementary school.
Some like Marlinton Middle School Principal Joe Riley and Green Bank Middle School teacher Anne Smith have raised questions about the ramifications of such a move. But most seem to agree that when it comes to doing what is in the best interest of the students keeping them at the elementary level for one more year is preferable. Board member Dr. Hannah Sizemore wanted to make it clear that this decision has nothing to do with the performance of the administration or staff at Marlinton Middle.
“The way this was presented to the staff, to the principals and to the board was not great,” she says, “and a lot of my concerns and a lot of my debate with myself about this policy has sprung from that. I think it’s extraordinarily unfortunate that the teachers at Marlinton middle feel that anything about this debate was because of poor performance or poor test scores; certainly for my part that was never a motivation for considering this issue – the other members of the board don’t feel that way as well.”
She offers this insight into her own struggle to come to a decision on this issue.
“Neither side of this debate made a compelling argument to me very well,” says Sizemore. “On the one side, no one fully justified the tight time scale, and the reason we were debating this in a matter of a few weeks and then implementing it only a few months later. There are financial reasons put out there, and I think this is actually admirable – legacy reasons; there are people [board members] sitting up here who have put years of their lives into the school system and think it’s the right thing to do and would like to see it happen on their watch.”
“On the flip side, no one who is opposed to the change has said you know what – I think 5th graders are super mature and ought to be treated like teenagers or middle-schoolers; no one has said that to me.”
Dr. Sizemore says what underscored her gut feeling’ about the issue is a letter sent to the board by psychologist and parent Sheila Rose specifically talking about possible harm to 5th grade girls exposed to teenage pressures in a middle school setting. Dr. Sizemore says it reminded her of the fears she felt when she was in school and facing a similar situation. With this in mind, she, along with board president Emery Grimes and board member Jan McNeel all voted in favor of the 5th grade reconfiguration. Board members Kenny Vance and Cynthia Beverage were opposed. 5th grade classes at Hillsboro and Green Bank elementary schools will remain as they are currently structured.
In other business, the board approved construction of a soft ball field at Pocahontas County HS. Principal Tom Sanders says all the work necessary including moving a power line, installing drainage, cutting some trees and building team dugouts will be done at no charge the board. He says they hope to have the field available for practice in the spring.
As part of the personnel agenda, school superintendent CC Lester announced that county school treasurer and assistant superintendent Alice Irvine will be retiring effective February 28th. Irvine joined the school system in 1970, and has worked in the board office since 1989.