CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Board of Education approved a corrective action plan for Martinsburg North Middle School Wednesday in response to the state of emergency issued last month for Berkeley County Schools.

Jeff Kelley

School officials previously described the environment at North Middle as “chaotic, disruptive and occasionally hostile” where students often roamed the hallways and refused to go to class when directed by teachers, according to a visit by a West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) review team.

WVDE Accountability Officer Jeff Kelley told the board during Wednesday’s meeting in Charleston changes have been implemented at the school since last month to get students and teachers back on track.

“We’ve asked that they maximum instructional time for improved student outcomes. This includes developing a master schedule that emphasizes high quality instruction for all students,” Kelley said.

Kelley laid out three areas of focus for improvement:

  1. Unhealthy or unsafe conditions for students or employees. Action steps include creating a multi-tiered discipline plan and developing a list of expectations for student behavior.
  2. Failure to provide high quality and equal education opportunities for students. Action steps include maximizing instructional time to improve academic performance and providing professional training on data-based instructional decision making to support academic achievement.
  3. Deficiencies in instructional leadership and support for school improvement processes. Action steps include hiring a school improvement specialist approved by the state Department of Education to assist school administrators.

Debra Sullivan

MORE Read Corrective Action Plan HERE

There have been 160 physical fights at North Middle this school year and 23 Title IX violations. A survey of students showed only half of them feel safe.

The school’s student achievement results have been a concern for several years. The most recent numbers show only 24% of students proficient in English and only 6% proficient in math.

Before the board voted to approve the plan, board member Debra Sullivan asked Kelly Massinople, coordinator of District/School Improvement for the state BOE, about the number of new teachers at North Middle.

“There is a large number of teachers who are long-term subs and also a fair amount of turnover in staff,” Massinople said.

“And that would effect the structure of the school and the culture of the school,” Sullivan pointed out.

Massinople, who was assigned to oversee the plan at Martinsburg North Middle, said the goal is to have a fresh start to the new school year.

“I think our goal is to have a solid plan for a lot of these issues so that when the students and teachers come back in August, they’re ready to start rolling out some of these changes to their practices,” she said.

Paul Hardesty

State BOE President Paul Hardesty said too many new teachers are hired under a one-year contract, the local boards of education fails to recognize the lack of discipline and then state BOE has to come in and clean up the mess.

“We all should be there to serve students and that’s getting lost in the mix with the way some of these boards are operating. Then we have to be the bad guys when the guy doesn’t succeed because he’s put in a position to fail. I hope I’m making some sense with this, but the system is broken,” Hardesty said.

Hardesty said the time to implement the action plan changes is now.

“We’re not trying to be punitive in nature,” Hardesty told Berkeley County school leaders. “I wouldn’t even call this an action plan. I would call this a support plan. We’re here to support the effort.”

A full-time school resource officer was recently placed at the school.

Story by WVMetroNews reporter Carrie Hodousek

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