GBEMS faculty, parents concerned over inequality
Parents and faculty at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School shared concerns at the board of education public forum Monday night, over the inequality students face.
Julie Dillon, parent of two, inquired as to the difference in the math program at Green Bank and Marlinton Middle School.
“I heard that Marlinton Middle is getting about an hour-and-a-half math instruction a day,” she said. “Why doesn’t Green Bank get that?”
The board explained that MMS has a block schedule for math and reading/language arts, with each subject having 90-minutes a day all year long. Green Bank has a 90-minute reading/language arts block, but not math.
Green Bank Middle School math teacher Julie Brown said she feels overwhelmed trying to stay on pace with MMS, which has two math teachers.
“I have computer lab time, but I can’t go every week because if [I do], I’m just falling further and further behind,” she said. “There is no way that I can keep up with Marlinton Middle School math teachers. We try to collaborate with them and I can’t stay on their pace. They are always way ahead of me.”
Brown said she feels she is constantly pushing to get the curriculum taught.
“What’s mattering is the test scores and I don’t even pay attention to how Marlinton’s test scores are because I’m not there,” Brown said. “I only have time to focus on me. I just know it’s hard to keep up and I’m doing the best I can. I’m not complaining or whining because I’ll do what I have to do, but if you’re talking about equity and equal opportunity education for all students in Pocahontas County, it’s not very equal.”
Superintendent C.C. Les-ter said he began the 90- minute math block at MMS when he was principal there and said he will work with Green Bank principal Sarah McClintic to see if it is possible to start a block at the middle school there.
Brown said it would be easier to go to block if there was another teacher to assist her because she has two sixth grade classes, two seventh, one eighth, an Algebra class and a math intervention class.
Another concern Brown shared is the lack of wireless Internet at the school. Due to the school’s proximity to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, it is unable to update to wireless Internet.
“They say in 2014 the new test, whatever it is called, is going to be all computer,” she said. “I don’t know how we’re going to do it. Somebody’s going to have to be figuring out something because we can’t do it.”
In 2014, the Westest will be replaced by a computer-based standardized test. At GBEMS, grades three through eight will be required to take the test at the same time online – an impossible feat at Green Bank.
The school currently has one computer lab and a portable lab, but there are not enough computers and Internet connections for the entire school to be online at the same time.
Board member Hanna Sizemore asked if the NRAO is aware of this change.
Sizemore said if the observatory knew when the test took place, it would be possible to block that time out in the observing schedule to allow the school to use wireless.
The teachers said that would be nice, but the school would have to be fitted for wireless Internet, a big cost, for just one week a year.
Another option to allow wireless Internet is to Faraday cage the school. A Faraday cage is made of copper wiring that blocks electromagnetic waves. The NRAO has an observation room that has Faraday in the walls, allowing observers to use wireless Internet.
Board president Emery Grimes said he heard it would cost approximately $80,000 to Faraday one room in the school.
The board, faculty and parents also discussed the gifted program and the make-up of classes.
Dillon asked why students were not placed in classes by their ability levels anymore.
At one point, A and B students were in one class and C and D students were in another. After No Child Left Behind was enacted, the classes were no longer divided in this manner.
Dillon said it is unfair because more advanced students get bored in class while the teacher is working with the less advanced students.
The board explained to Dillon that the school must follow NCLB. The State board of education applied for a NCLB waiver and is awaiting approval. If the waiver is granted, the board of education may be allowed to change policy.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org