Kanawha County’s school board voted unanimously Thursday to buy new textbooks and other instructional materials for French and Spanish classes as well as to add more vocational education courses that also can grant math credit.
Board members also recognized the winners of the public school system’s annual employee awards and accepted the retirements, effective June 30, of Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary’s only two assistant principals.
The new foreign language instructional materials are for grades seven through 12.
Board members selected the Bien Dit series for French and the Avancemos series for Spanish. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, headquartered in Boston, publishes both series.
Missy Ruddle, Kanawha’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said Thursday she didn’t yet know the exact cost of the materials, but roughly estimated they’d be around $400,000. She said it’s been at least six years since Kanawha last got new French and Spanish textbooks.
“For the most part, we just have a lot of Spanish. We only have French in maybe five of our high schools now,” Ruddle said. “With cuts it’s what happens to foreign language.”
She said these are Kanawha’s first board-adopted French and Spanish textbooks with online versions, though teachers have had the discretion to use supplemental digital materials. She said the new materials will be available next school year.
Also next school year, students will be able to take three new vocational courses that will simultaneously allow them to earn math credit, Ruddle said.
The board’s vote Thursday will allow students to earn the Transition Math for Seniors credit by taking the “embedded credit” versions of Welding, Automotive Technology and Emergency and Firefighting Management Services. Ruddle said students who don’t want the math credit versions, which require covering math standards, will still be able to take the regular vocational versions.
High schoolers must earn four math credits to graduate, and they have the option of taking Transition Math as their fourth credit instead of other courses like Calculus or Trigonometry.
Ruddle said students who don’t score at least “proficient” on the statewide math standardized test in their junior year have to take Transition Math unless they receive their principal’s approval to still take one of the higher-level math courses instead.
Kanawha schools Superintendent Ron Duerring also presented the following awards Thursday:
n Stonewall Jackson Middle Principal Jessica Austin was named principal of the year.
n Capital High English teacher and English language arts department chairwoman Susie Garrison was named teacher of the year.
n Nitro High secretary Neva Douglas was named service employee of the year. Service employees include workers like cooks, custodians and bus drivers.
n Coleen Vannoy, who retired at the end of last month as Kanawha’s elementary curriculum specialist for math and science, was named educator of the year. Briana Warner, the school system’s communications director, said for that award, Vannoy was competing against anyone who could be considered an educator, save for classroom teachers.
To select the winners, Warner said an online survey was sent to every school system employee, and the survey results were sent to a panel that made the final decisions. The panel consisted of Duerring, Deputy Superintendent Tom Williams, Human Resources Executive Director Carol Hamric and assistant superintendents.
Carver Career Center Chef Thomas Grant also was honored at Thursday’s board meeting as the West Virginia ProStart Teacher of the Year. Warner said ProStart, not Kanawha, actually gave out this award.
According to the state Department of Education’s website, ProStart is a two-year program, developed by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, in which students study professional food preparation, international cuisines, customer service, cost control, marketing and food safety and sanitation.
The board also accepted the retirements Thursday of Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary’s assistant principals, Vickie Bateman and Polly Stevens.
“You all did notice that West Side is losing both their vice principals?” board member Becky Jordon said to her fellow board members before they approved Thursday night’s personnel actions.
“Yes,” Duerring replied, without providing further information.
“Wow,” Jordon said.
The elementary school, which has low standardized test scores and a high student poverty rate, got a new principal, Cheryl Plear, at the start of this school year.
Jordon said after the meeting that she didn’t know the employees’ reason for retirement, and Warner said that Hamric indicated “both employees met the qualifications to retire and did so with no other reason given.”
“I’m just concerned about the inconsistency of the staff,” Jordon said. “I hate that.”