Times West Virginian
When it comes to education, high expectations and a collaborative effort lead to great achievement.
Strong evidence exists in Marion County, where five schools — East Dale Elementary School, White Hall Elementary School, Fairview Middle School, Monongah Middle School and Fairmont Senior High School — are among the 64 in West Virginia attaining exemplary status. Only the top 10 percent of public schools and career-technical education centers and programs in the state earn this recognition.
The Office of Education Performance Audits, which is under the West Virginia Board of Education but separate from the Department of Education, has been naming exemplary schools for 12 years.
“This is based upon a weighted index that looks at the proficiency of students in all schools in West Virginia in the areas of reading/language arts, mathematics and social studies,” said Dr. Gus Penix, executive director of the office. Attendance at the elementary and middle school levels and graduation rates at the high school level are also part of the process.
“These schools have worked extremely hard to see that the students are performing well,” Penix said.
Marion County Superintendent of Schools Gary Price believes there has been a tradition of excellence established in the local school system.
“It is always gratifying to see that we had a number of schools recognized as exemplary schools as we have had in the past,” Price said.
The leaders of the honored schools take pride in the accomplishment and spread the credit.
Fairmont Senior has been recognized for eight straight years.
“We are proud to represent the Fairmont Senior High School attendance area and our community as an exemplary school,” principal Chad Norman said. “Our teachers and our students and our parents have put a great deal of effort into student achievement.”
He also gave credit to the elementary and middle feeder schools and support provided by the Central Office of Marion County Schools and the Marion County Board of Education.
Fairview Middle School has achieved exemplary status three years in a row and six out of the past seven years.
“I’m very proud of what the students have done, and my staff,” principal Steve Rodriguez said. “It just shows the effort that the kids put into the test.”
The staff works to prepare the students for WESTEST2 throughout the year, Rodriguez said, noting that parental support is critical.
Monongah Middle School has been honored for two years in a row.
Principal Steve Malnick said Monongah Middle has high expectations for everyone, including the principal, teachers and students, to do their best. He praised the entire faculty for working together toward the common goal of giving the students the best education possible.
“It is a great community as well,” he said. “I’m happy to be here myself.”
East Dale Elementary has a tradition of earning exemplary status, said Rockie DeLorenzo, who joined the school this year as principal. He said the school has been successful because of the family atmosphere and the collaboration from all parties — the parents, teachers and students.
“Everybody works to achieve excellence,” he said. “It’s truly an honor, and the honor goes to the whole school.”
The exemplary recognition is another honor for White Hall Elementary, which was one of only eight schools in the state to be named a West Virginia School of Excellence this past year.
“I have witnessed excellent teaching,” said Karen Rhoades, who is in her first year as principal. “The students are always engaged. The teachers, they are really on task. The students here are such good students.”
She said White Hall Elementary has gotten a lot of support from the parents, the Parent Teacher Organization and the community.
“They make it work here,” Rhoades said. “It’s such a positive place.”
These schools set the bar high and rely on strong teamwork to meet their objectives. All involved deserve credit for the exemplary recognition — an honor that is earned and not given.