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Middle school gets grant to improve performance

July 24, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD
  • Martinsburg North Middle School recently received a School Improvement Grant for the 2010-11 school year to improve its academic performance after being classified as a low-achieving school, according to the West Virginia Department of Education and Berkeley County Schools.
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MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Martinsburg North Middle School recently received a School Improvement Grant for the 2010-11 school year to improve its academic performance after being classified as a low-achieving school, according to the West Virginia Department of Education and Berkeley County Schools.

The grant is the first of three totaling about $1.4 million that the school is expected to receive in the course of a three-year "transformation program."

The federal Title I funding channeled through the state will help pay for bus transportation for after-school tutoring, the cost of a social work/attendance position and a sixth-grade "academy" for new students in the grade 6-8 school, according to Manny P. Arvon, superintendent of Berkeley County Schools, and Elizabeth Ward, principal of North Middle School.

"I think it's going to give us access to a lot of resources that we've never had before," said Ward, who is starting her fourth year as principal.

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Margaret F. Kursey, who has received considerable recognition for academic achievements as Eagle School Intermediate's principal, will help North Middle facilitate the grant as a transformation specialist. Her post at Eagle School, which is the main feeder school to North Middle, has been advertised, Arvon said.

Eagle School Intermediate received the Panasonic National School Change Award in 2008 and was named a West Virginia School of Excellence the following year.

Kursey's resume "speaks of successes in the buildings where she works," Arvon said.

Aside from needed building improvements, North Middle also has lacked administrative and staffing stability in the past, Arvon said.

The school has had seven principals in 13 years and consecutive years of low academic performance, but Arvon said he has been pleased with Ward's leadership.

"She has made some excellent decisions on personnel and is building a good staff," Arvon said.

While the capital improvements under way and additional renovations planned for North Middle likely will boost morale and affect academic performance, Arvon said having qualified teachers still is more important.

With the grant, several new staff members are expected to receive intensive training at the school, where the poverty rate is above 60 percent and nearly 20 percent of the student population have special needs, according to the school district's grant application.

"This is a time for excitement," Arvon said.

The superintendent said he hopes the initiatives launched at North Middle through the grant-aided program can be replicated at other schools in the county, especially where academic achievement has been inconsistent at times.

"We will learn from this process and we will take the successes and duplicate them," Arvon said.

If the school does not improve through the grant-sponsored initiative, the principal can be removed, Arvon said.

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