School officials get prevention program update
Members of the Oasis Team gave school board members an update at the February 5 meeting about efforts toward alcohol and drug prevention for Morgan County's young people.
Oasis Director Jackie Fischer introduced volunteers and staff members who talked about their roles in prevention programs.
The Oasis Center operates on the Berkeley Springs High School campus. The center is a project of the Morgan County Partnership and the Morgan County Commission.
Team member Mike Hagstad talked about the difficulty of tracking the financial payoff of prevention efforts. Prevention programs in Morgan County have been funded through state and national grants totaling nearly $260,000 since February 2006.
Hagstad said national statistics show the cost to taxpayers of a single high school dropout is $250,000 over a lifetime. Those costs include medical expenses, lost tax revenue and welfare benefits.
Lifetime costs for a person with serious addiction problem can be as high as $500,000, Hagstad said.
If we prevent one of these, we've paid for ourselves, Hagstad said.
Prevention Specialist Ed Chaffee said education efforts are most effective when teaching younger children about the dangers of alcohol and drug use.
We need to start educating kids now, when they're young. That lets kids grow, mature and make good decisions later, said Chaffee.
School counselor Gary McDaniel said his experience has led him to see the importance of early prevention work.
We focus on what is strong and positive in the community and child, he said.
Community educator Megan Hauser told board members that the group was dedicated to strengthening community groups like the PASS program that serve young people and set a positive example.
Board member David Ambrose asked how Oasis Center staff will be able to judge the success of their prevention programs.
Fischer said she uses national outcome measures, and will rely on an attitude and behavior survey to gauge if student reports of alcohol and drug use have changed over time.
In other business, the school board recognized several people for their extra work on behalf of county students.
Greenwood Elementary teacher Wendy Johnson was given an Extra Miler Award for her work preparing that school's new computer lab for students and teachers. Johnson teaches fourth and fifth grades and is the school's technology coordinator.
Greenwood's Dixie Deering received an Extra Miler award as well. Deering was named the county's Teacher of the Year in August 2007.
Also receiving the Extra Miler Award was Scott Clark of Clark's Thompson Gas for his help refurbishing Paw Paw school's family and consumer science kitchen. Clark renovated that school's kitchen classroom with cabinetry, countertops and appliances from his company's store displays, only charging the school for the two new ovens.
Finally, Paw Paw Principal Michelle Fleming was applauded for her leadership and efforts in returning the school back to normal after a December 21 fire led to the evacuation and closure of the school.