Widmyer Elementary focuses on children’s success & parent involvement
Widmyer Elementary Principal Rick Weber and Assistant Principal Ginny Molnar told the Morgan County School Board about the school’s successful format during their local school improvement council presentation at their May 1 meeting.
The pair greets children and staff every school morning beginning at 7 a.m. Back to School Night is the Friday before school starts and is a fun night with 300 to 500 people attending, Molnar said. Their Kindergarten Jamboree in the Park was also a big hit with families.
Attendance at parent teacher conferences was high. They also touched base with over 100 parents by phone so every parent received an update on their child, Weber said. Many stay in daily contact with teachers about their child’s progress.
Principal Rick Weber noted that parent involvement was the foundation for student success. Their school formula was parents + teachers = successful kids.
Parent involvement activities included a hay ride, the annual fall Parade of Characters, Dr. Seuss’ Birthday, Read to Me Night, a used book fair, Food Lion Math nights, Fun Night, the spaghetti dinner, Math Field Day and the Valentine’s Day celebration.
Every child is nominated for a Star of the Week award and on any given Friday 20 to 25 family members join the winners for lunch. School satisfaction surveys showed that parents were happy with the school.
They had done classroom snapshots of student engagement in lessons. Staff looked at the data and went over areas needing improvement with teachers.
Assessment data showed the need for oral reading fluency, small group instruction, written language across the curriculum and concentration on math computation, problem solving and story problems. Story problems were a big part of WESTEST exams, Molnar said.
Weber said kids needed to do math calculations and work on number identification. Molnar said they were focusing on small group instruction instead of whole group instruction. They can’t do one size fits all teaching or they’ll lose one-third of the kids, she said.
Staff Development was needed in literacy centers, small group instruction and differentiated learning. A summer academy for teachers would focus on these areas.
Every child learns in a different fashion, Weber said. Two things kids need is 1) to read out loud daily with checks for comprehension and 2) math computation and learning number sense and basic addition.
The school now has three computer labs, with one each being dedicated for reading, math and writing. Every class gets to use each lab at least once a week, Molnar said.
They also implemented Tech Steps for grades K-2 and West Virginia Writes for the second grade. Kindergartners need computer skills, Weber said.
Kindergarten registration was changed to an appointment schedule this year and went smoothly.
Attendance had increased to 98.4% this year. The percentage of students eligible for free and reduced school meals was up to 68% from 40% or so four years ago, Molnar said.
Weber said the school was a safe zone where kids got two good meals a day. Some families were living with worries about whether they’d have food on the table or would the electric be shut off, Molnar noted.
Their canned food drive helped more than 30 families, Molnar said. The used book fair gets books in every child’s hands by the end of the year.
The Too Good for Drugs curriculum is used weekly as part of their developmental guidance program. They could use more counseling time, Weber said. Guidance Counselor Becky Davisson’s position is .4 counseling and .6 music teacher.
He and Molnar fulfill some of the counseling needs. Weber said he hugs 300 kids a morning. For some, that’s the only hug they get that day.
Staff needed time to develop thematic units for science, social studies and health. Weber also asked for an iPad lab for students and one iPad per teacher. During a recent trip to Alaska, he discovered that kids there were using iPads for school research.
“If I can use one, anyone can,” Weber said of the technology.
Facility needs were a solid access surface that connected to the track, new cafeteria tables, retiling the cafeteria, furniture for the seventh second grade classroom and awnings for the bus loop and front entrance so kids don’t get soaked in the rain.
School board member Larry Omps said he was amazed how much excitement and enthusiasm Weber and Molnar still had about teaching students.
“They will remember Tweedledee and Tweedledum 20 years from now and that we wore pajamas to school,” Molnar said.
Proud of school, staff
Weber said he couldn’t be more proud of what they do with kids and parents. People that have never visited the school before are impressed with the school climate, how prepared they are and how they greet kids and people in the morning.
In the past three years, they’ve tightened up scheduling and enhanced what they do academically and with technology.
“We couldn’t do it without a good staff that worked together for kids,” he said.