Six Ohio County Schools Go to Head of the Class

Six schools in Ohio County are among 58 others in West Virginia honored by the West Virginia Department of Education for achieving Exemplary Accreditation status in Charleston.

Bethlehem, Steenrod, West Liberty and Woodsdale elementary schools, and Bridge Street and Triadelphia middle schools were recognized for achieving the state board’s “highest level of recognition.” To qualify for exemplary status, schools must be in the Top 10 percent of schools in the state in proficiency in reading/language arts, math, science, social studies and writing for the WESTEST2 and Writing Assessment, achieve an attendance rate at or above 94 percent and have at least 5 percent of students successfully complete Advanced Placement, dual credit and honors classes in high schools. Elementary, middle and high schools are eligible for accreditation.

Ohio County Schools Superintendent Dianna Vargo said the system’s six schools were the only schools in the Northern Panhandle to earn the “exemplary” distinction.

She said it was the first time Bridge Street Middle School was named an “exemplary” school, while the five other Ohio County schools were selected last year.

“We are proud to be recognized for the quality education offered in our schools,” Vargo said. “We appreciate the commitment of our teachers, staff, students and parents.”

Raquel Welsh, principal of Bridge Street Middle School, attributes Bridge Street’s first-time success to focusing on the individual needs of each student.

“This means that what we’re doing in the school is working. By looking at students’ individual needs and looking at students’ areas of strength and weakness and coming together as a staff to focus on what the children need the most,” Welsh said. “I think part of the reason we are successful is the way our schedule is designed. We provide additional time for reteaching and small group work with students who are at risk or struggling in core content areas.”

Zachary Shutler, principal of Bethlehem and West Liberty elementary schools, also credits the schools’ success to meeting individual student’s needs and also the involvement of parents and the community.

“This award is not just for the school, but for the staff, community and parents. We owe a lot of our success to the community,” Shutler said. “Our students come to school prepared and ready to learn. We’re at a good starting point when the kids come into the door. Both schools are small with 120 to 130 students at each school, so the staff takes time to learn about each kid as an individual and education is very personalized and meets the students’ unique needs.”

Steenrod Elementary has received Exemplary Accreditation status every year since the award’s beginning in 2001, Principal Daniel Coram said. He cited a strong Parent Teacher Association and dedicated parent involvement as one of Steenrod’s strong points.