Focus on Better Local Schools

The mission of Ohio County public schools will be “to provide exemplary educational opportunities in a safe and healthy environment, and to prepare every student to achieve success,” board of education members agreed Monday.

It certainly sounds good. But how will it be accomplished? What strategy will board members and Superintendent Kimberly Miller use to succeed in their mission? What tactics will be employed to further the strategy?

It became clear substantial improvements in county schools are needed last summer, when the state released results of annual standardized testing of students. Ohio County schools did better than most other counties, but the numbers were not good. For example, just 24 percent of 10th graders at Wheeling Park High School achieved test scores demonstrating proficiency in mathematics, according to the state Department of Education.

Three board members, opposed by two others, agreed late last year not to  renew the contract of then-Superintendent Dianna Vargo. Miller replaced her on July 1.

Though little was said about why Vargo was not retained, then-board President Shane Mallett said it was hoped the school system could move in a “new direction.”

A training session held Monday may pave the way for that to happen. Board members participated in a discussion with Barbara Parsons, president of the Monongalia County Board of Education and finance director for the West Virginia School Boards Association.

In helping local board members draft both a mission statement and a vision, Parsons made an important point: Keeping that core purpose in mind is critical in allocating resources.

Absolutely. Pursuit of that mission means directing all available resources to it. Diverting them to other, less essential programs and facilities should be avoided.

Now that the mission statement is in place, board members and Miller can move on to specifics. If that means big changes in how Ohio County schools do things — and what they do — so be it.