MOUNDSVILLE - After serving his first year as superintendent of Marshall County Schools, Michael Hince believes the school district is heading in the right direction.
Reflecting on the changes of the past year and the goals for the upcoming school year, Hince discussed what has gone well and what challenges remain under his leadership.
"My main goal is I want to establish a whole school system that is focused on student learning and achievement," Hince said. "That's something I wanted everyone to understand: That our overall purpose is learning. That has to be the guiding principle."
Photo by Sarah Harmon
Marshall County Schools Superintendent Michael Hince works in his office in Moundsville.
Hince said one of first steps taken to grow academically this past year was to begin to build independent leadership with principals and teachers within their own schools, something he said has improved.
"I expect schools to have their own leadership," Hince said. "I think a foundation has been put into place in which teachers are looking to themselves to solve problems. When you begin to see those things happen, you know you're making an impact. The culture of our employees has improved. They believe they can correct things."
Hince discussed how schools have adapted to the Next Generation Content Standards and how the online Smarter Balanced Assessment will challenge both students and teachers next year. He said teachers have been meeting at county-wide continuing education days, held for the first time last year, to share ideas on how to best implement the standards to make an impact on students.
Hince said the Next Generation Content Standards will go beyond just teaching students information, but will challenge them to take information and apply it to solve real-life problems. Teachers have already been adjusting to the new expectations in all subjects, especially math and language arts, but Hince expects the all-online Smarter Balance Assessment will be more difficult than the WESTEST 2.
"It's growing pains," Hince said. "Smarter Balance is going to be harder. I think our challenge will be communicating with the parents. They need to know the expectations are higher for students. We're teaching kids to be problem-solvers. We have to go beyond just getting kids ready for the next grade level, but to get them to be ready for life. ... Technology is evolving rapidly. It won't be the same years from now and we don't know what jobs there are going to be. Students need to learn critical thinking - how to adapt what they know and use it in a situation."
Outside of the classroom, Hince said the district will see many renovations in the county's schools including the extensive work on John Marshall High School and repairs to Sand Hill and Glen Dale Elementary Schools. He also said Cameron High School still requires some attention.
"The school works, but it isn't exactly how it's supposed to be," he said.
Hince said some work is still pending on the school as litigation involving the building's contractors continues. Hince said shut-off valves to the school's HVAC system have still not been installed, so when there is a problem with the HVAC, the entire system needs to be shut off to fix it.
Elsewhere, when students come back to school in August, John Marshall will have new windows, a repainted parking lot and renovated bathrooms. While major construction is done in the school's entrance during the school year, students will be coming to school on the south end of the building and parking will all be in the back of the school. Renovations of the school's kitchen and cafeteria will also take place this coming school year before work on the school's science labs and HVAC system begin in the third phase of the project.
Sand Hill Elementary students will come back to school with a new roof on the school's main academic building. Summer work on the building also includes renovating the front portion of the school, repairing some structural steel and reducing the size of some of the windows to cut down on glare on the school's smartboards.
Hince also said renovation work on Glen Dale Elementary will also be completed within the next two years. He said the HVAC system will be renovated in addition to replacing several windows and adding a wheelchair ramp.
Hince also reflected on his work with Marshall County Board of Education President Roger Lewicki, who has ended his 16-year term on the board after Duane Miller was elected to take his place in May.
"Roger was always extremely helpful to me and very patient," Hince said. "He gave me a sense that he's happy with the direction we're taking. When I need to be pulled back, he would put me on the right path. He's not afraid to tell you what he thinks, so you always know where you stood and what he believed. Truly, whether you agree or disagree with his decisions on the board, he truly wanted what was best for the schools."
A new board president and vice president will be elected Monday and new member Miller will begin his term on the board.
"I remember Duane Miller as a student," Hince said. "He was smart, polite. He came into my office right after he was elected and we sat down and talked for a while. I think he, like Roger, is interested in Marshall County Schools. I think he'll have the best interest for the kids and school system."
Hince said his goals going into the next year are to improve communication with the community and to ensure everyone in the county is on-board to improve student learning.
"Our plans are to build on what we started - teaching strategies, how we are getting kids to think critically," Hince said. "My heart is in Marshall County Schools. Leadership is about moving everyone in the right direction on the same path. I think the foundation has been set and things are going in a positive direction. Expect good things."