Superintendent of Schools Jeff Woofter, pictured seated right above, reported on the state of Barbour County schools during the November 19th meeting of the Barbour County Chamber of Commerce at the Medallion Restaurant in Philippi.
Community leaders included representatives of the Barbour County Commission, County School Board, City of Philippi, Alderson Broaddus University, and West Virginia’s District Court. WDTV’s Channel 5 reporter Rachel Ramsey was on hand to record the session.
Woofter, who has served as Superintendent of Barbour County schools for the past four years, took time to offer his opinions on areas where Barbour County schools excel and other areas that present challenges in educating the students of today.
“Unfortunately we are not getting classrooms full of students who are ready, willing, and able to learn right away,” he observed. “Many students come to school with social and/or emotional issues that must be addressed before they are able to concentrate on their lessons. This includes children who were born to drug-addicted mothers or are struggling with other issues. The legislature allocated funds to school districts during the last legislative session in an effort to tackle these problems. We are in process of bringing on behavioral therapy personnel and social workers in an effort to meet these needs of those children,” he said.
Woofter cited the state-wide shortage of certified teachers and chronic absenteeism as other areas of concern. ‘Barbour,” he said, “has seven full-time and two half-time positions unfilled. These positions are filled by day-to-day and long-term substitutes who do a nice job, but they can’t replace the quality of a certified teacher. Regarding the absenteeism issue,” he stated, “a student must miss 10% of instructional days to be considered chronically absent. By the end of last October, 310 students, or about 13.67 % of Barbour’s 2268 enrollment, were chronically absent. Students can’t learn if they are not in school.”
Woofter commented on the ease with which parents can withdraw children to a Home School. “This is fine,” he said, “if the parents are willing and able to provide their children with a good education. However, the state’s only requirement is that the person leading the instruction need only have a GED. Many parents withdraw their students after they have been summoned for truancy,” he observed.
Woofter then outlined what he believes to be areas of strength. He specifically listed the quality of the teaching staff and stated, “I believe they are as competent as anyone else in the state” He then spoke about how many of the service personnel go above and beyond in their duties. “As for the principals,” he remarked, “we have quality principals in every single school and I have the utmost confidence in all of them to lead our schools and make good decisions on a daily basis. Woofter also believes that the early childhood program and the focus on literacy led by Connie Mundie is a wonderful start for all Barbour County students.
“Another area of strength is the special education program,” Woofter stated. “The state just finished an audit and the exit interview was more of a congratulatory meeting than a typical discussion of findings. Mike Ferguson, the building principals, and the special education and general education teachers deserve a great deal of praise for their efforts,” Woofter said. He complimented the food service staff for providing quality breakfasts, lunches, and even dinner for after-school programs. He also talked about how treasurer Annette Hughart protected taxpayer dollars ‘like a pit bull’ and explained how those funds have been leveraged to provide upgrades to facilities and new furniture in all the schools. Woofter concluded that portion of his presentation by saying, “Jeff Kittle and the building principals have done a wonderful job of coordinating meaningful professional development opportunities for all our staff members.
“Some of the highlights,” Woofter observed, were that “Junior Elementary was one of 35 schools nationwide to be selected as a ‘Green Ribbon School’, and that each of the county’s elementary, middle schools and high school meets or exceeds state standards in selected areas. “Our music education program is recognized across the state,” Woofter added. “I once heard a speaker who stated that ‘more of God’s work is done in our schools than in any other institution every day. We clothe, feed, comfort, and love the kids who are sent to us.’ I think he is right”, Woofter concluded.