CHARLESTON, WV (LOOTPRESS) – The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) Office of Support and Accountability reported on the Special Circumstance Review of Berkeley County Schools during the May meeting of the State Board of Education (WVBE).
The review was conducted in March of this year upon the request of Berkeley County Schools (BCS) Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy and includes school classroom observations and interviews of middle school and central office personnel as well as parents. The team also reviewed Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and staff-to-student ratios.
The review focused on the county’s special education program at the six middle schools and the management of this program at the BCS central office. Dr. Murphy’s request for the review was made after a similar review of the elementary schools in the county was conducted previously.
The 15-member WVDE team addressed four focus areas:
- Evaluation and identification of students who may require special education services;
- Allocation of resources to equitably evaluate and provide services, accommodations and instruction for students with disabilities;
- High-quality staff provide services to students with disabilities across all settings and systems are in place to assure staff are certified, trained, and monitored; and
- Ongoing monitoring processes for system accountability in delivery of special education services.
The review found positive classroom school environments were throughout the schools even in the midst of the pandemic. Additionally, the team was impressed with the leadership at the middle schools and consistent positive student behaviors. The report notes parent satisfaction was also high.
Recommendations to the county include utilizing more effective co-teaching models and maintaining higher levels of student engagement. The one area of non-compliance was with Individualized Education Plans that are managed by uncredentialed teaching professionals. This is a reflection of the ongoing teacher shortage in Berkeley County and the prevalence of substitute teachers in the classroom. The county is addressing with continued measures to increase teacher recruitment and retention.
“Berkeley County is to be commended for initiating this most recent action in order to obtain a comprehensive and in-depth review of its middle schools and central office operations as they relate to special education programs,” said State Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch. “Working in a spirit of collaboration with our Office of Support and Accountability allows us to highlight and learn from the county’s successes and address those areas requiring additional attention. In the end, children benefit the most from these efforts.”
“We have had some success and acknowledge there is more work to be done” said BSC Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy. “We believe in proactive accountability so our schools, systems and processes are best supporting children and families. We have learned a lot from these reviews and believe this process is assisting us to meet the responsibilities and needs of our education system.”
BCS has increased focus on the recruitment and retention of education professionals to reduce the reliance on substitute teachers. This continues to be a challenge for Eastern Panhandle counties that border Maryland and Virginia which offer higher salary structures.