Education News A Nickel for Your Thoughts

A Nickel for Your Thoughts

“One Jefferson” means a student can transfer to any school in Jefferson County and get the same education and experience. That was the explanation of one of the incumbent Board members at a candidates’ forum, regarding the public relations slogan adopted a few years back that pushed aside “Excellence in teaching and learning.”

My first thought is to set aside the timeworn use of the Jefferson nickel and call on students to come up with a 21st century logo for Jefferson County Schools. Have a countywide contest that engages students, including students voting on a new logo.

My second thought is that I am uncertain that teachers and staff share the above stated interpretation of “Nickel-N-E Jefferson.” For many, it is viewed as a “kumbaya” rallying cry. A public relations push to promote an idea that we are all in this together, which is not a bad thing. For others, it means nothing and does not reflect the realities they encounter each day as employees of Jefferson County Schools.

Lastly, a slogan cannot mask the reality that there are disparities in opportunities for students across Jefferson County Schools. Some schools are outdated and in disrepair. Trash cans are the first line of defense for leaking roofs. Towels and coats are used to seal windows against the cold. Not one more watt of electricity is available in some schools to power 21st century teaching and learning tools. This did not happen overnight. The lack of a future focus finds Jefferson County Schools primarily focused now on how many students can fit in a school, and less of a focus on student opportunities and student achievement.

Department of Education numbers show student annual proficiency ratings in Jefferson County Schools at levels that equal a failing grade on a report card. This would suggest that there are areas of needed improvement across the county and at individual schools. This does not support a claim that a student can transfer to any school in Jefferson County and get the same education and experience.

By West Virginia law, a local School Board is charged with providing a proper framework and the governance strategies necessary to monitor and improve student achievement on a continuing basis. This cannot be achieved with just a slogan.