(09/04/2007)
By Drew Moody
For the Hur Herald

You don't have to talk with Nasia Butcher, new principal of Gilmer County High School, very long to realize she's passionate about education. After teaching English just shy of 20 years in Calhoun and Gilmer Counties, she's stepped out of the classroom to be an administrator.

Butcher (left) leaves little doubt it was a well thought out move.

She's positive, serious and optimistic that new team-building efforts with teachers will make what is already a good school - even better.

"I'm a team player," she said. "My goal is to stay focused on teaching and learning."

She readily acknowledges the process of 'an education' could be more readily compared to a community effort; that community including the administration, teachers, parents and students communicating and sharing goals.

It may sound like well-worn phrases - except that with consistent effort - positive change can be a reality. Butcher believes success in education is realized building partnerships and working together.

Butcher is direct with no hesitation to express her feelings, but equally willing to listen - an uncommon trait in an era where some people are more likely to tell you what "they think" you want to hear, or just avoid a discussion altogether.

With an undergraduate degree in journalism from WVU, a background in communication, including teaching - "listening" may be a natural consequence of her background - whatever it is, it's obvious Butcher has a firm grip on the idea communication is a two-part process.

Butcher also recognizes the positive benefit of education in the arts, a topic she brought up. Several studies indicate students involved in music, or generally - the arts - are better all-round students.

REFINING GOALS - A 21ST CENTURY MANDATE

Studies and reports generated nationwide indicate the lifetime earning gap between high school and college graduates is increasing. Thirty-two years ago, a semester's tuition at Glenville State College was under $150. If eggs or milk had increased at the rate insurance, hospitalization costs, prescription drugs or college tuition has - those commodities would be as expensive as escargot, or caviar.

Imagine if a gallon of milk cost $50.

To further illustrate the point, consider hospital fees from an original invoice dated January 4, 1956. It was for the delivery of a baby with complications having a breakdown as follows: Room charge for 12 days, $120; Operating room charge, $15: anesthetic, $15; and medicine, laboratory and dressing fees, $35. The total bill for 12 days was $459.32.

That's a "real" bill and it was just 51 years ago. That same bill today would have likely topped $20,000.

So when you consider the current earnings gap between those with a high school education -vs- a college degree is estimated at $1 million - it puts a whole new slant on tuition and book fees.

That means, in plain English, that over the course of a lifetime of work, the average college graduate can expect to earn $1-million more than a high school graduate counterpart.

Another noteworthy fact - why would anyone create a self-imposed sentence of making near minimum wage, when for likely far less physical effort they could make $20 an hour or more with continued schooling / training after high school.

The workplace is a 'Brave New World,' and without additional training, a technical degree, or a 4-year college degree.... in many ways it's like being 'up the creek' without a paddle.

For example, don't bother applying for an entry level clerk position at Enterprise Rent-A-Car unless you have a college degree. The basic requirement of possessing a college degree has displaced what earning a high school diploma once had.

Obviously, you don't need a college degree to be "rental clerk," but employers often look at a college degree as a mark of discipline, or evidence of dedication to long-term goals.

PREPARATION FOR THE FUTURE

"The day of just having a high school diploma is long past," Butcher said.

One of her goals is to impress this on students.

Gilmer County students' ACT scores are 'on par' with their peers throughout West Virginia, Butcher said.

Students must automatically look past their high school education. She believes it's necessary for Gilmer graduates to have two or three solid options for their post high school plans. These options may include technical training, a two-year college degree, the military, or a tradition 4-year BA / BS college degree.

Butcher also intends to become a better partner with Glenville State College. She also would like more dual-credit courses offered. "I think our relationship will become stronger."

CHANGES IN PLACE

After several years of not working, Nasia Butcher was determined to start the school year with an operational security system...and did. In addition, all the school's carpets were steam-cleaned, floors washed and waxed, and walls and trim were repainted.

For safety reasons, Butcher decided to change the homecoming parade to an evening event, prior to the football game.

New for the 2007-08 school year - all students, regardless of their grade or attendance, will take a comprehensive final exam.

Graduation has been changed from a Saturday event to a Friday evening. "It's important to consider the needs of teachers too," she said. Due to the switch, graduation will no longer interfere with the school personnel's weekend.

Joe Frashure is Gilmer County High School's new assistant principal.


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