By Dianne Weaver

Calhoun Middle-High School principal Kelli Whytsell has a challenging new job, turning the school around to improve academic achievement.

Whytsell has been appointed Principal of Instruction, after it was learned that Calhoun Middle-High School was the poorest performing school in West Virginia's 55 counties, having failed the No Child Left Behind Standards four of the last five years.

The recent Office of Educational Performance Audit done on Calhoun Middle-High School praised a change making Kelli Whytsell the Principal of Instruction, saying she is very capable of leading, "but the school's administrative structure will need to be clear and understood by administrators and all school staff."

See Education Performance Audit Report

Further compounding the problem, the West Virginia school system has been listed among the worst performing school systems in America.

The Calhoun school system is getting some relief since it appears the state is asking for a waiver from NCLB criteria, which has essentially been a flop nationwide.

Still, after reviewing a broad and critical audit of state education ordered by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, the West Virginia Legislature barely budged, offering up a tweak or two to make things better.

Japanese companies just expressed concern to Sen. Jay Rockefeller that their West Virginia companies are facing a real problem with the state's workforce being adequately trained, requiring students that excel in science and math.

Calhoun Superintendent Roger Propst said last week that the focus on future school evaluations will likely be on making consistent improvement, rather than passing a cut-line score that was suppose to declare success under NCLB.

Whytsell said, "Calhoun Middle-High School is committed to the success of our students. We have great students, teachers and parents. In order to achieve our mission of 'Improving Lives through Learning,' we need to refocus on how we accomplish this mission."

While the goals have been presented before, Whytsell said they are directions toward improvement.

Goal 1: Calhoun Middle High School will improve academic performance.

Goal 2: Calhoun Middle High School will improve on a cohesive culture and positive climate that is intended to promote a sense of collective responsibility and ownership for improving learning.

Goal 3.Calhoun Middle High School will increase community, parent and student involvement in our school.

"We have worked the last two years to make improvements in the way we do business at our school," Whytsell said.

Whytsell said the school has been comparing WESTEST data from previous years and setting school achievement goals, Instructional Practices Inventory(student engagement in class activities), and activities to increase Depth of Knowledge (DOK).

Also streamlining communication, a common lesson plan format, a school wide discipline committee, vertical team meetings, grade level team meetings, new teacher orientation, personal goal setting and student leadership.

Whytsell believes these activities will change the climate and achievement at the school.

"We are still in the infancy of some of these programs and changing the way things have always been done takes time and effort. We have committed staff, time and resources to these changes," she said.

Calhoun County Board of Education, Calhoun Middle High School Faculty, RESA V, and the West Virginia Department of Education are working in collaboration to make necessary changes.

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