INTERVENTION ; Change Coming to Struggling West Side and Its Schools

Article excerpt

Kanawha County Schools is investing in unique strategies to turn around struggling schools on Charleston's West Side - some of the lowest-performing in the West Virginia. Starting next year, the four elementary schools (some of which soon will be consolidated) and one middle school located on the crime-ridden West Side will see some major changes as a result of SB 359, legislation passed last year that allows the schools more flexibility in an attempt to improve achievement.

Kanawha County Schools will invest in "family interventionists, similar to social workers, who will act as liaisons between the West Side schools and the community, and also will implement a Parents as Teachers program, as well as provide more staff development for teachers, to ensure customized learning, Superintendent Ron Duerring said Wednesday.

"We're looking at how we operate - looking at each kid individually, to see the work they're doing and, if there are issues, how can we remediate and enrich that child based on their needs. [Instead of] the whole idea that you stand up in front of the classroom and teach, and if they get it, great, Duerring said. "We're looking at individual work.

The school system has set aside funding to hire two family interventionists for the area and also is looking at dedicating money to give teachers more time for planning at those schools, Duerring said.

Parents as Teachers is an international program that emphasizes the importance of parent involvement in a child's educational success and provides early detection of developmental delays in young children.

The program conducts home visits to connect families to trained parent educators, and each visit is personalized, depending on the child's age and the family culture.

The need for the five-year West Side community-development project, which will waive certain state policies to allow a slew of innovative education reforms among the West Side's public schools, was undeniable Wednesday.

Duerring, Kanawha County Schools Assistant Superintendent Jane Roberts, officials from the Governor's Office and other community leaders were taken on an afternoon tour of the West Side by the Rev. Matthew Watts, who's helping lead the reform initiative.

Just about an hour before the "West Side Revive tour began, a nearby shooting forced Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary School to go on lockdown - the second time that's happened this month. …