Marion County Board of Education celebrates student success, invests in new tech

Nov. 8—FAIRMONT — At its meeting Tuesday evening, the Marion County Board of Education praised the accomplishments of students in Marion County Schools, and also approved funding for investments in new school technology and infrastructure.

To kick off the meeting, players and coaches from the East Fairmont Middle School girls soccer team recounted their victory this year in Mid-Mountain Athletic Conference 10, emerging as the best of nine teams in the region.

The girls soccer team had a triumphant season this year, including an undefeated 16-0-1 record and 14 shutout games in which the team won without giving up a single point to their opponents. Members of the Board praised the girls for their season of success.

Following the team's presentation, a group of students who Marion County Schools recently sent to Science Camp at Jackson's Mill — an outdoor educational learning program run by West Virginia University — told members of the Board about their trip and their educational takeaways.

Brooklyn Barber, a sixth grade student at East Fairmont Middle, said she enjoyed learning about friction and gravity as they pertain to outdoor activities such as rock climbing and BMX biking.

Teachers who chaperoned the camp trip also spoke to members of the Board about their experiences, and encouraged them to bring the opportunity back for students in years to come.

Emily Hartley, an English and language arts teacher who attended Science camp, said she was moved to tears at the sight of her students climbing a rock wall, getting to witness the children she works with conquer fears and challenges together.

"I would watch them climb that rock a little bit more until they are at the top and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, if their moms only knew they were up there,'" she said. "I'm really proud of all of them."

During the meeting, members of the Board approved the purchase of Chromebooks for students in Marion County Schools totaling $630,325 in costs. The Board also approved the purchase of indoor cameras and auditorium lighting for county schools, totaling over $20,000 and $21,000 in costs, respectively.

School Superintendent Donna Heston said the lighting improvements will bolster theater productions in Marion County Schools in the years ahead.

The Board also finalized its purchase contract with Mountainside Behavior Analysis Services for its property known as "the White School" located at 601 Locust Ave. The behavioral health organization won the property in an auction on Oct. 19 for a total of $115,000.

Members of the Board also reviewed three separate payments for North Marion High School heating and air conditioning system installation projects, with a cumulative cost of $1,651,100 between the three projects.

"That project was completed before the school year was started," Heston said, adding that the costs were presented to the Board simultaneously by the installation company contracted for the project.

"The project went very well," said Board Member George Boyles, who commended the fact that the installation just narrowly crossed over the budget initially set aside by the Board. Board Member James Saunders agreed he was "very thankful" for the project's success.

The Board also approved the construction of new playground equipment for Barrackville School, contributing over $1,000 of the school's capital improvement funds to the project alongside a more than $27,000 contribution from the Barrackville School Parent Teacher Organization.

This school year, motivational speaker and martial artist Jerry Trimble will also visit roughly 600 Marion County tenth for a motivational workshop on student leadership that will cost $5,500 in county funding.

This program will be co-led by the Marion County Chamber of Commerce and the Marion County Young Leaders Program, Heston said. Tuesday, the Board voted unanimously to approve the expense.

Toward the end of the biweekly meeting, members of the Board approved the expulsions of eight Marion County Schools students, bringing the total number of students expelled this academic year to 20, compared to just 16 at this point in the 2022-23 academic year.

This marks a 25% increase in student expulsions in a one-year span. At a September 2023 meeting, Heston attributed the increase in student expulsions to increasingly strict student disciplinary protocols implemented on the state level, namely House Bill 2890.

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