School board changes grading policy

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By Tom Wilmoth

    Students’ voices can be heard and can lead to change.
    A proposal generated by last year’s Student Advisory Council led the Bedford County School Board to change the school system’s grading policy for the upcoming school year.
    The council, made up of representatives from the county’s middle and high schools, meets several times each year with representatives from the school board and public relations coordinator Ryan Edwards, and at the end of the year presents a list of recommendations to the board about issues it deems important.
    Among the changes presented by the group last May was a need to reevaluate the grading policy which instructed teachers that 30 percent of a student’s grade would be from formative work (homework and other class assignments) and 70 percent from summative work (such as tests).
    Tim Overstreet, the new director of instruction for BCPS, told the school board that a survey of the school system’s principals and a select group of teachers showed both groups favored changing the percentages to 40 percent formative and 60 percent summative. In addition, the groups favored adding a minimum number of graded work under each section, with no one grade accounting for more than 15 percent of a student’s grade for that quarter.
    The board approved the change, 5-1, noting that there should be a minimum of 12 grades each quarter. Board member Dr. John Hicks voted against the proposal, stating he favored the 30/70 percentages for the grade breakdown. Board chairman Gary Hostutler was not at last week’s meeting.
    Also during Thursday’s meeting, Edwards presented a PowerPoint on the school system’s use of business partnerships this past year, and the ongoing action plan for the future. The video included comments from Stewartsville Elementary Principal Susan Mele and Bedford Science and Technology Administrator Barbara L. Rezzonico. Mele noted that she was skeptical of asking businesses for help at first, but soon realized they were more than willing to be involved with the schools.        Mele said all it took was taking the initiative to reach out for help. “There is money out there,” Mele said. “(Businesses) have money set aside.”
    She asked nine businesses for help and all nine contributed, Mele added, representing some $10,000 in partnerships.
    Edwards noted that Rezzonico, through her efforts at BSTC as well as at Moneta Elementary, has realized some $100,000 in business partnership assistance.
Also on Thursday the board voted to not add any additional students to the regional STEM Academy, which was asking participating school systems to commit to more students so a biomedical field of study could be added for the upcoming school year. Currently Bedford County is paying for eight slots, with an additional eight for the upcoming year. The request would have added an additional 16 over the next two years.
    Three of the BCPS slots won’t be filled this upcoming year, but the school system will still have to pay for them. Four students struggled academically in the program last year and aren’t returning; one of those slots has been filled by a new student.
    Bedford County is the only school system, among those participating, charging students to attend. The overall cost of the program is $5,000, and the students have to pay $1,800 of that. District 2 board member Jason Johnson questioned committing such a large amount of funds for a “select number of students,” noting those funds could be used to add two math teachers to the school system.
    Board member Kevin Willis ended the meeting by remembering a former teacher of his, Ernestine DeBerry, who passed away on July 16.
    DeBerry taught in the Bedford County school system for 38 years and was awarded teacher of the year in 1998-1999. Willis said she represented the best of what it means to be a teacher. “She demanded your best, she expected your best, she would help us to do our best,” Willis said of his eighth grade English teacher.
    Willis had DeBerry as a teacher in 1980 and noted, “when I left her class I was a better student and I was a better person.”
    “She was in it for you,” he said. “We were fortunate to have had her. We lost a good one; God bless her.”

DeBERRY Ernestine Foy On Wednesday, July 16, 2014, Ernestine Foy DeBerry was called to rest. She was born in Roanoke, on September 17, 1944, to the late Thurman and Margaret Foy. She was also preceded in death by a brother, Thurman Foy, Jr. She retired after 38 years of teaching in the Bedford County School System, where she was awarded teacher of the year in 1998-1999. She was a faithful member of St. Gerard Catholic Church for many years. She leaves to mourn her loss, but to rejoice in her memory a loving husband of 45 years, William T. DeBerry, Jr.; a devoted daughter, Monique DeBerry (Michael) Worrell; a grandson, Aaron M. Worrell; a granddaughter, Kennedy N. Worrell; foster sisters, Mary Stewart and Yolanda McAllister; a host of other relatives and friends. A Memorial Mass will be held 10 a.m. Tuesday, July 22, 2014, at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church with the Father Louis Benoit officiating. Visitation will be held from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Condolences may be sent to www.Hamlar-Curtis.com.