LCHS Wins National Award for “On-Track Contract” Program

Brooklyn Golden, Editor

National award-winners: LCHS officials received word in early January that the school will be one of ten schools in the United States to earn the Gene Bottom Pacesetter Award from the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) in the summer. 

The award was granted for LCHS’s On-Track Contract program that works with students, teachers, administrators and guardians to remediate failing students to get to a passing level.

According to officials, LCHS was awarded this national award because it offered an “innovative and proactive” solution to help student achievement and engagement.

According to Mr. Dustin Cogar, assistant principal and On-Track Contract developer, LCHS was one of only ten schools across the nation to earn this designation. LCHS will be recognized for its effort.

LCHS was selected as one of ten school in the United States for the Gene Bottoms Pacesetter Award through SREB”

As part of the award, Cogar, and the Lewis County SREB team, will present a workshop session at the 2023 SREB Conference. The presentation will include an overview of the program which focuses on solving an academic problem shared by other secondary schools.

Team members said the school is being recognized for identifying an academic problem and finding an innovative solution which helps students and staff

The team identified the school-wide On-Track Contract Program as the innovative solution to student failures, particularly after Covid-19.

“We needed a way, at LCHS, to get students back on track to earning their credits for graduation. After the Covid-19 pandemic, so many students were behind where they didn’t pass any classes during the virtual year, which basically kills our master schedule. It makes us have to have kids in ninth grade classes that should be in tenth and eleventh graders, when we don’t have as many teachers as we’ve had in the past. So, in order to reduce the number of students in classrooms, while also getting people what they needed to graduate on time, we had to come up with a plan, thus the On Track program,” Cogar said.

Currently, LCHS students who fail a class receive a contract identifying work that needs to be completed. A week later, contract students attend school and work with instructors to complete these assignments, getting remediation on skills. The highest grade a student can receive from contract completion is a D White said.

Team members said they were excited to be recognized and are looking forward to next year’s conference.

Administrators and faculty plan to attend the Southern Regional Education Board’s Conference this summer in Florida where they will be recognized for their achievement and will conduct a sixty-minute work session.

“This year’s conference will be in Florida. Last year, we attended many work sessions where we learn everything from student engagement to teacher retention to how to set up escape rooms and incorporate video games in the classroom. There are a lot of innovative sessions, and this year, as part of our Pacesetter Award, we will present a sixty-minute work session on the On Track Contract at the 2023 SREB conference,” White said. 

Last spring, members from the SREB visited LCHS in hopes to evaluate both the positive and negative aspects of the school. As a result of this visit, eight LCHS faculty members and LC Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robin Lewis attended a national conference. 

“They were here in the spring, and they conducted a CIR (Curriculum and Instruction Review). It took almost two and a half weeks for prep work. All the teachers in the building submitted model lesson plans, submitted assignments, submitted assessments. That group of educators come through everything looking for what type of rigor we had academically. Then, they were here on site, boots on ground, and conducted walk-throughs to see what type of instruction was occurring in classrooms, and then was able to put all that data together and formulate a plan for us moving forward on how we want the school to operate. We want kids to be safe, we want kids to be smiling, but we want kids to be learning and teachers to be teaching,” Cogar said.

“At the end of the CIR, they gave us a report on their findings at LCHS. What that also did was identify, from an outside source not within our building, teachers and personnel that they felt were holding students to a higher standard and promoting CTE and simulated workplace in classrooms.  Then, from that list of people they gave to us, they recommended that we attend the High Schools at Work Conference in Texas. When we were there, we were exposed to the Pacesetter Award, being a presenter and things like that. We all agreed that that’s what we would try and achieve before we were done, and, because you have good teachers, good administrators and good support staff here, we got it done in one year,” Cogar said.

Attending were Dr. Robin Lewis, Mr. John Whiston, Mr. Dustin Cogar, Mrs. Dodi Slaughter, Mrs. Hanna Cogar, Mrs. Diana Garrett, Mrs. Christie Lybarger, Mr. Mike Smith and Mrs. Lesley White. Three others–Mrs. Jill Balser, Ms. Sherry Carr and Mrs. Cynthia Nesslerod could not attend the conference, but they were involved in the planning of the process.

“At this conference, it was set up to where there was different workshops you could attend. You got to pick and choose which you would like to attend, so since there was a handful of us we decided to spread apart and each do different ones. This allowed us to get as much information as possible. A couple people took tours of the building. Some workshops were on literacy. It was interesting to see how other schools were implementing that and different things that they were doing to encourage those readers to improve. I also attended the workshop about the four-day work week. It showed the challenges they had but also the benefits that came from it,” Mrs. Diana Garrett, librarian, said.

“We won the SREB’s Gene Bottom Pacesetter Award. There are only ten schools in the United States who receive this award, and we are one of ten. There are only three schools from West Virginia, and we are the only stand-alone high school to receive the award in West Virginia,” Mrs. Lesley White, English and Journalism teacher, said. White was one of the team members who helped write the award application.

“We made an application for some kind of school improvement for grades or academics. It had to be something that was innovative. So, we chose the On Track Contracts that Mr. Cogar developed last year as a response to Covid. We had so many students failing and the On Track Contract was a way to get students to get that credit made up without getting an overinflated grade. With the On-Track program, the highest grade a student can get is a “D”. It gives kids a chance to make up that credit, and that keeps our core classes from being overcrowded and overloaded with repeaters. It allows teachers to still continue teaching electives, because the way it was headed, we had so many students flunking that we would not have been able to offer any electives to accommodate all the failures because kids weren’t doing credit recovery,” White said.