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Putnam County wants innovation zone money to help at-risk students

CONFIDENCE, W.Va. -- Putnam County will ask the state Department of Education for an innovation zone grant to help at-risk students choose a career path.

School board members agreed to apply for a $300,000 grant Monday night at the new Confidence Elementary School, where they held their board meeting after a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The grant, which could provide up to $100,000 for three years, would be used to hire someone to work at the county high schools and help students explore career possibilities outside of college.

Schools that the state Department of Education approve as innovation zones receive waivers to state policy, which lets them try out new, research-based strategies in an effort to improve student learning.

The new Buffalo High School was given the maximum innovation zone grant funding, $300,000, in January.

In June, school officials announced they planned to stress life skills, like communication and work ethic, to boost their college retention rate.

"Our ultimate goal is for kids to be successful when they leave us," Superintendent Chuck Hatfield said.

Middle school students will have things like punctuality, work ethic and how well they communicate count as 10 percent of their grades beginning this fall.

The same skills will account for 20 percent of high school students' grades.

Cindy Daniel, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said the grant would help students explore internships, and career and technical education programs, among other things.

In other business, board members terminated Malinda Waugh, a bus driver, for "willful neglect of duty," according to the meeting's agenda. Hatfield wouldn't comment on the personnel issue.

Before the meeting, nearly 180 students came to see the new Confidence Elementary that replaces a nearly 60-year-old building down the road on W.Va. 34. The first day of school for students in Putnam is Thursday.

Hatfield said it was something "to see the faces of these kids and teachers and parents from what they came from."

In August 2009, Putnam residents passed a $57 million school bond, the first school bond approved in the county in 33 years. When the levy was passed, the county became eligible to receive state School Building Authority funding, which allowed the school board to pursue an aggressive building program.

The new Confidence Elementary cost about $9 million, Hatfield said.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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