The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

November 5, 2013

Fayette Board of Education should embrace achievements of MBHS

By Al Martine
guest columnist

— In a recent article in The Register-Herald, neighboring schools of Meadow Bridge High stated that they would like to accommodate MBHS students. Not mentioned: They would also like to have its highly qualified teachers and dedicated community.

For years, Meadow Bridge High School has lived under a cloud of consolidation and gray areas of districting. As some neighboring schools (not all) struggle to make accreditation and graduate their students, Meadow Bridge High School continued to hold high standards. Its graduation rate continues to be one of the highest in southern West Virginia. It now holds the distinction of a Success School by the West Virginia Department of Education and is recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the best high schools in the United States with a Bronze Star Rating.

Constantly surviving under a cloud of consolidation and gray areas of districting, the faculty and students have strived to make their school a model of hard work and achievement.

When the CEFP was first discussed, there was discussions of four high schools instead of six. Two high schools on the plateau along with Valley and Meadow Bridge. We were told that this was the goal of the WVDE. Many of the consolidation meetings went along with that vision.

Fayette County appeared to accept this plan; then there appeared to be some meetings that the Meadow Bridge representatives were not informed of or attended. The agenda of these meetings was to establish three high schools instead of four. The loser was the students of the New Haven District.

Those who want Meadow Bridge closed cite its aging facilities, but do they tell you that the board had built four new classrooms in the main high school building to house the fifth and six grades of the elementary school? This was to handle the increased student load in 2012.

What about the HVAC system upgrade that cost between $500,000 to $800,000 in 2012-13? You do not invest nearly a million dollars in a facility you expect to close.

Financially, Meadow Bridge High School should be self-sufficient. When you add the 7-12 high school students located in the main building with the fifth and sixth grades, the total enrollment is sufficient to support the operation of the campus considering the reimbursement of the state.

Meadow Bridge High School is one of the few schools that has 100 percent highly qualified regular teachers who teach in a 7-12 grade setting. The teachers are dedicated to teaching the rigors of seven AP courses. The distance learning system allows MBHS teachers to teach science classes to other schools.

Within the past 10 years, Meadow Bridge High School has renovated its football facilities, built an outdoor track and turned a swamp into softball/baseball fields at a minimum expense to the county due to a hard-working community and grants from a supportive Legislature.

For the past 12 years, before my retirement, I stressed to the staff and students that it would be difficult to close MBHS if we established ourselves as a top academic school. Having good athletic teams and a safe environment was also important and completed the resume of a high-achieving school.

I would hope the  Fayette County Board of Education would embrace the achievements of MBHS and its continued mission of education.

— Beckley resident Al Martine recently retired as principal of Meadow Bridge High School.