Education, Latest News

Suncrest a Spotlight School

Close your eyes and you still can’t “hear” the difference, Doug Gaither says.

The principal of Suncrest Elementary School is talking about the delivery of lesson plans in pandemic times.

That means an ever-shifting definition, as required by the coronavirus.

Some days that definition means a cohort of students in front the laptop at home — as actual teaching commences from the building on Collins Ferry Road.

And while the pandemic makes everything a challenge, Gaither said, all the boxes are still being checked in the affirmative.

“Everybody’s engaged,” the principal said.

“It still sounds like a classroom on the days we go remote.”

Which sounds good to Alicia Ziman.

That’s why she’s giving the Morgantown school state recognition.

Ziman, a former north-central West Virginia classroom teacher, works out of Huntington’s Marshall University these days.

She coordinates the Department of Education’s Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports project, or PBIS, as its known in the field.

Marshall University currently helps herd the work.

The West Virginia Behavior/Mental Health Technical Assistance Center oversees the project with assistance from the West Virginia Autism Training Center.

Both are housed at the school in Huntington.

Not being able to tell, necessarily, what is online and what is in-school, save for the delivery system, is why Ziman was talking about Suncrest Elementary Wednesday.

The Morgantown school was named an inaugural “West Virginia PBIS Spotlight School” by her employer earlier this week.

student gets star
Luca Finomore gets a star from principal Doug Gaither and 5th grade teacher Rachel Dodrill.

Suncrest Elementary shares that recognition with three other schools across the state:

The others are Matewan PK8, in Mingo County; Nitro Elementary, Kanawha; and Wheeling Park High School, Ohio County.

It’s about the coronavirus, in part, Ziman said, but it’s mainly about a school that simply knows how to communicate with its students and their parents in the midst of days never before seen.

Gaither agrees.

“At Suncrest Elementary, we don’t have ‘rules,’” the principal said. “We have expectations.”

Make that, consistent expectations, he said.

That is, if your desk at school is expected to be neat and organized, the same is true for your work area at home, whether it’s the kitchen table or at a desk in your bedroom.

If you’re expected to be respectful to your neighbors at school, you should extend the same courtesy to your parents and brothers and sisters at home.

All of the above, and more, easily put Suncrest Elementary in the spotlight, said Erin Day, a behavior support specialist on the PBIS team who was the school’s chief evaluator.

She’s not that far removed from the arena.

Day was teaching at Lost Creek Elementary School in Harrison County last March when the order came down from Charleston to shutter schools due to a then-looming pandemic.

“I know what people were up against, believe me,” she said.

Suncrest Elementary, she noted in her report, has been able to make its students feel safe and engaged, no matter the instruction model.

“Which is a great example of relationship-building and supporting mental health,” she wrote.