Fox voices concerns over summer reading program

PARKERSBURG – Is a voluntary summer reading program now a mandatory requirement at a Wood County school?

That was a question raised by board of education member Jim Fox at Tuesday’s meeting. During the comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting, Fox raised concerns about a summer reading program at Edison Middle School.

Fox said a parent presented him a copy of a summer newsletter sent out July 25 declaring the Edison’s summer reading program as a requirement and it would determine the first grade of the new school year.

He wondered if school officials had declared the summer reading program a requirement. And Fox wondered if they were notifying students of the program – one that requires them to read three 100-page books- with less than four weeks until school starts.

Fox, a vocal supporter of summer reading, said the program should be voluntary, not required.

“This should be encouraging,” he said. “It was never meant to be mandatory.”

Mike Winland, director of secondary schools, told Fox students were given the assignment before the end of the school year.

“This was a reminder,” Winland said. “Many parents were shocked (to receive the notice) because the students didn’t take the message home at the end of the year.”

However, Winland said he also questioned the “grade” aspect of the program.

“We are not requiring them to give grades,” Superintendent Pat Law said.

The item was not on the school board’s agenda but generated a nearly 15-minute discussion. Fox raised the issue during board member comments.

Winland answered some of the questions, followed by additional comments and questions from Fox, at least two other board members and Law.

Fox did not think the matter crossed the line with regard to discussion. The matter was brought to his attention, Fox said, and he was bringing it to the board for further investigation.

“This is our avenue to raise concerns and issues to the board,” Fox said after the meeting. “I wasn’t bringing it with the intent to respond. I was not expecting discussion.”

Fox said the matter will be on next week’s agenda to address any additional parent concerns and get a better explanation from school officials.

Tuesday’s meeting lasted approximately 45 minutes, with all five members present.

The board voted unanimously, and with little discussion, to approve the 5-cent meal price increases that were discussed at last week’s meeting.