Charleston Gazette (West Virginia)


February 09, 2001, Friday


School officials discuss propriety of rewarding students with movies


BYLINE: Eric Eyre


SECTION: News; Pg. P1A


LENGTH: 853 words

Kanawha County schools Superintendent Ron Duerring said Thursday he plans to develop a system to monitor noneducational field trips to ensure they aren't excessive.

But Duerring stopped short of recommending a ban on field trips to such places as movie theaters, putt-putt golf courses and shopping malls.

Kanawha County schools sent students on movie field trips more than 60 times during the past nine months, according to school transportation records.

Movie theaters hold special morning showings on school days for Kanawha County students.

"We're not going to sit here and say going to the movies every time is the best field trip," Duerring said at a state school board meeting Thursday. "To make a blanket ruling [against them] is a bit excessive. But there need to be checks and balances."

Kanawha County school board members will discuss the noneducational field trips at a special meeting Monday night.

Duerring had come to the state Board of Education meeting Thursday to discuss the Kanawha board's decision to close Staunton Elementary School in South Charleston.

Instead, state school board members peppered the superintendent with questions about field trips to movie theaters.

At least one out of every three days, some Kanawha County school sends students to the movies.

Duerring said principals use the movie trips as rewards for good behavior and attendance. He said many Kanawha County children have never seen a movie at a theater.

"Obviously, our trips need to be educational," Duerring said. "But there are times that rewards are given."

"I appreciate the reward system, but could some of these be done on Saturdays?" asked state board member Cleo Mathews.

Mathews and other board members also suggested that schools take students on field trips to the movies on Faculty Senate days when students ordinarily have the day off. Teachers usually discuss concerns and receive training on Faculty Senate days.

Logan and Boone county schoolchildren also take field trips to movies, superintendents from those counties said Thursday.

But Logan County schools Superintendent Ray Woolsey noted that state Board of Education members have approved policies that encourage teachers and principals to reward students.

"This board has pushed the responsible student program, which mandates rewards for kids," Woolsey said. "If we're going to insist we reward kids ... giving them pizza at school is not necessarily a reward kids will work toward.

"We're really trying to reward kids for better behavior."

Boone schools Superintendent Steve Pauley said Boone school board members discussed field trips at a recent school board meeting.

They may require that principals, each time they request a bus for a field trip, explain how the trips will improve student performance. Board members want the trips to have some tie to what students are learning in the classroom.

"We're going to look at every trip," Pauley said.

Years ago, Kanawha County had a similar policy, Duerring said.

"You had to write down a justification for every trip," said Duerring, a former elementary school principal. "For some reason, we got away from that."

Kanawha school board members have fielded dozens of complaints about field trips this week.

Parents say trips to the movies, bowling and putt-putt golf cheat children out of valuable classroom time.

School buses usually shuttle Kanawha County schoolchildren to Marquee Cinemas on Corridor G where students watch movies such as "The Emperor's New Groove," "102 Dalmatians" and "Mission to Mars."

"Why are these students not in the classroom being instructed in reading, writing and arithmetic?" Michael Fidler, a Charleston doctor, asked in a letter to Kanawha school board President Bill Raglin. "What are taxpayers, and more importantly, students getting for their money? Cartoons on Tuesday afternoon?"

Andrew Jackson Middle School students went to the movies five times in the past nine months, the most of any Kanawha County school, records show. East Bank Middle School students went four times.

"It's a local school decision. That's what it comes down to," said East Bank Middle School Principal Mark Milam, who also serves as president of Kanawha County's secondary principals' association. "It's a reward for students who follow the rules. You have to have something to reward students who do well."

The movie trips increase around the holidays and near the end of the school year. Schools sent students to the movies all but two school days in December.

Meanwhile, Dunbar Elementary School led all Kanawha County schools with 11 trips to the bowling alley.

Dunbar's Principal Lewis Elliot said the school takes one class of students at a time to a bowling alley in Nitro as a reward for perfect attendance and good behavior. The bowling trips also are part of the school's physical education program, Elliot said.

Schools sent students to putt-putt golf centers 45 times during the past nine months.

To contact staff writer Eric Eyre, use e-mail or call 348-5194.


LOAD-DATE: February 09, 2001




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