Category Archives: Uncategorized

Choose Kind, Just Like Mike

“Choose Kind” has been a theme at McNinch Primary School in Marshall County for several years. School counselor Jennifer Pickett works closely with staff and students to promote kindness throughout the school. 

On Wednesday, October 30, 2019 a very special read aloud day was held in memory of the late, Mike Baker. Mike and his wife Susie have been helping, sharing and exhibiting kindness at McNinch Primary School since 1987 when their oldest son started kindergarten. 

After Mike’s unexpected death in May of this year, good friends Cathy and Bruce Givens wanted to do something special to honor Mike. “I just kept thinking and thinking, what do you do to honor a man like Mike? And finally it came to me. Spread his kindness,” expressed Cathy. So the Givens family purchased 24 different books to donate to McNinch Primary School, all with the theme of “Kindness.”  A beautiful bookplate with Mike’s photo on it was placed inside the cover of each book. It reads,

Loving and proud husband, father, pappy, uncle and friend. Devoted community member.

Always his nature to have a nice compliment for you, his unrelenting kind and gentle soul will be forever missed.

Susie Baker is hard pressed to find a word to describe her late husband.  “Saying that Mike was ‘kind’ or ‘good’ just doesn’t seem sufficient. Mike’s kindness came from deep within his soul.”  Susie invited 24 friends and family members to come in and read one of the kindness books to each classroom. Each and every person was honored to have been asked. 

Pickett summed it up well. “We always have choices in life, and it shows great strength of character when we make choices that are kind. No one exemplified this more than Mike Baker. Everyone who knew him felt immensely blessed by this kind, gentle man.”

McNinch Primary Greeter Program Returns

Students at McNinch Primary School are greeted daily by different faculty and staff members. A warm smile, high five or handshake is given to every student as they enter the building in the morning. 

“Unfortunately, some kids are not greeted by their families in the morning and may not have social interaction until they hit the school’s door,” explained McNinch Primary School Counselor Jennifer Pickett.  “Because of this, students are less social and don’t feel the need to reciprocate a greeting.  This initiative can help with both.”

In hopes of incorporating more community involvement in the school and fostering healthy social skills for the students, Pickett along with McNinch Primary School Speech Therapist Sarah Bonar recently reestablished the school’s “Community Greeter Program.” The program is also being used to spark student interest in learning more about different community members and how those people impact their neighborhood.

Several times per month professionals such as firefighters, police officers and business owners come to the primary school to be a greeter. A fact sheet about each greeter, which includes a job title and description, is given to the students to instill a vision of possible career choices.

“This experience could be a pivotal moment in their day or life.” Pickett said.  “Our students know their teachers care about them, but we want to let the students know members of their community care about them as well,” Pickett said.

Tuesday morning McNinch Primary students were greeted by Justice, the Bordas & Bordas Legal Beagle. Justice enjoys visiting local schools and loves giving children a warm welcome whenever he meets them.

Susie Baker Honored as Harmony House’s Local Hero of Hope

Harmony House Children’s Advocacy Center held its annual fundraiser kickoff the “Hope for Spring Fling” on Saturday, April 27, 2019 at Oglebay’s Camp Russell.

The 11th annual event hosted the Leslie Vassilaros Hope’s Hero Award for the first time, being presented for the third year.  Harmony House did its best to keep the announcement of the winner under wraps until the night of the event. 

With a mash up of tears, humor, friendship, sweetness and class, long-time friend Kathy Vani presented the well-deserved award to none other than Marshall County’s own, Susie Baker. A very surprised, humble Mrs. Baker accepted the award, surrounded by friends, family and Marshall County Schools personnel. 

Susie has been a central part in the lives of many Marshall County residents, devoting countless hours to their children, the Marshall County SchoolsParent Educator Resource Center and the Marshall County Back to School Fun Fair.  As the Fair founder, she is also a volunteer at CASA, a part of countless committees and community supports, and has most certainly been (as engraved on the award) nothing short of “AMAZING.”  

Harmony House, Children’s Advocacy Center, is a comprehensive, child-focused program that allows prosecutors, law enforcement, child protective service workers, medical and mental health professionals, and victim advocates to work together to strengthen the community’s response to child abuse.  The center runs entirely from grants, donations and special events.  “This event is setting the tone for our year’s fundraising and is a lot of fun for our guests, staff and hardworking WV Auxiliary,” says Administrative Manager Jay Jack.  “Abuse immediately turns a child’s young world into a chaos, removing the excitement of youthful curiosity and replacing it with questions of confusion and dread. At Harmony House Children’s Advocacy Center, our attempt at new beginnings and healing starts as soon as we open our doors,” says Jack.  Harmony House has been a strong part of our valley, serving children and individuals with developmental disabilities in Ohio and Marshall counties in West Virginia and Belmont County in Ohio

For more information visit or call 304-230-2205.

Marshall County Special Olympics Track & Field Event Held

Mother Nature’s rain didn’t wash the smiles off the faces of the more than 130 student and adult athletes at the 31st annual Marshall County Special Olympics Track & Field event at John Marshall High School.

Because showers were in the forecast, the games were moved inside.  JM Agriculture students figured out the layout for the relocation to the school’s gymnasium.

Athletes were assisted by the 170 peer tutors from both Marshall County high schools, Cameron and John Marshall, while competing in various track and field events.  Participants could also make arts and crafts and take silly pictures in a photo booth.

Several JM Career & Technical Education programs helped at Special Olympics.  Nursing students in the Therapeutic Services program provided a first aid station and assisted with physicals.  JM Pro Start students prepared lunch while WJMH Media students announced results and played music.  

The Knights of Pythias, American Legion and Main Street Bank also lent a helping hand during the Marshall County Special Olympics Spring Games.

Everyone who participated received a t-shirt donated by Main Street Bank. This year’s theme was Harry Potter.

Dancing Wheels Physically Integrated Dance Company Performs for Students

Oglebay Institute’s School of Dance brought The Dancing Wheels Company to the Ohio Valley for a workshop, school program and public concert.

The Dancing Wheels Company performed “Daring to Be Dumbo” for Marshall County students during a matinee show in the John Marshall High School Center for Performing Arts Tuesday morning.

The story was set in a contemporary junior high school where Dumbo is now a bullied 13-year-old girl. The story exemplified turning differences from weakness into strength through the love of family, friends and, ultimately, oneself. Students explored lessons on relationships and self-awareness and became better equipped to discuss social issues within their community and school.

The National Endowment for the Arts supported this project. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit In addition, the Rosemary M. Front Charitable Trust, the Robert & Helen Levenson Family Charitable Trust and Peter J. Lim provided support for this project.

McNinch Primary Students “Choose Kind”

At the beginning of the 2018-2019 academic year, McNinch Primary School Counselor Jennifer Pickett introduced a school-wide program titled “Choose Kind.”

The new campaign started after the publication of the book “Wonder” and release of the movie of the same title. In “Wonder” there is a quote from Dr. Wayne W. Dyer that states: “If you have a choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.” The “Choose Kind” campaign encourages individuals and schools to “promote, recognize and celebrate acts of kindness.” 

Faculty, staff and students decided to base their first “Choose Kind” service project on September’s “Go Gold for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.”

Pickett purchased 96 child-sized fleece scarves. During guidance lessons, she had kindergarten students decorate tags to attach to the scarves. First graders made gift bags, and second grade students made “Sending You a Smile” cards to include in the bags. 

The completed gift bags were recently mailed to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for children undergoing treatment.

More projects are being planned. There are “Choose Kind” posters hanging around the school.  Picket does developmental guidance lessons on being kind, and she ends the announcements every day encouraging students and staff to remember to “Choose Kind.”

Students Participate in Safety Program

From left: Mr. Tristan, Icy the Penguin, Aja Gee, Daemon Yoho and Chief Mitchell.

Creative Safety Products and the City of Moundsville partnered Friday to present the “Officer Phil Safety Program” at McNinch Primary School.

Students in kindergarten through 2nd grade were not only informed but entertained by Mr. Tristan about the importance of positive behavior such as honesty, friendship and being a “Superhero” not a bully.

Mr. Tristan used puppet characters Icy the Penguin and Buddy the Bulldog along with magic during the 30 minute interactive assembly to enhance the lesson. Students were taught they don’t need a fancy costume to be a “Superhero” but just need do what’s right all the time.

Lessons about being the best person they can, in addition to always being respectful, responsible and safe will be reinforced in each classroom.  Mr. Tristan gave every teacher grade appropriate workbooks to do follow-up activities both at school and home.

The main objective of the program, since its inception in 1975, is to educate students about a variety of safety aspects such as stranger danger, the negative effects of bullying and what to do in an emergency.

Schools Get Smarter Lunchrooms Makeover

WVU Extension Service officials stopped by McNinch Primary School to deliver Smarter Lunchrooms posters featuring WVU athletes. Josie Novel and Jacob Utt helped hang the new posters in the cafeteria.

Marshall County Schools and the WVU Extension Service in Marshall County have teamed up to put in place a Smarter Lunchrooms program in order to encourage students to select, eat and enjoy nutritious foods without eliminating choice.

Smarter Lunchrooms uses easy, no-cost and low-cost changes to encourage students to make healthy choices at lunch.  These interventions can help increase student awareness about the importance of eating healthy. Examples include moving white milk to the front of the cooler or putting fresh fruit in a fancy bowl.

The project was spearheaded by Molly Poffenbarger, Nutrition Outreach/Health Educator at the Marshall County WVU Extension Service.  Poffenbarger met with Marshall County Schools Child Nutrition Director Debbie Derico, cafeteria staff and principals in November to complete a Smarter Lunchrooms Scorecard pre-assessment.

Since then all involved have implemented some of the recommended evidence based changes.  Soon a post assessment will be completed.

For participating in the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement, Marshall County Schools was given a small grant to help implement some of the solutions.  Also, each participating schools received WVU athlete posters encouraging healthy habits.

News9 Reporter Crissy Clutter and 7News Anchor/Reporter Tessa Ditirro talked with students and officials about the Smarter Lunchroom program.

You can view the WTOV report at this link:

You can view the WTRF report at this link:

Pre-K Students Return

2016 PreK 6
Hilltop Elementary student Kallie Butler gets excited about the books she sees in her Pre-K classroom.

Marshall County Schools Universal Pre-K classes began on Friday, August 26, 2016.

Pre-K students attend school Monday through Friday. Because of the one hour delay on Wednesday, Pre-K students report one hour later. Free breakfast and lunch are provided daily.

Marshall County Schools Universal Pre-K is a collaboration of the school district and community agencies that include Head Start and day care facilities. All seven Marshall County Schools Pre-K locations offer the same curriculum and a staff of certified teachers.

Classes are held at Cameron Elementary School, Center McMechen Elementary School, Glen Dale Child Development Center, Hilltop Elementary School, McNinch Primary School, Marshall County Daycare and Washington Lands Elementary School.

Daily instruction focuses on getting students prepared for not only kindergarten but later in life. Take home lessons are designed to bring family members together for special activities. Parents and grandparents also have opportunities to volunteer in the classroom.

Universal Pre-K serves 4-year-olds and is not mandatory. Students are placed across the district based on time of enrollment, not by where they live. Screening and registration for Universal Pre-K take place each year in early spring.

Marshall County Back-to-School Fun Fair Planned

2016 Marshall Co Back to School Fun Fair PicThe 16th annual Marshall County Back-to-School Fun Fair will be held on Wednesday, August 3, 2016 at the former West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville from 8 a.m. until noon.

The “Fun Fair” is open to any Marshall County School student, pre-school through 12th grade, who is accompanied by an adult.  Each child will receive free school supplies which includes a backpack, pencils, pens, notebooks and more.

All other services offered at the “Fun Fair” are also free.  The Marshall County Health Department will provide check-ups and hairstylists will be giving haircuts.  Nearly 50 different agencies will be on hand to assist students and parents.  Pizza will be served for lunch.

Marshall County Schools employee Susie Baker started the “Fun Fair” because of her own childhood experiences and her observations as an adult.  “I was the child who felt sad every year about going to school with nothing.  I saw a need in Marshall County and didn’t want any kids to have to feel the way I did growing up.”

Since 2000, the “Fun Fair” has become a popular way for Marshall County students to celebrate a return to school.  Last year more than 1,200 families took part in the event.  Attending gives participants a chance to win prizes such as Kennywood Park tickets, bicycles and more.

There are no income guidelines to participate in the “Fun Fair.”