July 29, 2011 - Volume 31 Issue 20


The West Virginia School Board Association’s governing board will meet Friday and Saturday (July 29 and 30) for its annual retreat. The meeting will be held at the Days Inn Hotel at Flatwoods.

Several items will be discussed, including the Executive Board’s goals and planning, legislative advocacy, the WVSBA Conference ’11 to be held September 9 and 10 in Charleston at the Marriott Hotel, and several state Department of Education initiatives affecting the organization, including the required annual county board self-assessment, as outlined in statute §18-5-1c.

“Once these sessions have concluded, we will report any action taken to the membership, including work on strategic issues,” association President Sis Murray (Marion) told The Legislature. “As reported to its members, we will have a Strategic Planning Committee meeting in conjunction with the association’s Conference ’11.”

Several state Department of Education officials will attend the retreat. They will include: Deputy Supt. Chuck Heinlein; Michele Blatt, executive director of the Office of School Improvement; and David Price, a coordinator in that office.

WVSBA Executive Director Howard M. O’Cull, Ed.D., said, “The state department officials are going to discuss the direction the agency is taking in regard to several initiatives, including takeover county boards, working relations with county boards of education through the Superintendent’s Advisory Council and the development of standards for ‘High Functioning County Boards.’ The latter should prove of most interest to county board members.”

O’Cull said he expects there to be effective working relations with the Education Department. “We have a presence at the table in terms of several state board or state department committees, including the state Superintendent’s Advisory Council,” he said. “We want to be sure our working relationship with these groups, while it can be advantageous, allows for association independence where necessary.”

Adding that the state board is asking county board members to serve as liaisons for the state board and the Education Department, O’Cull said, “Let’s develop a most positive relationship with the State Board of Education, State Superintendent of Schools and the Education Department. Obviously, considerable retreat time is slated for these discussions.”

O’Cull also announced that the Executive Board has decided to delay posting of an electronic survey regarding legislation until after the retreat. About that, Murray said, “Simply put, the Executive Board wants to discuss legislation and any legislative approach within a more holistic framework than an isolated survey, although such an instrument may be part of the package.”

Murray added that the organization wants to review future training endeavors to provide input to the County Board Training Standards Review Committee (TSRC), which will meet August 11 at the state board’s offices in Charleston.

“We need to ensure we keep the TSRC informed about training needs as we, members of the association, see our needs,” Murray said.

The Executive Board also will schedule county board members to attend each state Board of Education meeting as well as selected interim committee meetings, she said.

The retreat begins at 6:00 p.m. Friday and will conclude at noon Saturday.


A discussion of state-level policy challenges will provide the basis of the West Virginia School Board Association’s Conference ’11 program.

The conference, commonly referred to as the association’s “fall conference,” will be held September 9-10 in Charleston at the Town Center Marriott Hotel.

Members will hear insights from several officials from both Wisconsin and Minnesota, including Wisconsin Association of School Boards President Rick Eloranta and Minnesota School Boards Association Executive Director Bob Meeks, as well as broader perspectives from National School Boards Association President Mary Broderick of Connecticut and Tom Gentzel, who is the Pennsylvania School Board Association’s executive director and a liaison to the NSBA Board of Directors, representing state association executive directors,” WVSBA Executive Director Howard M. O’Cull, Ed.D., said.

“I debated recommending this program, but the more I discussed situations in other states with my executive director colleagues, the more I realized those situations are not so much fiscal or labor-related as much as they might portend a reversal in some important public education tenets, including issues relating to fiscal equity, labor-relations, performance-based pay and the like. In other words, these issues, in a writ large sense, are not confined to the Upper Midwest. Trends seem to travel, such as the matter of raising the federal debt ceiling.”

Although preliminary program details have been discussed with the West Virginia School Board Association Executive Committee, the program and program-related segments must get full approval of the County Board Training Standards Review Committee (TSRC). 

“If the TSRC approves our program, members will hear the Wisconsin ‘story” from Eloranta who is an eight-year member of the Owen-Withee School Board which is located in Central Wisconsin,” O’Cull said. 

In addition, Broderick will provide a perspective of the health of school boards during this time of fluctuating state-level policy changes. “Ms. Broderick travels to various states, is engaged in high-level Washington, D.C., meetings and works in cooperation with several national-level groups,” O’Cull said. “To my knowledge, this is the first time an NSBA president will have addressed our group since the early 1980s.”

Finally, he said, these types of program discussions are being conducted by other West Virginia education groups.

“My colleague Bob Brown titles his presentation ‘Beyond Wisconsin: The escalating attacks on public education,’” O’Cull said. Brown is executive director of the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association

These are among other proposed program offerings:

  1. A discussion of the state Board of Education’s proposal to develop “High Functioning Standards for County Boards and County Board Members.”
  2. A review of recent Public Employee Grievance Board decisions, court rulings, and state superintendent interpretations concerning county board employment of administrators, including principals, as recommended by the county superintendent.

“This is a live-wire issue with the state Department of Education, and the matter arose in the Gilmer County schools’ takeover and in Lincoln County as well,” O’Cull said. “This is a major session whose content has bearing on all county boards.”

  1. Regional caucuses led by WVSBA executive board officers and designees. “We need to discern what regional issues and sentiments are in terms of possible regionalized training, legislation, and association programming,” O’Cull said.
  2. Jim Justice, owner of the Greenbrier Resort, will speak Saturday, September 10. “Mr. Justice will discuss what he sees as the successes and ‘failures,’ for lack of a better word, concerning public schools,” O’Cull said. “His point, as an entrepreneur, will be to provide county board members a perspective on skills students have in order to be successful in business or employment endeavors, a look at the state’s high school completion rate, and how to make schooling more meaningful through teaming at all levels.”

The organization’s Strategic Planning Committee will meet in conjunction with the program and the organization’s FY12 Delegate Assembly will be held Saturday, September 10, beginning at 8 a.m.

Conference registration forms are to be mailed Monday, August 1, 2011, and a complete program will be mailed on August 11, the date the TSRC meets.

O’Cull urges members to contact him for more information.