Commentary

January 28, 2011 - Volume 31 Issue 5

Administrative Perspective

 

 

By Martha Dean, Ed.D.

 

State department gives its budget presentation.

On Jan. 20, state Department of Education officials presented to the House Education Committee, providing members with an explanation of the state’s School Aid Formula.

 

 There are several newly elected members of the House as members of the Education Committee and they had a lot of questions regarding Susan Smith’s presentation, as is to be expected. Smith is the department’s executive director of the Office of School Finance.

 

The phase-in of the funding formula changes is continuing this year, and next year will be the last year of calculating the allocation to school systems according to both the old formula and the new formula. A point of interest was how many school systems are eligible for more money under the old formula, and the answer was that there is only one school system that is being held harmless for the calculations for 2011-2012.

 

The “new” formula introduced several changes, one of which was to treat counties with an enrollment less than 1,400 differently. Smith was asked if there are still eight counties with an enrollment less than 1,400 and the answer is yes. One concern of the delegates was about the cost of fuel, which is again on the increase.  A few years ago, a supplemental appropriation was made to help offset the spiraling cost of fuel.

 

Full week of legislative activity occurs despite snowstorm.

This week started with a full schedule for legislators even though the snowstorm, which occurred on Wednesday, closed schools over most of the state. 

 

The House Education Committee met at 2:00 p.m. Monday to approve two bills. House Bill 2648 has come before the Legislature previously. It would raise from $50 to $100 the amount of money out of the $200 faculty senate allocation for each teacher and counselor in a school. This bill does not change the amount of money dedicated to the faculty senates but would designate more of that money to go to each teacher and counselor in the school for the purchase of teaching supplies for the individual classroom or program. Since the bill doesn’t change the amount of money set aside from the state budget to education, referral to the House Finance Committee was requested to be waived.

 

Local share law is discussed.

The second bill on the agenda Monday was House Bill 2164, which would change the law regarding local share.

 

 When the law was to change the local share percentage to be retained by the county school systems, it was amended in the Senate and then passed to penalize school systems if county assessors failed to assess property at least at 54 percent of the value determined by looking at recent sales of property.

 

 House Bill 2164 would require the state tax commissioner to force assessors to assess appropriately but not penalize county boards by reducing the percentage of local tax collections that stay with the county boards. This provision in the original law has been questioned by superintendents and local board members since the bill was enacted into law in 2007.

 

The provision in question would not go into effect until 2013, but we all recognize that county boards really don’t have any power to make assessors change property assessments, so it seems to be a good change. This bill will go to House Finance before going to the full House for a vote.

 

Bill to rename West Liberty State University moves forward.

At the Senate Education Committee meeting on Tuesday, senators passed Senate Bill 200, which would change the name of West Liberty State University to West Liberty University, and made changes to a few other schools in the state.  According to Senate counsel Jean Lawson, this request had been made by West Liberty State University officials.

 

In other committee action, Senate Education Chairman Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, assigned Senate Bill 233, providing for tax credits for the repayment of student loans, and Senate Bill 236, providing for annual evaluations of school personnel, to Subcommittee A and assigned Senate Bill 228, creating the “Local Solution Dropout Recovery Act,”  to Subcommittee B.

 

The rest of the meeting was devoted to hearing a presentation from Jamie Merisotis of the Lumina Foundation for Education.

 

WVASA seeks information on federal jobs money.

One of the West Virginia Association of School Administrators’ legislative priorities for 2011 relates to distribution of federal jobs money to county boards. I have discussed this with several people and keep getting the answer that the governor’s office is working on legislation that would allow the money to be distributed. I have not seen legislation as of yet but will be continuing to try to find out additional information.

 

Personnel deadlines changes are proposed.

Senate Bill 280, introduced Jan. 26, would amend the deadlines associated with termination and resignation of school personnel. It would change the date in §18A-2-6 (termination) from Feb. 1 to May 1, the date in §18A-2-7 (transfer) from Feb. 1 to April 1, and the date in §18A-2-8a (probationary rehiring) from March 15 to May 30.

 

This date change was a priority last year, and I am sure it is desirable this year. I have not seen a companion bill introduced in the House.

 

Senate sponsor include: Bob Plymale, D-Wayne; Clark Barnes, R-Randolph; Dan Foster, D-Kanawha; Erik Wells, D-Kanawha; and Robert Beach, D-Monongalia.

 

County board members are welcome at WVASA conference next week.

Next week, the annual West Virginia Association of School Administrators “Legal and Current Issues Seminar” will be held at the Bridgeport Conference Center in Bridgeport, Feb. 3 and 4.  I hope to see many of the WVASA members at the seminar as it is a great conference that will have programs on several current issues, including a national perspective of what is happening in the nation’s Capitol by Bruce Hunter of  the American Association of School Administrators and a state perspective presented by Robert Hull, assistant state superintendent in the Division of Curriculum and Instructional Services, and other presenters.

 

County board members wishing to attend the seminar should contact the West Virginia School Board Association offices for information regarding training credits.

 

Martha Dean is the executive director of the West Virginia Association of School Administrators.

 

 

Commentary

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Deb Austin Brown

 

History is the best teacher.  In any century.

Almost twenty-four hundred years ago, the great Greek philosopher Aristotle taught that the only way to be happy is to be good.  His studies on moral and intellectual virtue raised the bar for teachers who want to call their students to personal, academic, and professional excellence. 

 

In the twenty-first century in every American community, there are obstacles crowding the educational horizon: fragmented families, unemployment, poverty, drugs, violence, neglect, abuse, crime, disrespect, the Me-mentality—and a shift in core values, principles, and priorities.  These challenges put holes in our boats and make it difficult to navigate the seas of life. The regattas of boats sailing to the finish lines of life are in definite danger. We need to reset our educational compass; we need to make intentional efforts to help young sailors find their way.

 

I must be more than a teacher. I must be a master motivator, counselor, advisor and sage. I must integrate 21st century learning skills with character education, success strategies, and academics.

Each day in the classroom trenches, I go head-to-head with the real educational enemy—apathy and indifference. Overall, American kids today don’t really care that much; they are not truly hungry for an education. They are not intrinsically driven; they are not passionate about their future. There is no real look of ambition in their eyes. It is disheartening to see.

 

And so, when setting high expectations and delivering the rigors of the curriculum—I must do more. I must be more than a teacher. I must be a master motivator, counselor, advisor and sage. I must integrate 21st century learning skills with character education, success strategies, and academics. I must teach students everything from how to sit up straight, listen and look people in the eye—to how to set goals, see beyond today and get ready for the world of work. It would be a tall order in a 24/7 world—a definite challenge in the 7/5 educational setting.

 

The twenty-first century is requiring more of teachers than at any time in American history. No longer is it simply enough to teach the 3Rs: reading, writing and arithmetic. The world now demands much more of us. Today there are nine compass points—the 9Cs— that we must teach if we are to survive and thrive in the global community: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, common respect, core integrity, civic responsibility, character, and the common good.

 

One C that we must avoid is simple compliance. Teaching compliance is easy, and it is easy to measure. Textbook-driven curricula produce a focus on minimum competencies; standardized testing measures mastery of the minimums. Anyone can be average. Is that all we want for our kids to be? What about excellence? What about ambition and innovation? What about goodness and greatness?

 

Character and caring go together.

We need the hook of meaningful and relevant education to reel in our students to the joy of lifelong learning and the thrill of achievement. If we teach character and initiative, we will see the look of excitement and determination in their eyes. It is an important step in the upward spiral to success.

 

Good teachers stand on the horizon of tomorrow and show students what is possible.

Teaching for character changes things because it changes people. With character education, students come to care about their education; they work hard to achieve excellence. They develop personal and academic integrity, self-direction, and a remarkable work ethic. They succeed in school because it becomes intrinsically important to them. They go on to become successful in the American workplace and as socially responsible citizens who contribute for the common good.

 

Teaching character and initiative is difficult and demanding work; it requires Herculean effort. If you do it right, you truly spend yourself each day in the classroom. It is exhilarating to see your students motivated and engaged in learning—going beyond minimum requirements and soaring to maximum achievements. Good teachers stand on the horizon of tomorrow and show students what is possible. They model good character; they teach initiative; they encourage excellence; and they inspire greatness. And on the tests of life, they get real results.

 

Today there is much negative noise in the news about public education. Perhaps it is time to get away from the noise and do some quiet thinking. Reflection is the first step in positive change. Think about the kids. What do you see when you look in their eyes? A love of learning?  A determination to succeed? The hook and the look? We need to make sure that all students have these passions.

 

It is time to reset our compass, renew our resolve, and expect more. An upward shift in focus is needed. From minimums to maximums. From mastery to excellence. From compliance to initiative. From common core curricula to character education. These are noble and needed goals for our century.

 

Character teachers with high standards and high expectations are the key. They are the true architects and builders of human potential. They spend their time, their energy, and their lives investing in our greatest American resource—children. I believe that students intrinsically want to be good and great, but they hunger for the how. Good teachers who teach initiative, character lessons, and success strategies—along with the academics—help our students soar to successful places in school, in our communities, and in the workplace. That’s the educational initiative we need in order to secure a promising future for West Virginia, America, and the world.

 

What can you do? Join the cause of resetting the compass of American education to its true north—teaching for character. Be a giver, a doer, and a supporter of character education. Remember that it takes school, community, business and family partnerships to make this thing called school work.

 

We are all charged with educating the next generation of Americans. It is a most noble calling. There is no work more vital to our nation and for our world. 

 

It has been said that whatever we build in life ends up building us. If that is indeed true, character teachers are skyscrapers on the American landscape. Teaching the 9Cs along with the 3Rs will help our students meet with success and set sail on the sea of their dreams. 

 

Deb Austin Brown is a communictions teacher at Alban Elementary in St. Albans, the director of the Success Project and the Success Club, and the author of four books about character development. She is the 2010 recipient of the Paul J. Morris Character Educator of the Year Award.