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Revised February 14, 2011 - Volume 31 Issue 9

News

“Journalism is literature in a hurry.” – Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), British poet and cultural critic.

The West Virginia Board of Education has chosen Deputy Supt. Jorea Marple to be the new state superintendent. Marple, who was one of three finalists interviewed by the board, brings almost 40 years of educational experience to the position and will be the first female state superintendent in West Virginia

“We had the opportunity to interview three very strong candidates. However, it was evident to us that Dr. Marple was the best fit for the future of our state. I am pleased at how well the board worked together, ultimately leading to a unanimous decision.” – State Board of Education President Priscilla Haden.

.“I am humbled, excited and passionate about the opportunity to work with our students, parents, teachers, school administrators, higher education and community leaders, because we all have a role in this process of developing great kids who do great work,” she said.

As state superintendent, Marple will earn $165,000 per year. She will assume office March 1. She will replace Ted Mattern, who took over as state superintendent on Jan. 4 after Steve Paine retired. Mattern is a former county superintendent and former member of the West Virginia University Board of Governors.

“We had the opportunity to interview three very strong candidates,” Board President Priscilla Haden said. “However, it was evident to us that Marple was the best fit for the future of our state. I am pleased at how well the board worked together, ultimately leading to a unanimous decision.”

Other finalists for the superintendent’s position were Mark Manchin, executive director of the School Building Authority, and Carolyn Long, chairwoman of the West Virginia University Board of Governors.

Marple, who has a doctorate in education administration from WVU, has experience as a classroom teacher, reading specialist, university instructor, principal, assistant county superintendent, county superintendent, assistant state superintendent and deputy state superintendent. She earned her bachelor's degree in elementary education at Fairmont State College in 1969 and a master of arts in reading from WVU. She also is a published author on effective school leadership. Marple has experience in West Virginia schools in Marion, Monongalia, Greenbrier and Kanawha counties.

As a principal at Tiskelwah Elementary School in Kanawha County, she helped students significantly improve their standardized test scores, which earned Tiskelwah a National Blue Ribbon School distinction. In her application, Marple cited evidence of her work experience and education as they relate to each of the state Board of Education's 13 “essential criteria” for state superintendent of schools.

In addition, she highlighted several years of experience in helping to create the state's 21st century skills program, "Global 21: Students deserve it. The world demands it.” The effort, led by former Supt. Paine, has garnered West Virginia national and international attention for its bold reforms. The plan has increased rigor and relevance and incorporated real-world learning and performance skills, such as problem solving and creative thinking, into the state content standards and objectives.

"Although much has been accomplished, this initiative is at a pivotal point, just beginning to reap benefits," Marple said. "Without appropriate leadership, knowledge and skill, progress could be diminished."

Marple also has been involved in the state Department of Education’s work with pre-kindergarten programs, school technology implementation, school leadership development programs, reading initiatives and teacher quality efforts.

Source: West Virginia Department of Education and other resources

 

By Jim Wallace

The House of Delegates has passed House Bill 2757, which specifies how evaluations of teachers and other professional personnel should be handled. The bill also would change deadlines for school boards to take certain personnel actions.

The bill passed almost unanimously but only after an attempt to increase the number of formal teacher evaluations principals must conduct.

The bill calls for teachers in their first or second year of employment to be evaluated twice a year using at least two observations of 30 minutes each for each evaluation.  Third-year teachers would be evaluated once a year with two, 30-minute observations. Teachers in their fourth year or beyond who have not received an unsatisfactory evaluation within the last five years would get just informal evaluations, unless a principal or assistant principal decides a formal evaluation is needed.

Professional support personnel and athletic coaches would be subject to a similar process.

But House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, proposed an amendment that would have required formal evaluations for teachers with more than three years of service.

“If you only evaluate the teacher for the first three years, and a teacher has been there for 10-15 years, are you going to know that they’re accurate and current on the subject matter?” – House Minority Leader Tim Armstead

“If you only evaluate the teacher for the first three years, and a teacher has been there for 10-15 years, are you going to know that they’re accurate and current on the subject matter?” he asked his colleagues. “If this is a good process for the first three years, why is it not a good process for years four and moving forward?”

However, House Education Chairwoman Mary Poling, D-Barbour, found it odd that Armstead was offering his amendment after supporting a similar bill when lawmakers worked on education reform proposals during a pair of special sessions last year.

“The teacher evaluation provisions in this bill are essentially the same as those passed with only once dissenting vote by this House in the July special session, and that one dissenting vote was from a member who’s no longer here,” she said. “So in July, the provisions of this bill were acceptable.”

Poling also argued that requiring formal evaluations for teachers with more than three years of experience would be too burdesome for principals and not very effective

“The problem we’re trying to redress is the fact that the Legislature – unconstitutionally we believe – has shifted the reporting obligation for OPEB to the individual counties.” – Andy Fusco, attorney for school boards

“Under the amendment, valuable time needed for identifying and assisting low-performing teachers would be wasted in order to formally gather volumes of repetitive data on effective teachers, such as National Board-certified teachers and other easily recognized master teachers,” she said. “As the delegate from the 32nd [District – Armstead] so clearly pointed out, most teachers are good teachers.”

But Armstead still disagreed with Poling.

“We need to change our attitude about evaluation from a negative to a positive. It should be a process that allows not only the principal to evaluate the teacher but the teacher to express concerns and continue to grow together as a principal and a teacher to make their classroom more effective in educating children,” he said. “I don’t think this it’s a waste of time by any manner.”

Armstead even if principals and assistant principals would have to devote two to three weeks just on doing evaluations, it would be an effective use of time.

Most delegates went along with Poling with just 23 voting for Armstead’s amendment and 75 voting against it. The House then approved the bill on a 97-to-1 vote.

The bill also changes the several personnel deadlines. It would make April 1 the last day for a school board to determine whether to terminate a teacher’s contract or a teacher to submit a resignation. The current deadline is February 1. The same change also would be made for the deadline for a superintendent to notify an employee that he or she is being considered for a transfer. A hearing on that matter would have to be held by May 1, instead of the current deadline of March 15. Likewise, a superintendent would have until May 1, not March 15, to provide the school board with a list of teachers and other employees being considered for further employment the following school year. A bill moving through the Senate, Senate Bill 280, would make similar changes in the deadlines.

 

By Jim Wallace

The House Education Committee approved three bills this week to reduce the number of dropouts, to give schools more flexibility in the use of assessment tools, and to give school boards more flexibility in entering into energy-saving contracts.

House Bill 2739 started out as a proposal from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin called the Local Solution Dropout Prevention and Recovery Act, but the committee substituted its own version.

The committee’s version differs from the governor’s version by making the act a special category of the Innovation Zones law. That means schools, groups of schools and school districts could apply to participate through the Innovation Zone process. Under the original bill from the administration, a separate program would be created with a similar application and approval process.

However, there would be some differences from the regular Innovation Zone process. For example, Local Solution Dropout Prevention and Recovery Innovation Zones would be restricted to schools, groups of schools or school districts with graduation rates below the state average. Also, there would be one application and approval process instead of two.

“Even though I think it’s a great effort, and I don’t have a solution to this particular problem, I don’t think doing something is a replacement for doing what would accomplish the stated purpose. – Delegate Marty Gearhart

“The reason why we felt this would be really relevant to Innovation Zones is because we had a presentation by Mon County, Calhoun County and two other counties that the Education Alliance already has this program,” Delegate Stan Shaver, D-Preston, said. “So these programs are already there. In an Innovation Zone, they have to go through a whole year process before they actually get involved. This will let those individuals take a look at programs that are already there, and then schools can come up with a plan and submit it, and then it can get started instead of waiting another year.”

Most committee members voted in favor of the bill, but Delegate Marty Gearhart, R-Mercer, spoke out against it, saying the findings in it are questionable and he doubts the bill’s provisions will work. “Even though I think it’s a great effort, and I don’t have a solution to this particular problem, I don’t think doing something is a replacement for doing what would accomplish the stated purpose,” he said.

House Bill 2739 now goes to the House Finance Committee for further consideration.

New bill is meant to improve on an old bill.

A bill the committee originated (meaning it did not have a number yet) is designed to fix a problem in House Bill 4436, which the Legislature passed last year. Shaver said that bill was designed “to let good schools be able to teach.” He said it tried to reward schools that meet adequate yearly progress (AYP) by allowing them to choose which state-approved assessments they want to use.

But as Josh Sword of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia said, a glitch turned up.

“It seems like the intent of the legislation was never really completed in practice. When the waivers were requested, they seemed to not be granted. We would like to see that the schools that are doing well have some leniency on these tests. – Misty Peal of WVEA

“The bill allowed those schools that made AYP to request a waiver of policy for these tests or these assessments that are not mandated,” he said. “Well, if they’re not mandated, they’re not adopted in policy, not at the state level, not at the board level. So there was nothing to waive, because the waiver process, quite frankly, said, if you want to do this, you waive the policy.”

Sword said the new bill would remove the waiver process and get to the true intent of what the Legislature wanted to do. Misty Peal of the West Virginia Education Association agreed.

“It seems like the intent of the legislation was never really completed in practice,” she said. “When the waivers were requested, they seemed to not be granted. We would like to see that the schools that are doing well have some leniency on these tests.”

Peal said one good result of working through the problem is that at least it has been determined which assessments are required by the state board and which ones are approved but not required. Amelia Courts, assistant state superintendent in the Division of Educator Quality and System Support, concurred.

“We, too, saw it as a positive opportunity to clarify in writing what was required and what was not and make that clarification for all schools,” she said. “Our goal at the department is to provide as many resources for as many different types of schools and students across the state…. We can certainly see how if all of the options that were provided are taken on by a single school, it would certainly be overwhelming, and that was not our intent.”

The committee approved the bill and sent it to the full House of Delegates.

The third bill, House Bill 2709, would allow school boards to enter into energy-saving contracts for up to 15 years. Currently, the limit is 10 years. It was explained that the longer limit might open up possibilities for greater savings.

The committee approved the bill, which now goes to the House Judiciary Committee for further consideration.

 

By Jim Wallace

The West Virginia Board of Education has adopted a new set of philosophical statements to redesign secondary education in the state.

Some members of House Education Subcommittee B were astounded Thursday afternoon when Kathi D’Antoni, assistant state superintendent in the Office of Technical, Adult and Institutional Education, gave them a briefing.

“The bottom line of what’s happening is unless we change the design of middle schools and high schools, we’re going to lose our students. We’re losing them right now. And this is a drastic change that is being proposed for how we deliver education in West Virginia. – Kathi D’Antoni

During interim legislative meetings leading up to the current regular session of the Legislature, D’Antoni and other Education Department officials had told some lawmakers they were working on a new model for middle schools and high schools. What’s different now is that the state board this week adopted eight prerequisite philosophical viewpoints necessary for policy development and practice within the schools.

“The bottom line of what’s happening is unless we change the design of middle schools and high schools, we’re going to lose our students,” D’Antoni said. “We’re losing them right now. And this is a drastic change that is being proposed for how we deliver education in West Virginia.”

These are the prerequisite viewpoints the board adopted, along with some of D’Antoni’s comments about them:

  • All students must be provided opportunities for expanded learning, 24/7, 365 days per year.
    • D’Antoni said the department already has made many resources available online.

  • All students must be provided equitable access to the appropriate technology necessary to expand and enrich their learning.
    • D’Antoni said, “We have to embrace the technology in our classrooms. Our students are living in a stereo world and walking into a mono school, and they’re bored to tears, and we’re losing them, and they see no connection to where they want to go.”

WVSBA typically sponsors five training sessions per year, including two major statewide meetings, as well as a “drive-in” training session.

  • All students must have access to a comprehensive digital portfolio system that allows them to document competency and personalize their learning.

  • All students must be freed from the inflexible time requirements for acquiring credits and earn credits based on their documented mastery of required content, regardless of time or place.
    • D’Antoni said teaching math in a traditional way in a classroom doesn’t work for some students. They learn through applying the concepts. The idea is not to dumb down the content but teach it in different ways.

  • All students, educators and parents understand the minimum literacy and numeracy skills required for students to transition to the next grade level or sequential course and the required supports available to acquire these skills prior to advancement.
    • D’Antoni said the public school system has never really told parents and student the basic skills needed to enter first grade or fourth grade. “What’s happening is we’re not catching these students until they’re in the eighth grade,” she said. “By that time, they know they’re going to drop out…. We need to know who these students are, target them and provide them alternative education methods to get them back up to speed and put them back into our regular classrooms.”

  • All students must have access to a comprehensive academic and career counseling program to assist them in making “informed” decisions concerning their education and post-secondary goals.
    • This is a “must,” D’Antoni said. “We have some of our brightest students in West Virginia graduating from high school without a clue about what they want to do.” She also said about 70 percent of students go on to post-secondary education, but only 15 percent of them graduate, because most don’t know where they’re headed and drop out. And 50 percent of those who graduate return home to live with their parents, because they got degrees in the wrong fields and can’t get jobs, D’Antoni said. The solution, she said, is to provide counseling early. “It’s not to identify a job; it’s to look at everything that’s available to them, and based on their interests, let them pursue and set goals,” she said.

  • All students will complete a “purposeful” high school program of study that will prepare them for successful transitions to post-secondary education and/or meaningful employment.
    • D’Antoni said all high school students currently are required to take certain classes like algebra and chemistry. Instead, she said, they should have the opportunity after the 10th grade to have individualized education plans.

  • All schools must become community-based and engage students, educators, parents and the community in the learning process.
    • D’Antoni said that too many students, especially those from single-parent families, don’t have advocates at home. “So this piece is saying that our communities need to band together like they used to and help these students who don’t have advocates at home,” she said.

Several delegates had questions about how the new approach would work, but Delegate David Perry, D-Fayette, said he was “flabbergasted” at the state board’s change in direction. “I’m astounded if they really, really mean it,” he said.

D’Antoni said that’s why the department presented the list to the board this week and got members’ approval, “because we didn’t want to work any further in this direction and spend any more time if they were not in tune with this and willing to go in this direction.”

The department also is working to figure out where there are gaps in state law that could hinder the implementation of the new model for secondary schools, she said.

“This totally puts accountability back on the student and parents, along with the education system,” D’Antoni said.

 

 

By Jim Wallace

The Senate Education Committee approved four bills dealing with public schools this week. The bills are aimed at getting math and science teachers into area with critical needs, changing deadlines for school boards to take certain personnel actions, having the School Building Authority to provide funding for vocational education facilities at middle schools, and establishing a single pay grade for cooks.

Senate Bill 229 would provide loan assistance for math and science teachers who agree to teach in areas and schools in critical need of their services. Each recipient would be eligible for up to $2,000 of assistance for each school year with a cap on total assistance of $10,000.

Hallie Mason, director of public policy for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, assured the committee that there is money in the governor’s proposed budget for the program. The bill went on to the Senate Finance Committee for further consideration.

Boards would have more time to act.

Senate Bill 280 would change certain deadlines for school boards to terminate or transfer personnel or to decide on which probationary teachers to retain for another school year. The deadline for terminations teachers or service personnel would move from Feb. 1 to May 1. Boards would have until April 1, instead of Feb. 1, to notify employees being considered for transfers and until May 15, instead of March 15, to hold hearings for those employees. May 30 would become the deadline for a superintendent to notify a school board of which probationary teachers and other employees should be retained for the next school year.

Sen. Richard Browning, D-Wyoming, asked, “Are we putting the boards in any kind of hardship by moving the dates later in the year?”

Hank Hagar, a staff attorney, said it would not cause any problems, because boards still could take those actions earlier if they want to. Senate Education Chairman Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, said the changes would ease problems created by adopting the earlier deadlines a few years ago. The earlier deadlines forced some boards to give termination notices to some employees only to figure out later that they could keep their jobs, he said.

The committee approved Senate Bill 280 and sent it to the full Senate. House Bill 2757, approved by the House of Delegates this week, would make similar changes in the deadlines.

Career-tech facilities could be funded in middle school projects.

Senate Bill 373 would require the School Building Authority, when planning the construction of a middle school or junior high school to provide funding for comprehensive career-technical education facilities to be located on the same site when that is feasible.

The bill, which was recommended by Tomblin, is part of an effort to provide more vocational course options for middle school students in the hopes of engaging some students who might otherwise drop out when they are in high school.

“I think it’s critical for our education system. We are missing about 70 percent of our students, and it’s critical that we start to address these students’ needs. We can do this through comprehensive middle schools. –Kathi D’Antoni, assistant state superintendent

“I think it’s critical for our education system,” Kathi D’Antoni, assistant state superintendent in the Division of Technical, Adult and Instructional Education, told the committee. “We are missing about 70 percent of our students, and it’s critical that we start to address these students’ needs. We can do this through comprehensive middle schools.”

Browning said the bill could be the second big step in recent years to dramatically change education in West Virginia. The first, he said, was to separate community and technical colleges from four-year colleges and universities. Browning said Senate Bill 373 would further change the mindset among West Virginians away from the notion that all students should go to four-year colleges.

“It’s going to provide a new way of educating our students,” he said. “There is nothing wrong with a community and technical college education.”

Browning said he hopes there eventually will be a seamless transfer for students in career-technical programs from middle school through high school through community and technical colleges.

“We hope to train people for a true diversification of our economy,” he said.

With the Education Committee’s approval, Senate Bill 373 goes on to the Senate Finance Committee for further consideration.

Bill would change classifications and pay grades.

The fourth bill, Senate Bill 434, would establish a single pay grade for cooks, as well as making other personnel changes. It is similar to House Bill 2895.

Senate Education counsel Hank Hagar said Senate Bill 434 would:

  • Provide that if an Educational Sign Language Interpreter I or II is required to undertake any training or continuing education to renew or maintain certification as an Educational Sign Language Interpreter I or II, the cost of certification renewal must be paid by the county board.
  • Amend current code so that time devoted to the process of maintaining or acquiring certification, including instructional time, training and testing, that is a condition of employment for a service person constitutes continuing education for meeting the annual continuing education requirements required by state board rule.
  • Delete the following classification titles: Aide I, Audiovisual Technician, Carpenter I, Clerk I, Cook I, Cook II, Cook III, Crew leader, Custodian I, Electrician I,Electronic Technician I, Electronic Technician II, Glazier, Groundsman, Handyman, Heating and Air Conditioning Mechanic I, Key Punch Operator, Lubrication Man, Maintenance Clerk, Mechanic Assistant, Office Equipment Repairman I, OfficeEquipment Repairman II, Plumber I, Printing Operator, Printing Supervisor, Secretary I, Switchboard Operator-Receptionist and Watchman.
  • Transfer employees in all deleted classification titles to another existing or new classification title. Provisions are also included to clarify that those employees do not have to take the competency test for the new classification title; that the transfer does not result in a loss of salary; and that their seniority is to be credited to their new classification category. (Key Punch Operator and WVEIS Data Entry and Administrative Clerk class titles would be excepted from the above provisions.)
  • Establish that no employee may be employed as a Food Services Supervisor for the first time. An employee who holds this classification retains the classification at the same pay grade, and an employee who previously held that classification retains the seniority earned in that classification title. (That provision is effective July 1, 2011.)
  • Allow a Foreman to be assigned work within the classification in addition to supervision of other employees.
  • Change the classification title Graphic Artist to Graphic Designer and adds to the definition.
  • Change the classification title Mail Clerk to Mail Courier.
  • Amend definitions for several other classification titles: Aide II, Custodian II, General Maintenance, Plumber II and Secretary II.
  • Add other new classification titles and include definitions for the new classification titles: Educational Sign Language Interpreter I, Educational Sign Language Interpreter II, Graphic Communications Operator and Technology System Specialist.
  • Assign pay grades for each of the new classification titles: Cook, Educational Sign Language Interpreter I, Educational Sign Language Interpreter II, Graphic Communication Operator and Technology System Specialist.
  • Increase the pay grade or Cafeteria Manager from D to F.
  • Require that an additional $20 per month be added to the minimum monthly pay of each service person classified as a Cook or Cafeteria Manager, either as a single classification 3 title or as part of a multi-classification title who holds three college hours in the area of child nutrition as approved by the West Virginia Department of Education. Cooks and Cafeteria Managers also are to be paid an additional $20 per month for each additional three hours of college credit up to a total of 12 college hours or $80 per month.

According to information provided to the committee by Education Department officials, the bill’s fiscal note amounts to about $2.8 million with the bulk of those dollars to be used to move all persons in the Cook classification to Pay Grade D.

Additional costs include an estimated $660,000 for the proposed Cafeteria Manager position change and about $200,000 for revisions to the remaining classifications.

Senate 434 now goes to the Senate Finance Committee for further consideration.

 

The House Constitutional Revision Committee has approved a resolution that could lead to higher homestead exemptions in some counties.

The exemption gives senior citizens a break on their property taxes.

The resolution would put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot that, if approved by voters, would give counties the option to increase the homestead exemption above its current limit of $20,000. But such a change would have to get the approval of the Legislature and county voters through a referendum. The Legislature would be able to reject, approve or modify a proposed change in the homestead exemption.

The committee approved the resolution after much discussion and a few amendments. One amendment, offered by Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha, would allow a surviving spouse below age 65 to retain the homestead exemption after the death of a husband or wife above age 65.

 

By Jim Wallace

West Virginia already has undergone some political changes in recent months with a governor becoming a U.S. senator, a Senate president acting as governor, controversial shifts in leadership in the Senate and a big field of candidates getting ready to run for a one-year term as governor.

But even more changes are on the way later this year, when the Legislature will face the task of redrawing their own legislative districts as well as those for West Virginia’s three congressional districts.

George Carenbauer, a former chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party, hopes people will put pressure on legislators to provide greater transparency and more public participation in the process than was common in the past. He told a legislative briefing breakfast this week that lawmakers kept redistricting plans secret 10 years ago until they voted on them.

Another change Carenbauer hopes the Legislature will make is to switch to all single-member districts in the House of Delegates. He said West Virginia is unusual compared to most other states in having a lower house with some districts that elect two or more members.

The 2010 Census information needed for determining where to draw district lines is not expected to be available until April, so it won’t be in time for the Legislature’s current, 60-day session. Therefore, lawmakers are expected to have a special session later in the year, probably in the fall.

Congressional districts will change.

What is known is that West Virginia had a population of 1,852,994 people last year. That was an increase of 2.5 percent since the 2000 Census, but West Virginia’s growth lagged behind the national rate of 9.7 percent. West Virginia remains 37th in population and should keep its three seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“We’re in no danger of losing one at this time, but if we keep at this rate, we’re going to lose another one in 10 or 20 years. –George Carenbauer

“We’re in no danger of losing one at this time, but if we keep at this rate, we’re going to lose another one in 10 or 20 years,” Carenbauer said.

What legislators need to realign congressional and legislative districts is more detailed information about the distribution of West Virginia’s population throughout the state. Carenbauer said the general trends are clear from county population estimates the Census Bureau produced in July 2009. He said the greatest growth has occurred in the Eastern Panhandle, and the greatest loss in population has been in the southern counties.

Each congressional district will have to contain about 618,000 people. So Carenbauer said the First District will have to have about 10,000 people added to it, the Second District will have to have 33,000 removed from it, and the Third District will have to have about 23,000 added to it.

The Democrats who control the Legislature will want to protect Third District Rep. Nick Rahall, also a Democrat, so they could add two counties – perhaps Mason and Clay – to his district, he said.

“The rest of the state, from a Democratic perspective, is wide open territory .The upper two-thirds of the state is Republican territory, and it can be configured however it needs to be in order to give the best advantage to the Democrats. –George Carenbauer

“The rest of the state, from a Democratic perspective, is wide open territory,” Carenbauer said. “The upper two-thirds of the state is Republican territory, and it can be configured however it needs to be in order to give the best advantage to the Democrats. Both of those seats are held by Republicans right now. The last time we redistricted, there were two Democrats with [Alan] Mollohan and Rahall with [Shelley Moore] Capito in between, so Capito was advantaged by that, because she was sandwiched between two Democrats. Neither one of the Democrats was particularly interested in changing the configuration of the districts, so she was protected from that. She doesn’t have that protection this time.”

Currently, the three districts run generally in horizontal bands across the state, but Carenbauer said lawmakers don’t have to continue that pattern now that Republican David McKinley has taken over the First District seat held for many years by Mollohan. “You could put, if you wanted to, McKinley and Capito in the same district, forcing one of them out of office,” he said, showing a map that would include both McKinley’s home in Wheeling and Capito’s home in Charleston in one district.

One county gets a lot of attention.

“Kanawha County seems to be in the center of a lot of things with respect to redistricting,” Carenbauer said. “It’s where Congresswoman Capito is from. It has the combined district of the Eighth and 17th in the state Senate.”

When the state Senate districts are redrawn this year, he said, Kanawha County no longer will be able to keep those overlapping districts that were created almost 50 years ago, when about 250,000 people lived in the county, rather than the current 192,000. During the last redistricting 10 years ago, Kanawha County was barely able to get by with keeping the overlapping districts, Carenbauer said. Because two senators are elected from each district, that has meant that Kanawha County has had four senators.

“It’s very likely that its population has changed and it won’t be able to retain that,” Carenbauer said, and then suggested two alternatives.

Because each of the Senate’s 17 districts will have to include about 109,000 people, to retain two overlapping districts would require joining Kanawha with a neighboring county, such as Jackson, to get a total of 218,000 residents, he said. But because of rules for multi-county districts, that would mean that Kanawha County would have just two senators while the other two would come from the other county.

“In either event, Kanawha County would lose at least one of its four state senators. –George Carenbauer

Carenbauer said the other alternative would be to put 109,000 Kanawha County residents entirely within one district and put the rest of Kanawha County in a district with one or more neighboring counties. That would mean that Kanawha County would have three senators and lose just one senator to another county.

“In either event, Kanawha County would lose at least one of its four state senators,” Carenbauer said.

Hodgepodge in House could change.

Redistricting the House of Delegates could be even more interesting, he said, because it currently has a “hodgepodge” system with varying numbers of delegates coming from each district. The House has 100 members in 58 districts distributed this way:

    • 36 one-member districts;
    • 11 two-member districts;
    • 6 three-member districts;
    • 3 four-member districts;
    • 1 five-member district; and
    • 1 seven-member district.

Carenbauer said West Virginia is out of step with the rest of the nation, because only 10 states have a lower house with something other than just single-member districts, and only Maryland, New Hampshire and West Virginia have districts with more than two members in them. Only two states New Hampshire and West Virginia have more than three in any one district, he said.

“New Hampshire has a better excuse than we do for multi-member districts,” Carenbauer said. “Its House is 400 members in a state with a population half the size of ours. My sister is in that body, and each member represents 3,000 people. So you can see why they’d be more likely to have a multi-member district instead of chopping the state into how many districts that would be.”

The seven-member 30th District in Kanawha County has been the target of many critics who oppose multi-member districts. Carenbauer noted that the district is equal in size with the Northern Panhandle, which is divided into four counties.

“All seven of the delegates live in either Charleston or South Charleston, and remember, part of Charleston is in that 31st District,” he said. “So all seven of them live in those two towns. Together, that portion of those two towns is 48,000 people. Outside of that 48,000, there are 80,000 people. There is nobody among those 80,000 in the Legislature, nor has there been anybody for 10 years. And that’s what happens you have a large population nucleus.”

To illustrate how unfair such a system is, Carenbauer suggested imagining what it would be like if all 100 members of the House of Delegates were chosen statewide.

“Kanawha County has 10 percent of that population,” he said. “If you were to do that, you’re not going to have 10 percent of the delegates coming from Kanawha County. You’d probably have 45 percent of the delegates coming from Kanawha County, and that’s what happens when you construct a district like this.”

The rest of Kanawha County in the 30th District is left without a delegate to call its own, Carenbauer said.

“Another effect of multi-member districts is that it really pits people of the same party against each other. –George Carenbauer

“Another effect of multi-member districts is that it really pits people of the same party against each other,” he said. When he was Democratic Party chairman, Carenbauer got complaints from Democrats complaining about other Democrats running against them in the general election.

Single-member districts of about 18,500 people each make sense, he said, for several reasons:

  • Equal treatment – the best reason. “Berkeley County is now the second-largest county in the state after Kanawha County,” Carenbauer said. “Berkeley County is divided into single-member districts. Harrison County, Raleigh County, Kanawha County are not, and we have this hodgepodge. We have single-members districts all the way up to a seven-member district. I think a pretty good argument is: Everybody in the state should be treated the same.”
  • Cheaper campaign costs – A simple mailer costs about 50 cents apiece. It would cost about $4,500 to reach registered voters in a single-member district, but $31,500 in the 30th District. It’s a barrier of entry. If you want to run in the 30th District, you must raise seven times as much money.
  • Elimination of party squabbles in the general election.
  • Elimination of a political anachronism. Multiple-member districts were abolished for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1842.
  • Delegates would be closer to the people.
  • Greater accountability.
  • The idea is gaining support.

Political winds are shifting.

For many years, the common thought has been that Republicans support switching to single-member districts while Democrats oppose it. But Carenbauer said it’s shortsighted to say that a move to single-member districts is just to elect more Republicans, because the political dynamics in the state are changing:

  • Democrats are losing the party registration edge.
  • There is closer parity in straight-ticket voting.
  • Republicans are gaining in federal races.
  • There was a surprising general election Supreme Court race in 2010.

Carenbauer said the Democrats edge in party registration has slipped from 67 percent in 1990 to 62 percent in 2000 to 54 percent in 2010.

“The growth of independents has been striking. –George Carenbauer

“The growth of independents has been striking,” he said. “People largely are registering initially as independents, and it’s rapidly coming down. I would say within the next four years it will be less than half the people in West Virginia will be registered Democratic.”

In the latest election, 54 percent of straight-ticket votes went Democratic and 46 percent went Republican, Carenbauer said, so Democrats can no longer count on straight-ticket voters to pull them through some races.

A good example, he said, was the Supreme Court race between incumbent Justice Thomas McHugh, a Democrat, and former state Sen. John Yoder, a Republican. McHugh spent $287,338 to Yoder’s $5,848 and just barely won with 50 percent of the vote to 49 percent.

“Justice McHugh had everybody’s support, Carenbauer said. “Justice McHugh is as uncontroversial and as well-liked a person as exists in politics. He spent 40 times as much as John Yoder, and the next result was 50 [percent] to 49 [percent]. So if there’s an assumption that being a Democrat is just going to sweep you into office, when one guy can spend 49 times as much as the other and almost lose, I think that that presumption is no longer valid.”

Carenbauer suggested a “to do” list for people who want to improve the redistricting process:

  • During the regular legislative session, advocate for a procedure for transparency and public participation.
  • Push a move toward single-member districts
  • During and after the session, contact legislators and candidates for governor.
  • Consider a constitutional amendment or legislation for an independent commission to be established to handle the next redistricting in 10 years.

 

By Howard O’Cull

A third county board member compensation bill has been introduced this legislative session. House Bill 3077, which was introduced Wednesday, would provide county board members $150 in compensation for each training “session” attended. They would be able to receive compensation for up to six such “sessions” per fiscal year.

The compensation would be in addition to the $160 compensation for meetings attended that members have received since 2001. The number of meetings for which compensation can be received is capped at 50 meetings per fiscal year.

Language in House Bill 3077 reads: “Board members may additionally receive compensation at a rate not to exceed $150 per session and six sessions per fiscal year for attending training sessions sanctioned by the county board member training standards review committee appointed under (§18-5-1s) and approved by the State Board of Education.”

Another compensation bill, Senate Bill 415, would increase per diem compensation for county board members from $160 per meeting to $225 per meeting. The 50 meetings per year cap would be retained. For county boards having more than 20,000 students – Kanawha County – the per diem pay would be set at $225, but that board (or other boards in the future) would be compensated for up to 65 meetings per year.

Additionally, Senate Bill 415 would provide county board members $100 per training session for up to 12 training sessions per fiscal year. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Richard Browning, D-Wyoming, and Senate Education Chairman Bob Plymale, D-Wayne.

Yet another bill, House Bill 2078, introduced during the first day of the 2011 regular session, would increase board member compensation to $396 per meeting. Delegate Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming, introduced that bill.

According to research conducted by the West Virginia School Board Association in 2008, the “typical” county board meets 37 times per year. County board members are required to receive seven clock hours’ training per year.

Based on requests from legislators, county superintendents are being surveyed to acquire compensation-related data from the last three fiscal years. About 30 counties have provided that information to West Virginia School Board Association offices.

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