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February 3, 2012 - Volume 32 Issue 7


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

By Jim Wallace

Earl Ray Tomblin, West Virginia’s 35th governor, is the keynote speaker for the West Virginia School Board Association’s 2012 Winter Conference.

Tomblin, a native of Logan County, will speak at 1:00 p.m., Friday, February 17.

The Conference will be held in Charleston at the Town Center Marriott Hotel on Feb. 17 and 18.

The meeting will commence with Tomblin’s presentation Friday. The session, which will include training workshops and the FY13 Annual Business Meeting, will conclude at noon, Saturday, Feb. 18.

“We are extremely pleased the governor can attend our Winter Conference,” WVSBA President Sis Murray (Marion) said. She said the association should be supportive of Tomblin’s leadership, especially in terms of fiscal policy and public education.

A self-employed businessman and former school teacher, Gov. Tomblin was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1974 at the age of 22 and held that position until he was elected to the West Virginia Senate in 1980. Gov. Tomblin was the longest-serving Senate president, a position he has held from 1995 until he was elected governor in 2011. As Senate president, he was named the state’s first lieutenant governor in 2000. He has dedicated his professional career to public service for the betterment of West Virginia.Tomblin received his undergraduate degree from West Virginia University, a master’s degree in business administration from Marshall University and attended the University of Charleston.

As president of the Senate, he was called upon to fulfill the state’s highest office when then-Gov. Manchin resigned the position to fill the unexpired term of U. S. Senator Robert C. Byrd. Tomblin won the October 4, 2011, special gubernatorial election to fulfill the remainder of Manchin’s unexpired term. Tomblin was sworn in for that term on November 13, 2011.

Gov. Tomblin enjoys a variety of outdoor activities, including riding ATV trails and gardening. He has been married for 31 years to the former Joanne Jaeger. They have one son, Brent.


By Jim Wallace

Leaders of the West Virginia School Board Association gave their pitch this week to the Senate Education Committee for Senate Bill 328, which would increase the pay school board members receive for attending meetings. The House of Delegates has an identical bill, House Bill 4073.

“We’re very proud of our county board service,” WVSBA President Sis Murray of Marion County told the senators.  “Our students are our focus.”

“We take our roles seriously, working diligently for our students within a variety of constraints, constitutional and even statutory. We can and do make a difference for the students of West Virginia.” – WVSBA President Sis Murray

The WVSBA promotes high accountability among board members, she said. “We take our roles seriously, working diligently for our students within a variety of constraints, constitutional and even statutory,” Murray said. “We can and do make a difference for the students of West Virginia.”

Barbara Parsons, president of the Monongalia County school board, reviewed for the committee how standards for school board members have improved over the past few decades.  In 1989, WVSBA secured passage of legislation that requires a board member to have a high school diploma or GED. In 1990, the association got legislation that requires a board member to receive training before assuming office. Parsons, who is a member of the County Board Member Training Standards Review Committee, said West Virginia is the only state to require such training.
“We’re the only group of elected officials who are required to evaluate our performance annually,” she said in comparing board members to other public officeholders in West Virginia. The WVSBA now is trying to define standards for high-functioning school boards, which is in line with the recent education efficiency audit, Parsons said.

“Research has shown that decisions of school boards have a greater long-term impact of the communities they serve than any other elected body at any level of government.” – Barbara Parsons

“Research has shown that decisions of school boards have a greater long-term impact of the communities they serve than any other elected body at any level of government,” she said, but serving on a board takes much time, especially for members who work fulltime jobs or are self-employed.

“Fewer persons are seeking election to county boards,” Parsons said.

Jim Crawford, a member of the Kanawha County school board, told the senators, “What we are requesting is a $40 per meeting increase in compensation.”

The new legislation would raise members’ pay for attending school board meetings from $160 to $200 while retaining the current cap of 50 meetings per year. It also would increase pay for members who attend meetings of Regional Education Service Agency councils from $100 to $200 with the current cap of 12 meetings a year. In addition, members who serve on such councils as those serving multi-county vocational centers would get up to $200 per meeting for up to 12 meetings each year.

Crawford said board members also would like to receive some pay for attending training sessions. He noted that many of them must use annual leave or vacation time from their jobs to go to get that training. The legislation would permit up to $200 per day for up to six days. Crawford said the WVSBA doesn’t want such pay to be “perceived as lucrative.” He asked Senate Education Chairman Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, to put Senate Bill 328 on his committee’s agenda. Plymale made no public commitment to do so.

The bill’s counterpart, House Bill 4073, also has not been placed on the House Education Committee’s agenda yet.


Bill aims to reduce athletes’ head injuries.

In other business, the Senate Education Committee approved a few bills this week, including Senate Bill 340, which would require the Secondary School Activities Commission to propose legislative rules about management of concussions and other head injuries in school sports. The bill specifically would require three types of rules at the minimum:

  • Each youth athlete and that student’s parent or guardian must sign and return a concussion and head injury information each year before engaging in practice or competition. A “youth athlete” is defined as any athlete under age 18.
  • A youth athlete who is suspected of sustaining a concussion or head injury in a practice or game shall be removed from competition at that time.
  • A youth athlete who has been removed from play may not return to play until he or she is evaluated by a licenses health care provider trained in the evaluation and management of concussion and the athlete received written clearance from that provider to return to play. Such a health care provider may be a volunteer, and in that capacity, the provider would not be liable for civil damages resulting from such care. For the purposes of the bill, the definition of a health care provider would include a medical doctor, a doctor of osteopathy, an advanced nurse practitioner, a physician’s assistant and a licensed, certified athletic trainer.

"I fully support this bill,” Sen. Richard Browning, D-Wyoming, said. “Kids do get injured playing in sports in high school, and lots of times, those injuries aren’t recognized at the time.”

However, he questioned whether a licensed, certified athletic trainer should be included in the same definition with other medical personnel. Plymale said he also was concerned about that, but he said the bill still had to go through the Senate Judiciary Committee, so any necessary changes could be made when it gets there.

When Sen. Dan Foster, D-Kanawha, asked about what others states do, staff attorney Hank Hagar said 31 states have similar legislation, and Senate Bill 340 is modeled after Colorado's legislation.

Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, is the bill’s lead sponsor, but he suggested it might not go far enough. He said if Senate Bill 340 becomes law, the Legislature later might want to consider expanding its provisions to cover non-school-based sports leagues.  

Plymale said he has spoken to officials at the SSAC who told him that passing the bill would help game officials have “some teeth” when they decide that an injured athlete should not return to play. There have been times when parents have tried to overrule such decisions, he said.

Foster said he had received a call from a surgeon at Charleston Area Medical Center who wanted a bill like that and didn’t know that one already had been drafted.


Bill would have public education work closer with higher education.

Another bill the Senate Education Committee approved was Senate Bill 436, which would facilitate collaboration between public school and higher education systems to promote seamless curricula. The bill would establish the West Virginia EDGE initiative and the Collaboration Degree Completion Program. (EDGE originally stood for “Earn a Degree, Graduate Early). It also would require the state school board to offer adult basic education programs on community and technical college campuses, and it would establish a select committee to study and make recommendation on outcomes-bases funding models.

The final bill the committee approved was Senate Bill 327, which would provide an exemption for the Patriot, the official mascot of Parkersburg South High School, to allow that person to carry a musket on school grounds while acting in his or her official capacity. It would give the Patriot essentially the same clearance as the West Virginia University Mountaineer.

Parkersburg South Principal Tom Eschbacher told the committee the Patriot already has permission to carry the musket at home games, but other schools often prohibit it when Parkersburg South plays road games. When asked what happens when the school plays games at Ohio schools, Eschbacher said the mascot carries the musket to those games but does not fire it.

The committee’s approval of the bill sends it to the Senate Judiciary Committee for further consideration.

Plymale assigned a bill about performance evaluations for professional education personnel and instituting a teacher mentoring system, Senate Bill 372, to a subcommittee. Members of the subcommittee are: Browning; Stollings; Larry Edgell, D-Wetzel; Bill Laird, D-Fayette; and Donna Boley, R-Pleasants. The subcommittee might also study reduction in force in schools, Plymale said.


Efforts to help students prepare for college are working but need more money.

The Senate Education Committee also received a presentation from Adam Green of the Higher Education Policy Commission on state-level college access and student success programs. Green is senior director for student success and P-20 initiatives, which are a series of programs to create a more seamless and integrated education experience from pre-kindergarten through undergraduate levels of college.

Green said the College Foundation of West Virginia has been building public awareness of college- and career-planning processes and informing students and their parents of post-high school opportunities. The program has established a Web portal,, which he described as a one-stop shop for planning for college and careers. Green said the program also provides professional development to assist educators and counselors in improving the college-readiness of students. He said it is building a college-going culture in West Virginia.

Another program is called West Virginia GEAR UP, which stands for “Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs.” Green said it delivers direct, intensive college readiness and rigorous academic preparation services to students in 10 high-need counties and evaluates the effects of intensive college readiness interventions. The 10 counties include: Wirt, Roane, Clay, Webster, Lincoln, Boone, Mingo, McDowell, Wyoming and Summers.

A third program is College Goal Sunday, which provides students and families with personalized assistance in applying for state and federal financial aid. This year, February 12 is designated as College Goal Sunday.

Green also spoke about P-20 collaboration and support efforts. The objectives are to:

  • Facilitate greater P-20 alignment by organizing joint initiatives among key stakeholders at all levels and providing forums for collaboration;
  • Support the work of the Higher Education Policy Commission’s adult-learner degree completion programs, including the Degree Now grant program and the RBA Today initiative; and
  • Support the work of the commission’s Division of Financial Aid in informing students, families and counselors of the availability of financial aid and the application process.

Green thanked legislators for the onetime appropriation of $2 million they put into the programs. He said the return on investment has been more than $23 million in grants from outside organizations.

“It would not have been possible without you all putting some money up front and showing your commitment.” – Adam Green

“It would not have been possible without you all putting some money up front and showing your commitment,” Green said.

Early results show the efforts have increased participation levels among target audiences, he said. These are the results Green listed:

  • Over a two-year period, almost 100,000 individuals have created accounts on Accounts created during the 2010-2011 academic year increased by 12 percent compared to those created the prior year.
  • In 2011, almost 195,000 individuals visited the portal. The average visitor viewed more than 11 pages on the site.
  • Participation in College Goal Sunday 2011 grew by 300 percent from the prior year.
  • About 62 percent of those participating in College Goal Sunday 2011 were from a population identified as underserved, including first-generation students, low-income families and minority students.
  • The number of adult learners creating accounts on increased steadily during the 2010-2011 academic year from the prior year.
  • Use of the ACT test-preparation tool surged in the fall of 2011.

Green told the committee West Virginia has the opportunity to get $1.5 million annually in Federal College Access Challenge Grants in 2012, 2013 and 2014, but the state must match each one with $750,000 of its own money. So he requested a total appropriation of $2.25 million from the Legislature for that purpose.

The committee did not take immediate action on that request but members seemed receptive to it.


By Jim Wallace

The House Education Committee approved three public education bills this week and has one more to go.

House Bill 4054 would alter how the Public School Support Program, also known as the School Aid Formula Step 6-A, is calculated. That is the “Foundation Allowance for Current Expense and Substitute Employees.”

Currently, the allowance is calculated at 10 percent of total state salary costs. These funds are distributed to the county boards of education proportional to the average of each county’s average daily attendance and net enrollment. But the bill would change the basis for the calculation to the state average expenditures for operation and maintenance per square foot per student. Each county’s allocation would be determined by multiplying the state average per student cost by the county’s net enrollment which would be limited to student density.

According to House Education staff, the measure was stricken as part of a cost-reduction made a few years ago when the formula last was amended. Although the House has adopted it during the last several sessions, the legislation has failed to get through the Senate.

Based on the bill’s Fiscal Note, as prepared by the state Department of Education, it would appear each county board will receive additional dollars under this approach except for Ohio County which would lose about $2,000 in funding.

House Bill 4054 now goes to the House Finance Committee for further consideration.

The second bill the House Education Committee considered, House Bill 4243, deals with disclosure of sex offender registration and generated considerable discussion. The measure would require the State Police to notify private elementary and secondary schools, along with colleges and post-secondary training facilities that do not have campus police departments, of the presence of registered sex offenders.

Several committee members asked State Police representatives who were present at the meeting about sex offender registration. Based on state and federal laws and reportage requirements, Delegate Joe Ellington, R-Mercer, wanted to know if it were possible for sex offenders to be working in public schools.

In a series of follow up questions, Del. Ralph Rodighiero, D-Logan, and other members asked what to do if sex offenders were discovered working in the schools and they were.

State Police representatives made several points about their role in disseminating sex offender registration information and the statutory limitations of their role, which mostly regards reporting of information. Terri Swecker, who is responsible for helping to maintain the Sex Offender Registration Network for the State Police provided much of the information.

House Bill 4243 goes to the House Judiciary Committee for further consideration.

The third bill, House Bill 4299, would permit bus operators employed by another county board to operate leased buses if bus operators from the county board that owns the buses are not available.

According to committee staff, such arrangements might be necessary for the Boy Scouts’ $200 million Summit Bechtel Reserve project in Fayette County by July 2013, when the national Jamboree is scheduled to be held. It’s held every four years and attracts up to 40,000 scouts, 8,000 volunteers and 20,000 additional visitors, according to promotional materials from the West Virginia Department of Commerce among other sources.  

House Bill 4299 goes to the House Finance Committee for further consideration.


By Jim Wallace

A bill to pay off West Virginia’s liability for OPEB – other post-employment benefits – and relieve school boards of most of the portion of that liability assigned to them is moving quickly through the Legislature. This comes after several years in which lawmakers struggled to figure out what to do about the OPEB liability, most of which represents health care benefits promised to present and future retirees from public-sector jobs.

Senate Bill 469, which was requested by Gov. Tomblin, came out of a subcommittee Monday evening and received quick approval from the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday afternoon. The full Senate passed the bill on a 32-0 vote Wednesday and sent it on to the House of Delegates. The House assigned it to the Finance Committee on Thursday.

The bill provides that county school boards would no longer have to carry on their books any liability for OPEB for current or past employees with salaries covered by the School Aid Formula. The boards still would be responsible for out-of-formula employees’ OPEB costs. That change has been a priority not only for county boards but also the state school board and the Education Department.

To pay off the state’s OPEB liability, the bill would use a portion of personal income tax revenue that is now being used to pay off the old workers’ compensation fund debt, which has just a few more years to go. Beginning in 2016, $30 million a year of that revenue would be devoted to pay off the OPEB liability. Another $5 million would be put into an Employee Trust Fund, which would be used for post-retirement benefits for public employees hired after July 1, 2010. Two years ago, the Public Employees Insurance Agency Finance Board had cut those new employees out of eventually receiving the retiree subsidy for health care benefits as a means to reduce the size of the OPEB liability. It is not clear yet what type of benefits those people would receive from the new fund.

“We’re going to take care of the OPEB debt. And we’re going to put $5 million aside a year for those teachers that were hired in the year 2010, because they get no health care benefits or options. We’re going to have some money in there somewhere down the line to maybe help those folks. So we’re good managers of our money.” – Sen. Roman Prezioso

“We’re going to pay that debt off, we think, in about 24 years,” Senate Finance Chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, said Tuesday. “We’re going to take care of the OPEB debt. And we’re going to put $5 million aside a year for those teachers that were hired in the year 2010, because they get no health care benefits or options. We’re going to have some money in there somewhere down the line to maybe help those folks. So we’re good managers of our money.”

Prezioso said the current estimate of the liability is $4.8 billion to $4.9 billion. It was more than twice as large before the PEIA Finance Board voted in December to cap the growth in retiree health care benefits.

State school Supt. Jorea Marple said this week that school boards would be left with about $72 million in OPEB liability for positions funded outside the School Aid Formula.


Bill has cost-management provisions, too.

Senate Bill 469 also calls for the director of PEIA to help reduce the state’s OPEB liability through several actions that would lower costs for retirees’ health care. The bill states that the director “should make every effort to evaluate and administer programs to improve quality, improve health status of members, develop innovative payment methodologies, manage health care delivery costs, evaluation effective benefit designs, evaluate cost sharing and benefit based programs, and adopt effective industry programs that can manage the long-term effectiveness and costs for the programs at the Public Employees Insurance Agency.”

The bill says those efforts should include, but not be limited to:

  1. Increasing generic drug fill rates;
  2. Managing specialty pharmacy costs;
  3. Implementing and evaluating medical home models and health care delivery;
  4. Coordinating with providers, private insurance carriers and, to the extent possible, Medicare to encourage the establishment of cost-effective accountable care organizations;
  5. Exploring and developing advanced payment methodologies for care delivery such as case rates, capitation and other potential risk-sharing models and partial risk-sharing models for accountable care organizations and/or medical homes;
  6. Adopting measures identified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to reduce cost and enhance quality;
  7. Evaluating the expenditures to reduce excessive use of emergency room visits, imaging services and other drivers of the agency’s medical rate of inflation;
  8. Recommending cutting-edge benefit designs to the Finance Board to drive behavior and control costs for the plans;
  9. Implementing programs to encourage the use of the most efficient and high-quality providers by employees and retired employees;
  10. Identifying employees and retired employees who have multiple chronic illnesses and initiating programs to coordinate the care of these patients;
  11. Initiating steps by the agency to limit or eliminate the payment by the agency for treating hospital-acquired infections and related events; and
  12. Initiating steps by the agency to limit or eliminate the number of employees and retired employees who are readmitted to a hospital for the same diagnosis-related group illness within 30 days of being discharged by a hospital in West Virginia or another state.

Legislators would keep track of those efforts by requiring the director of PEIA to provide the Joint Committee on Government and Finance with an annual progress report on the implementation of any reforms initiated as a result of the bill or by the agency on its own initiative.


By Jim Wallace

State Supt. Jorea Marple demonstrated this week that she learns from experience. She had a rough experience last week when Senate Finance Chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, and other members of his committee criticized the budget requests she presented on behalf of the Department of Education and the state Board of Education. She modified her presentation when she gave it to the House Finance Committee this week and had a friendlier reception.

Prezioso rejected four of the five legislative priorities Marple presented, saying they were not addressed enough at helping students. “I think if this is the best we can do, then we do have some problems,” he said. “We got to look at students. We got to look at more things that are going on in that classroom about testing procedures that we use, about teacher involvement, parental involvement. Quite frankly, I have a hard time buying into these five legislative priorities.”

When Marple spoke about the same priorities to the House Finance Committee, she explained more explicitly how they would help students do better.

“It’s all about our children – our children and their success in this state and ultimately the success of the state,” she said. “This budget is all based on the needs of children in this state as we serve them in grades pre-k through 12.”

As she did before the Senate committee, Marple laid out the process of how the department and school board developed the legislative requests by beginning with three goals set by the board on what students should know, how they should behave and what they should accomplish. She also said the requests are based on four strategic priorities:

  • Personalized learning: To meet the personal needs of each student;
  • Elevate teachers and learning: To elevate the importance of great teachers and learning;
  • Stakeholder commitment and involvement: To make the improvement of public education a moral imperative of every citizen and stakeholder; and
  • Innovation and flexibility: To accelerate innovation and transform schools to meet Global21 demands.

As with the previous presentations she had given to the Senate Finance Committee and the House Education Committee, Marple also used a five-minute video that explained the demographic challenges of educating students in West Virginia, such as the high rate of poverty, high rate of homelessness, high rate of teen pregnancy and a big substance abuse problem. But many of the words she used in speaking to the House Finance Committee seemed designed to address some of the criticism she received from Prezioso and other senators and perhaps head off such criticism from delegates.

“Our strategic priorities that we’re working on through all the dollars that you provide us are intended to boost attendance in the schools, to decrease the dropout rate, to address the drug problems in our schools and teen pregnancy problems, to address the fact that career education has to be pre-k through 12 – you cannot wait until secondary schools,” Marple said. “It’s about student engagement. It’s about being able to take these children who live in this highly technical world and keep them engaged in the classroom.”

“It’s about student engagement. It’s about being able to take these children who live in this highly technical world and keep them engaged in the classroom.” – Supt. Jorea Marple

The Education Department and the state board have been criticized for being too restrictive on what county school boards and local schools are allowed to do. Before delegates had a chance to comment, Marple told them, “We have over 165 policies. We’ve already cut down almost 30 policies in the past 10 months. We are working to reduce those and take out requirements that restrict flexibility in the classroom.”

Another point she emphasized was that the department and state board made sure that most school districts would support the legislative priorities, especially in regard to student achievement and performance. “In 53 of our 55 counties, these priorities were taken to the boards,” she said.


Department wants more changes in law than in the budget.

Marple told the delegates that most of the legislative priorities are for changes in statute, while only one is an improvement package, meaning it directly asks legislators for funds.

The first legislative priority is for the Legislature to relieve county school boards of the requirement to carry much of the liability for OPEB – other post-employment benefits – on their books. When Marple presented this request to the Senate Finance Committee, she spent little time on it, because she acknowledged that the senators already were familiar with the subject, but later in that meeting, Prezioso charged that OPEB has little direct effect on students’ performance. (Since then, the Senate Finance Committee brought out an OPEB bill that moved quickly through the Senate. For more information on that, see “Senate sends OPEB bill to House” in this issue.) In speaking before the House Finance Committee, Marple took the time to explain the connection.

“So for county superintendents and boards, if the OPEB liability is not addressed, then they would be forced to reduce programming, which will impact student achievement and engagement.” – Supt. Marple

“One of the first things as a superintendent, when you don’t have enough money, you begin to cut programs, and the programming that gets cut are often times those things that are not required by statute or by policy,” Marple, who once served as Kanawha County’s superintendent, said. “You’ll see a reduction in career-technical education. You’ll see a reduction in counselors and psychologists. You’ll see a reduction in the arts. So for county superintendents and boards, if the OPEB liability is not addressed, then they would be forced to reduce programming, which will impact student achievement and engagement.”

Most of West Virginia’s OPEB liability, now projected to be a bit less than $5 billion, represents health care benefits promised to current and future retirees from public-sector jobs. Marple said the portion of that liability attributed to school districts is $557 million. Out of that amount, she said, $72 million is for positions with salaries outside of the School Aid Formula, and that much of the OPEB liability still would be school boards’ responsibilities. “So counties are still going to be faced with that large ticket item,” she said.

In the Senate Finance Committee meeting, Sen. Walt Helmick, D-Pocahontas, asked how much money some districts had set aside in case they had to pay off their OPEB liabilities. Marple was prepared with the answer when she got to the House Finance Committee. She said only about 14 districts have reported setting aside a total of about $20 million for OPEB.

Helmick also had asked about how much unreserved balance school districts had built up and suggested unions might try to get some of that money allocated to pay raises. Marple told the House committee that counties’ total unreserved balance is about $222 million. “We recommend to districts that you at least maintain a 3 percent reserve, because you cannot violate statute by going in debt,” she said. Other reasons why districts might build up unreserved balances, she said, are that they might be putting aside money to match School Building Authority funds for construction projects, or they might be building contingency funds for urgent capital repairs, or they could be building resources so they have fewer reductions in force as federal stimulus money goes away. Some counties have no unreserved balance, she said.


Teacher pay affects student performance.

The second legislative priority is for raises for teachers with the eventual goal of raising West Virginia’s average pay from 48th in the nation to 25th. To make sure lawmakers understood why pay raises would affect students’ achievement, Marple mentioned that she has spoken to students who have had five substitute teachers for one class this year, because a permanent teacher could not be found. She said superintendents and teachers have told her they can’t get enough teachers in classrooms, and statistics show that, in the next five years, 10,000 teachers will be eligible to retire.

“What we’re suggesting to you in this is: Let’s develop a plan,” Marple said.  “We cannot wait for all of these people to leave to attract [new teachers] to our classrooms. Our students, when I talk to them, are not selecting to become an educator when they go to college, and it’s directly related to that. So this request is an acknowledgement that we have a problem in this state.”


Marple keeps trying on technology.

The third legislative priority is for technology. Marple acknowledged that people are calling her “a broken record” on technology, because she has been asking for funding for it for five years. But she said it is needed to keep students up to date and engaged in their studies. 

“Student after student asks me when I visit their school, when is it my turn?” Marple said. “When is it my turn like Wirt High School that is giving – Every child in that high school has a computer, a laptop, an iPad, some type of technology device in order to access this world of learning that’s before them.”

The department is asking the Legislature for an annual appropriation of almost $23 million for four years to fund technology for six grade levels. The plan is for total implementation in all grade levels within eight years.

“State after state is moving to one-to-one technology,” Marple said. “West Virginia cannot get left behind. It will not attract business and industry and more importantly, our children will not be able to move from that 50-pound backpack on their back to carrying a device where you can have PDF files of textbooks on that computer, and they can use it 24/7.”

Access to technology across the state is becoming less equitable as students in some districts acquire more technological devices than those in other districts, she said. Over 10 years, the funding for technology has gone down $30 million, she added.

“I can’t be more passionate about anything in terms of our need to address together technology. It has direct impact on student achievement, student engagement, student attendance and students’ love for learning.” – Supt. Marple

“We’re going the wrong direction,” Marple said. “I can’t be more passionate about anything in terms of our need to address together technology. It has direct impact on student achievement, student engagement, student attendance and students’ love for learning.”

Under the department’s proposal, technology purchases would follow the same funding formula used elsewhere in the public school system: 65 percent state, 25 local and 10 percent federal or grants. Marple noted that all schools in the state are expected to have high-speed Internet connections by the end of this year as a result of a federal grant, so it would be disappointing if some school lacked the technology to take advantage of the connections.

The fourth legislative priority is for the funding cap on Regional Education Service Agencies to be lifted. Marple said that would maximize efficiency in the public school system. She said RESAs have lost 12 technicians needed to support technology, and school boards in every county have said this is an issue.

The final legislative priority, and the only one that found favor from Prezioso, is for a change in statute to allow districts to provide better mentoring and induction programs for new teachers.

“There is a direct relationship between quality of that classroom teacher, the support of that classroom teacher and making sure that new people who come into our profession are supported,” Marple said. What the department wants is for more districts to do what Cabell County has done in developing a new system after the district received an Innovation Zone waiver in statute. “We’re asking for a change in statute that gives the flexibility to counties to develop a comprehensive, quality mentoring program,” Marple said. 


Department is ready to deal with some audit recommendations but not all.

A recently completed efficiency audit of West Virginia’s education system has received much attention. Marple told the delegates she realized they might be wondering about why the department just doesn’t follow recommendations of the audit to save money instead of asking the Legislature for more money. She said education is complex, and the response to the audit is not so simple.

“We work very hard and agree with many of the recommendations in that audit, and we’re working to increase our efficiency,” Marple said. “We have reduced the number of personnel at the department.” She went on to say that other audit recommendations must be evaluated in terms of whether they are good for children and they are good for teachers who serve those children.

“There’s an urgent need in our schools today,” Marple said. “There are fundamental concerns. We must be able to answer those questions our children ask us.” Again, she referred to classes that have had five substitute teachers this year and students who need more access to computers.

Delegate Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, asked Marple if she would willing to support increased pay for teachers in critical need areas like his Eastern Panhandle district on the way to getting better pay for all teachers. But she wasn’t willing to accept that course of action, insisting that increasing the base pay across the state is what is needed.

“The problem is so pervasive,” Marple said. “To identify things in isolation is problematic.” 

“Let me ask it this way then: What can you tell me to help me back home, where I represent the Eastern Panhandle, where our teacher losses and our substitute rates are higher than other areas?” Cowles asked. “What can I tell my constituents back home that our state Department of Education is committed to helping them with their immediate problem or do we have to wait until a long-term solution can be found?”

“I’m here because we have to come up with the solution,” Marple responded. “At the state department, I don’t have a way to find funds to increase salaries, even in critical shortage areas. What I’m saying is, yes, there are critical shortages in the Eastern Panhandle, but there’s also in southern West Virginia and in central West Virginia.”

“Some of the counties where those [salaries] were identified as priority needs did not use the money for those needs. They used them elsewhere.” – Delegate Mary Poling

House Finance Vice-Chairman Tom Campbell, D-Greenbrier, noted that the Legislature has given county districts more local share money, which they could use to address salary issues. House Education Chairwoman Mary Poling, D-Barbour, agreed that local school boards did get more flexibility with that money.

“That’s a great start,” Cowles said. “Let’s keep going.”

But Poling said, “Some of the counties where those [salaries] were identified as priority needs did not use the money for those needs. They used them elsewhere.”


State gets both bad and good rankings for its education system.

Delegate Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said he had read that the American Legislative Exchange Council, which is a politically conservative organization promoting limited government, has ranked West Virginia 50th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia in student performance. He also noted that the efficiency audit said West Virginia has more centralized control of its school system that any other state the auditors had studied. So he asked, “How do you improve the performance of our education system, especially student performance, and not so much from a budgetary perspective?”

Marple said one of the components on which the council based its calculation is the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and she said West Virginia students performed poorly on it. “The good news is that NAEP was administered in February of 2011,” she said. “We have aligned our WESTEST2 to those high-level standards. You have to remember: NAEP assesses about 3,000 students in the state. We include all of our special needs students in taking that assessment that other states do not. So it does impact how well we perform when some states will exclude 13 and 14 percent for special needs population. But with that said, the good news is that our WESTEST2 is now aligned to the high standards on the NAEP. We showed a really significant improvement in achievement when it was administered in June of 2011. We have other indicators that show we are making strides in terms of student achievement. We started on this journey, because we had to change what we taught in our classrooms to align to national standards.”

In regard to the education audit, she said the department plans to take immediate action on 19 or 20 recommendations. “Many of the recommendations in the audit are requests for changes in statute,” she said. “In terms of the central control, that’s the way that our Constitution established public education, and that’s the way that we operate in the state.”

Further, Marple said, the comparison with other states merits much discussion. For example, she said, the department is aggressive at writing for federal grants, and many of those grants require funding for additional positions at the department. Carmichael said he wished West Virginia could have received one of the big Race to the Top grants the U.S. Department of Education awarded to some states. Marple acknowledged that West Virginia did not get one of those grants, because it doesn’t have charter schools.

“Are you a proponent of that?” Carmichael asked in reference to permitting charter schools.

“I believe that we have a duty and responsibility to fund public education, and we have real issues that pertain to public education, and we got to work on those.” – Supt. Marple

“I am not,” Marple said. “I believe that we have a duty and responsibility to fund public education, and we have real issues that pertain to public education, and we got to work on those.”

“I agree we have real issues,” Carmichael said.

Poling provided some balance to Carmichael’s comments. She noted that Quality Counts, which is Education Week’s annual report on education progress, has rated West Virginia well for education policy and equity in funding. Liza Cordeiro, executive director of the Education Department’s Office of Communications, said that West Virginia’s overall ranking from Quality Counts is it ninth in the nation. She called that “a huge accomplishment” for West Virginia.

Marple said the department has put into place the structures needed to change schools. She said it has been a struggle to change what’s required to be taught and to provide professional instruction for teachers. The state has aligned its assessments to national standards, she said, and it’s being recognized nationally for putting those structures into place. Recently, at national meetings, West Virginia is leading the conversation and its representatives are chairing national committees on standards, objectives, career education, assessment and accountability, she said.

“Together, we have enormous problems,” Marple added. “If we address those, we’re going to see enormous progress in this state, and our children are going to be ready for the future.”


Homeless children might be undercounted.

Delegate Richard Iaquinta, D-Harrison, asked how many homeless children are in West Virginia’s public schools. Marple said the number has grown because of the economy. “In one year in this state, our poverty increased by 5 percent,” she said. “That’s enormous.”

Fran Warsing of the Office of Institutional Education Programs said there is a dispute over how many homeless students are in the state. “The federal government believes we are undercounting the homeless by about 5, 000,” she said. “Currently, there are about 3,000. So we are working on getting attendance directors to better understand the definition of homeless in West Virginia and to make sure when they enroll students in school they ask the proper questions.”

Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha, wanted to know why there has been an “enormous spike” in teen pregnancy.

Marple responded, “One of the things we see happening is young girls’ perhaps believing that this is maybe a way to receive positive reaction from other people. So we’re trying to create and support cultures in our schools of caring and concern, which I think is the primary way to make sure that children feel they’re cared about and that we are concerned with them. Also, besides a caring environment, you have to have instruction that is engaging and interactive and that kids are interested in, so they are focused on what they want to achieve.”

At the same time, she said, students must have knowledge of their own wellness and how to care for their bodies. She said the department is building programs in all those areas. Marple called teen pregnancy is a pervasive issue that has been affected by the economy. “As poverty increases, generally you’re going to see increases in teen pregnancy,” she said.


Delegate would increase motivation through science fiction.

Delegate Ray Canterbury, R-Greenbrier, said many problems in the schools are related to student motivation. So he wanted to know what could be done to motivate students.

Marple said many things must be in place in the schools, including a culture of caring and a broad curriculum. “Narrowing the curriculum has not increased student interest,” she said. “We’ve had a multitude of years of focusing on reading and math and drill and practice. Important – if children do not learn to read by the end of third grade, that’s a big problem. But we know by research that when we teach science, which we have not been doing in elementary schools, therefore [we have] the low scores in science.”

“We have to build a broad curriculum and have staffing in place that allows children to find opportunities for success in areas where they have talent and interest. Then the magic will happen in increasing reading and math scores, as well as science.” – Supt. Marple

Exposure to the arts also is important in keeping students interested and motivated, Marple said. “In this state, if a student at least takes two arts courses in high school, they do not drop out of school,” she said. “So we have to build a broad curriculum and have staffing in place that allows children to find opportunities for success in areas where they have talent and interest. Then the magic will happen in increasing reading and math scores, as well as science.”

Canterbury then revealed that he has drafted a bill, which he knows won’t run, but he wants to use to make a point. The bill would require schools to incorporate science fiction into reading material. He said science fiction inspired him so much when he was young that he wanted to build a rocket to get off the planet and studied enough science to figure out how such a rocket would work. Kids who read science fiction believe the future is what you make it, he said.

Marple told him that national standards on English language arts are embedding reading into classroom work. “It’s a huge issue in West Virginia,” she said. “We know our students aren’t reading outside of school, at least very much.”


Delegate worries about fewer men going into teaching.

Delegate Bill Anderson, R-Wood, said he is still teaching, but he will turn 64 this summer, so he is getting close to retirement. He said that, when he began his career, teachers were a 50/50 mix of males and females, but now the ratio is 70/30 in favor of females. He believes salary is the reason many men are not going into teaching. Another problem he sees is that students are required to take too many classes, some of which he calls “filler classes,” and that causes difficulties for both students and teachers.

“I see kids being stretched thinner and thinner and thinner. At some point, you can’t keep beating the horse harder and stretching the faculty thinner and beating the students harder and stretching them thinner. In our thrust to thinking greater quantity will result in better test scores, I think, we’re missing the point.” – Delegate Bill Anderson

“I see kids being stretched thinner and thinner and thinner,” Anderson said. “At some point, you can’t keep beating the horse harder and stretching the faculty thinner and beating the students harder and stretching them thinner. In our thrust to thinking greater quantity will result in better test scores, I think, we’re missing the point.”

Marple responded, “I think we’re moving in the opposite direction of where we’ve been. What we know is we have to cover content at a deeper level rather than broadening it, and so you’re going to see with our national content standards and objectives that same concept.” She said, “It’s about children obtaining an in-depth knowledge rather than the number of courses they pick up.”



By Jim Wallace

School Building Authority Executive Director Mark Manchin told members of the House Finance Committee Thursday there are good reasons for the authority to sell bonds to accelerate some school construction projects.

His agency had expected 2012 and 2013 to be lean years. If nothing is done, the authority would have only $11 million to spend this year on projects, Manchin said.

“Why would we want to have two lean years given the need?” he asked delegates. “We have $170 million in projects before us right now. That’s just requests for money.”

So the School Building Authority is proposing to use regular lottery funds for debt service on a bond sale. One plan Manchin offered would have $50 million in bonds mature in 2027 with debt service of $5,149,000 annually. He also has offered Gov. Tomblin plans for the same amount of bonds to mature in 20 years, instead of 15, or for $70 million in bonds to be issued for maturity in either 15 or 20 years.

One reason Manchin offered for selling bonds now is to get new schools built sooner. “The need out there is incredible,” he said. Another reason is that interest rates are historically low.

The Legislature already has authorized such bond sales, so Manchin has been just informing lawmakers of the possibility, not asking for their approval. The decision is in the hands of Gov. Tomblin. Manchin made a similar presentation to the Senate Finance Committee last month.


By Jim Wallace

The size of size of the West Virginia Education Department’s bureaucracy and the size of benefits retired educators and other public employees receive are among the top concerns of the chairmen of the House and Senate Education committees.

House Education Chairman Harry Keith White, D-Mingo, and Senate Finance Chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, shared their thoughts about those and other subjects at a legislative briefing breakfast sponsored by the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce this week. Among White’s concerns was the recently completed efficiency audit of the state’s public education system.

“We had an audit that told what a lot of us already knew. We have a bloated bureaucracy.” – Delegate Harry Keith White

“We had an audit that told what a lot of us already knew,” he said. “We have a bloated bureaucracy.”

White said West Virginia has a greater proportion of educators working for the state department compared to those working in schools around the state than other states do. He said Virginia has a ratio of 10 educators in the field for each one working for the state department, while West Virginia’s ratio is six-to-one.

“We’ll be looking at that audit and continuing to dig into it and then see where we are,” White said.


Senate chairman considers size of retiree benefits.

The main issue related to education on the mind of Prezioso was OPEB – other post-employment benefits – and since he spoke, the Senate moved quickly to approve Senate Bill 469. That bill would pay off the state’s OPEB liability in 24 years. It also would relieve county school boards from carrying on their books the liability for retirement benefits for people whose salaries were covered by funding from the School Aid Formula. (See “Senate sends OPEB bill to House” in this issue for more information on that.)

The main reason West Virginia ran up a big OPEB liability was that the state promised retirees from public-sector jobs a subsidy for health care benefits. Prezioso, who retired last year after about four decades of work in the public school system, said he has been looking back at the retirement benefits he and others have received and has found them to be “pretty lucrative” in addition to his pension.

“I’ve got about 42 years of service,” he said. “That’s 82 percent of my salary for the rest of my life. That’s a pretty sweet deal.”

By contrast, Prezioso said, his brother-in-law will be on his own to buy health care coverage after he retires from his job as an administrator in the school system in Winchester, Virginia. He didn’t say he had any plans to try to change West Virginia’s system beyond getting the OPEB bill passed, but he signaled to the business leaders in attendance that he has been thinking about the possibilities.


West Virginia is relatively strong financially.

Otherwise, White and Prezioso spoke well of West Virginia’s financial status, especially compared to other states.

“We’re in a better position than most states,” White said. “We’re one of the top four states in the nation when it comes to our Rainy Day [Fund] as a percentage of our general revenue funds. That didn’t happen by accident. That happened by several years of previous work before. We haven’t had to make any cuts in government employees and services. We’ve taken care of some of our neediest people out there without any cuts during this downturn. All the retirement funds are fully funded in this budget as we move forward. There are no stimulus funds in this budget. Now, there are some leftover funds from previous stimulus, but those are amounts that were already obligated. About $150 million from last year’s budget was carried over in surplus, and we’re going to use all of that in this year’s budget. This year’s budget will be very, very tight.”

Similarly, Prezioso noted that the state was so broke when he entered the Legislature in 1989 that lawmakers had to raise $400 million in taxes. But he said the state’s financial position has improved steadily since then because lawmakers have managed money well.

“We’re not out of debt yet; we’re managing our money,” Prezioso said. “We got some challenges before us.”


Medicaid becomes a bigger budget problem.

Both of them said they are concerned about funding Medicaid during the next few years, because the costs of the program are growing and the state is about to use up a surplus built up in Medicaid over the past few years.

Mark Muchow, deputy revenue secretary, also said there is good reason for concern about Medicaid. He said the total Medicaid budget from federal and state funds was only about $400 million when he began working for the state in the mid-1980s. Today, it is about $3 billion.

Muchow said the state portion of the Medicaid budget is expected to increase 14.7 percent from the current fiscal year to the next one.

“You either cut those services or you raise some kind of fee or tax, and I don’t think there’s any appetite for raising taxes.” – Sen. Roman Prezioso

Prezioso said the need to fund Medicaid will make the state budget very tight in the next few years. He said lawmakers can use about $60 million in onetime money to fill the Medicaid gap this year. “Next year, that really becomes a problem,” he said. “We’re going to look at about $200 million we’re going to need in the Medicaid Trust Fund that’s not going to be there. We’ve spent that down.”

That issue will create some heat for the Legislature, Prezioso said, but he’s prepared to deal with it. “There are only two options: You either cut those services or you raise some kind of fee or tax, and I don’t think there’s any appetite for raising taxes,” he said.


The West Virginia Association of School Administrators (WVASA) is accepting letters of interest and resumes from individuals interested in serving as the organization’s Executive Director.

The WVASA membership includes county and state level educational administrators.

Based on a notice of position vacancy posted on the state Department of Education’s Website, the Association’s Executive Director is responsible for the daily operation of the organization.   WVASA represents its membership on the issues facing public education and school administrators, according to Association President Blaine Hess, Jackson County Schools Superintendent. He said WVASA has been representing the public education interests and school administrators since the 1940s.

Richard Hicks, former Superintendent of Tucker County Schools, is serving as the organization’s Interim Executive Director,
According to Hess, Hicks will continue in that capacity until an Executive Director is selected.  

Also refer to: The



The following is a compilation of news media articles relating to public education in the Mountain State.

Mary C. Snow: ‘She Has Given So Much Of Herself’

Parents of Students get Ballot on School Name Change

Student Inhabits Daunting Stage Role

WV DOJ Reach Deal on English Learner Program

Fix for Retiree Health Costs Passes Senate

GW Students get with the Programming

Ritchie County Board of Education Approves Reductions in Force

McDowell Project Highlighted in National Web Cast

West Hamlin Elem., Duval Secure county math Triumph

AG Bus Visits Jayenne Elementary School

Mistrial in Latest Harts School Property Case

HEPC Board Wants Incentive Package for High Performing Schools

Yes, Auditors, Our Legislation Encourages “Deadhead” Travel

Tech Savvy

WV Schools Superintendent Marple: Health Education Involves Many Aspects

Program Feeds Shady Spring Students

Report: W. Va. Science Standards Need to Evolve

Schools Join ‘Digital Learning Day’

‘Digital Learning Day’ Planned Wednesday for Cabell County Students

Kanawha County Judge to Speak with Students about Law Careers in February

Officer at VHS Gets Support

VHS Student Expelled for a Bomb Threat

Enrollment Increase Gets Board Additional Funding

Fred Eberle Students Compete in Skill Drills

Hurricane High Student Struck, Killed by Train Tuesday

Prezioso Vs. Marple

KPMS Students Share What They Learned in DARE

West Virginia Teachers to Participate in Energy and Power Training

AIB Ensemble to Perform

Tutor Teaches Students Math is All Around

Aiming for the Future

Group Gives W. Va. D+ for Teacher Quality Laws

Critical Report Gives West Virginia’s Public Education System a D Plus

Hurricane High Students Urge People, Restaurants to Buy Local

Students Donate to TCHS

State Superintendents Look at Options as School bonds Fail

School Cuts Protested

Board Backs all RIF Layoffs

Child Sexual Abuse Focus of Beckley Forum

MSU Chefs to Feed Shady Students

Writing Competition Winners Honored

Time to Graduate From Zero Tolerance

Kanawha School Board Approves Termination of 33 Contracts

Students Build Communities with LEGOs

Schools Hosting Vaccine Clinics

Second Chance

Improve W. Va. Public Schools

Magistrate’s ‘Sexting’ Remarks Raise Eyebrows

Harrison County Foundation Awards Grants for the Arts

Immunizations Required for 7th-12th Graders

Exchange Students Speak at Area Schools

Patriot Needs Policy Change

Shorter Senior Year? Grandparents, Road Safety?

Today’s Lesson: School Reform

Teen Drivers Warned: Stay in School or Lose Your Privileges

Parent Says Her Child’s Life was Threatened at Logan County School

West Virginia HS Students Encourage Local Fast-Food Restaurants to Buy Local