May 31, 2012 - Volume 32 Issue 20


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

The West Virginia Association of School Administrators has selected Rick Hicks as its executive director. Hicks had served as interim executive director since February, when the association’s executive committee chose him to replace Carolyn Long.

Previously, he served for 33 years in a variety of roles in the education system, including teacher, counselor, school-level administrator, and superintendent. His experience includes working in a relatively large high school, a middle school, and a pre-K-through-12th-grade school.

Hicks holds three degrees from West Virginia University: a bachelor’s in secondary education, a master’s in counseling, and a master’s in education administration. He served as superintendent of Tucker County schools for seven years before retiring in June 2011. He also served as chairman of the Regional Education Services Agency VII Advisory Council, RESA VII representative on the WVASA Executive Committee and legislative chairman for WVASA.

His primary my role as executive director is to work with the WVASA Executive Committee and membership to advance the goals of the organization. He said he believes his chief goal is to open the lines of communication between the organization and other education-oriented organizations in the state.

“I believe that working together we can accomplish amazing things and achieve a world-class education system in our state.” – Rick Hicks

“It is my sincere belief that the combined talents inherent in each organization, when brought together, can advance the cause of educating our children in West Virginia,” Hicks said. “There is a phenomenal collection of talented individuals dedicating their lives and careers to the youth of the state. These include parents, teachers, service personnel, administrators, school board members, RESA employees, state department employees and legislators. I believe that working together we can accomplish amazing things and achieve a world-class education system in our state.”

Hicks said there are significant challenges to address, but they can be met.

“We can and must focus on the children of West Virginia and put all of our efforts to doing what is right for them, providing an education that prepares them for a complex and complicated world,” he said. “It’s about learning.”


By Jim Wallace

Lawmakers will have 131 topics, including many on education, to study during their monthly interim meetings leading up to the next regular legislative session, which will run from mid-February through mid-April in 2013. (The session is delayed by one month every four years when the governor begins a new, four-year term.)

The Joint Committee on Government and Finance approved the study topics and assigned them to committees at the beginning of the May interim meetings. The committee gave the education committees and subcommittees 14 topics for study:

  • Arts, entertainment and enterprise districts
  • Implementing reproductive health education
  • Feasibility of placing a defibrillator in every public school
  • Interscholastic student athlete safety
  • McDowell County bill
  • Outcomes-based funding in higher education
  • Requiring state school board to study GED issues
  • Public school health, nutrition and wellness program
  • State’s cooperative purchasing process
  • Dyslexia screening and intervention
  • General revenue funding for community and technical colleges
  • State’s school harassment laws
  • Student truancy
  • Education efficiency audit of primary and secondary schools

Other study topics affecting education and the committees to which they are assigned include:

  • Public School Support Plan assumed values (Finance)
  • West Virginia Public Employees Grievance code, policies and rules (Government Organization)
  • Pilot program of pregnant teens (Health)
  • Mandatory immunization exemptions (Health)
  • Deployment and improvement of broadband facilities (Infrastructure)
  • West Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Judiciary)
  • Recent changes to Public Employees Insurance Agency financial plan (PEIA, Seniors and Long-term Care)
  • Teachers Retirement System and Public Employees Retirement System pension reform (Pensions)
  • Enhancement of retiree benefits (Pensions)
  • Military service retirement credits for public employees (Pensions)

The number of topics assigned to each committee is:

Agriculture: 6
Economic Development 5
Education 14
Finance 17
Government Organization 13
Health 12
Infrastructure 5
Judiciary 32
Legislative Oversight Commission on Health
and Human Resources Accountability
Parks and Natural Resources 7
PEIA, Seniors and Long-term Care 2
Pensions 9
Regional Jails and Corrections 1
Veterans 2

In other business, acting Administration Secretary Ross Taylor reported that PEIA was running almost $18 million ahead of projections on expenses, but the Retiree Health Benefits Trust Fund was running more than $10 million below projections by March 31. He said enrollment in the Children’s Health Insurance Program was slightly more than 25,000 individuals in April.


By Jim Wallace

West Virginia is moving more cautiously than many other states toward getting a waiver from some of the compliance standards of the federal No Child Left Behind law, but it is moving in that direction.

So far, the Obama administration has granted waivers to 19 states, including eight announced on Tuesday. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was the Bush administration’s major education reform law aimed at raising achievement standards for schools, but educators across the country have complained that it has been too strict in enforcing unrealistic standards. In Ohio, which received one of the eight waivers this week, state Supt. Stan Heffner was quoted as saying the law “actually inhibited schools by its focus on minimums instead of helping more students gain the knowledge and skills they need to be successful once they graduate.”

West Virginia has not yet applied for a waiver, but the Education Department is working on it. Robert Hull, associate superintendent in the Division of Curriculum and Instructional Services, said the department has formed a stakeholder group that has met once and is scheduled to meet again on June 18. By then, he said, the department hopes the U.S. Department of Education will release more guidelines on what it is looking for in waiver applications. But Hull told members of the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability at their May meeting, that state officials already have some concept of what they must do.

Hull said the federal government has established three principles for granting flexibility to states:

  • College- and career-ready expectation for all students;
  • State-developed differentiated recognition, accountability and support; and
  • Support of effective instruction and leadership.

West Virginia can meet the first principle because it has joined other states in adopting Common Core standards, he said, and the second principle because the state has an annual assessment. But he said, the state is still working on revising its professional evaluation system to meet the third principle.

Hull described the current system for meeting adequate yearly progress (AYP) as “an on-off switch.” It requires students to be grouped by race, ethnicity and other factors, and then each of those groups in a school must be rated in terms of math performance, math participation, reading performance, reading participation, and graduation rate. Hull said the state Education Department wants to use a system that credits schools and districts for growth in five areas:

  • Achievement
  • Readiness gap
  • Observed growth
  • Adequacy of growth
  • Attendance/graduation rate

Senate Education Chairman Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, asked whether those five measurement steps would replace AYP, but Hull replied that those steps would provide a means to identify AYP rather than replace it. Plymale said he was afraid of that and described AYP as “a flawed, unrealistic goal that you can never meet.”

Hull said, “We would still be required to identify schools that are not making adequate progress.” But he added that it would be on a sliding scale, rather than an on-off switch.

To that, Plymale said he thought West Virginia is just trying to do what every other state is trying to do: delay compliance with the law long enough to wait for Congress’s next reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which could change No Child Left Behind’s requirements. He called that the federal government’s way of saying it lacks a good policy, “so we’re not going to penalize you, we’re just going to punt it down six years.”


New method would identify schools for additional attention.

Amelia Courts, assistant superintendent in the Division of Educator Quality and System Support, explained to lawmakers what the department wants to do about the second principle, the accountability system. She said there would be a new process for identifying “rewards schools.” It would move away from just achievement, which under the current system can be masked by school size, and substitute a fairer system that would consider how many schools could be recognized for progress, she said.

Under that proposal, the lowest 5 percent of Title I schools, which have high percentages of students from low-income families, would be considered “priority schools.” Out of about 700 schools in West Virginia, 342 are Title I schools, so 5 percent of them would be 17 schools. “Those schools would be targeted for intense support so that they would receive help and assistance in making progress,” Courts said.

The lowest 10 percent of Title I schools – 34 schools – would be considered “focus schools.” Courts said, “They would receive some flexibility but also some support in terms of the interventions that they would need to apply to make progress.”

Despite the concentration on those neediest schools, she said, the new system would make efforts to help all schools. It would make sure the state has a coherent system that addresses performance reviews and provides support across all schools, Courts said. But Delegate David Perry, D-Fayette, said he still wasn’t sure what would happen with non-Title I schools. Courts responded that the federal government is more specific about schools dependent on Title I funds, but it also wants some definition of the total system and how to deal with non-Title I schools.

Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanawha, asked what would happen if a school did not have a certified math teacher. Courts replied that the school would be required to use Title II funds, which are for instructional materials, to address the problem.

In other business, Lori Wiggins, executive director of the Office of Professional Preparation, told the commission that the Education Department plans to send to the state school board a proposed policy revision to change provisions for alternative certification of teachers. She said certification for teaching American Sign Language would be included.
NOTE: As reported by the Education Commission of the States and various other organizations,  this week eight more states—all but two of them Race to the Top recipients—have been granted flexibility from No Child Left Behind out of the 26 states and the District of Columbia that applied for waivers from the law in February, the Department of Education announced. The states that received waivers are Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island.


By Jim Wallace

Some critics believe that West Virginia has mishandled the opportunity it received by getting more than $126 million in federal stimulus funds to expand broadband access throughout the state, but members of the state’s Broadband Deployment Council are already looking beyond that for a new role in promoting broadband usage.
Chairman Dan O’Hanlon opened the council’s May meeting by saying he was distressed that “broadband has become a dirty word” in West Virginia. He concluded the meeting by following up on that topic.

“I feel like we need to keep our eyes on the prize. It isn’t building a network; it’s what that network can do for the state of West Virginia’s people once it is built that’s important.” – Dan O’Hanlon

“I feel like we need to keep our eyes on the prize,” O’Hanlon said. “It isn’t building a network; it’s what that network can do for the state of West Virginia’s people once it is built that’s important.”

Earlier in the meeting, the council received a report from John Dunlap of the state Office of Technology on the status of connecting “community anchor institutions” (CAIs) to broadband fiber using the grant from the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). He said 585 of the 1,062 CAIs, or 55 percent, had been completed, and other aspects of the project ranged from 36 percent to 100 percent complete by May 11.

O’Hanlon called that timeline “terrific.” Critics from Citynet and other companies have maintained that the state erred by turning over construction of the broadband network to Frontier, the largest carrier, and failing to build a true “middle-mile” network that would permit affordable access by other carriers, but O’Hanlon said the groundwork on BTOP is almost complete, so the council should prepare for a significantly different role beginning in July. He said the Legislature has decided that the council will undergo “significant change” with additional members and additional duties and responsibilities in July.

The new law, which resulted from Senate Bill 110, will add four members to what has been a 15-member council with 11 voting members and four legislators who serve in a nonvoting, advisory capacity. Those new members will include a representative of competitive local exchange carriers that provide service in West Virginia, a representative of the interests of the business community in the state, the state superintendent of schools or his or her designee, and a representative of the general public in addition to the two already on the council.

The council’s new responsibilities include encouraging state and municipal agencies to use videoconferencing or video-streaming for their hearings, as well as to expand the use of such technology for distance education. O’Hanlon said the council will have to reinvent itself.

“I believe that the Legislature’s intent is that we become the focal point for giving direction for what we should be doing in West Virginia now that we have this broadband opportunity,” he said. “So many of us are beginning to reach out to our counterparts in other states to look and see what the states are doing with their networks and see if there are some success stories that we can recreate here.”

O’Hanlon said BTOP will be done a year from now, so the council will no longer need to monitor its progress.

“We now need to do something significant to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for West Virginia and West Virginians,” he said. “All these things are good things. They are positive things, the good news stories we need to tell about broadband and to show how much this can do to improve the quality of lives.”

O’Hanlon said he also would like to encourage more use of technology in medical care, or telemedicine. He said it is his hope that every West Virginian will have access to broadband and use it.


Council wants to avoid duplication of efforts.

In other business during the council’s May meeting, O’Hanlon asked telecommunications companies to share with the council where they plan to expand high-speed Internet service in the state. The council plans to distribute about $4 million in grant money as early as December for broadband projects in rural areas and wants to avoid spending such money in areas where companies already plan to provide service.

“What no one wants is that at the end of the day to take the limited funds that we have and put them into an area that does not have broadband only to find out six months later that a carrier is coming in there and expending also millions of dollars to bring broadband to that area.” – Dan O’Hanlon

“What no one wants is that at the end of the day to take the limited funds that we have and put them into an area that does not have broadband only to find out six months later that a carrier is coming in there and expending also millions of dollars to bring broadband to that area,” O’Hanlon said. “So we want to bring broadband to areas where broadband might not otherwise come without our assistance.”

Some broadband service providers have indicated a willingness to work with the council but they don’t want to give away their plans to competitors. O’Hanlon said that getting Frontier’s participation is the key, and he hoped other providers would follow. He said no one who works in the industry would serve on the committee that will consider the providers’ plans and vet the grant applications. “I hope that will provide a comfort level to the other carriers,” O’Hanlon said.

The council plans to accept grant applications in late summer. The 11 regional planning and development councils around the state are expected to assist grant applicants. But that could be a problem because several of the councils have indicated they also might want to submit applications in partnership with other organizations.

“My comfort level with that is not high,” O’Hanlon, who is a former circuit judge, said. “They need to be one or the other. I don’t believe that they can be vetting competing projects against their own projects.”


State school board members are concerned about broadband issues.

Broadband availability also was a topic at the May meeting of the West Virginia Board of Education. Board members received an update on BTOP from Mark McKenzie of Frontier Communications. He told them that 463 schools were scheduled to receive enhanced service as a result of the BTOP grant, including 192 receiving build-out of new fiber. By April 30, McKenzie said, the fiber was built to 95 of those schools, up from 81 a month earlier. He said 28 schools still needed work that required access to facilities at the schools, down from 36 a month earlier.

“Those are two good indicators,” McKenzie said. “That’s what we want to see.”

Another 69 schools were currently in the construction phase, he said and there were 273 schools that already had fiber and were receiving routers. McKenzie said about half of them have fiber from Frontier, while the other half have fiber from other providers.

“We’re going to build 280 miles of fiber for schools as part of the BTOP grant. We already have 43 percent of that total mileage completed.” – Mark McKenzie

Last year, Frontier and the state ran behind schedule in installing the fiber network funded by the grant, so last fall, they entered into a mitigation agreement with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration that reduced the size of the project and set up a new schedule for completing it. “We’re going to build 280 miles of fiber for schools as part of the BTOP grant,” he said. “We already have 43 percent of that total mileage completed.”

“The end of April 2012 was a very important milestone in terms of the NTIA mitigation plan for which Frontier has worked with the grant implementation team and the federal authorities in Washington,” McKenzie said. “There were certain milestones regarding miles deployed in terms of the overall build-out project, as well as benchmarks for CAIs connected. So I’m happy to report that we’re right on target for those benchmarks…. The good news is we’re right on track completing this middle-mile build on time and on schedule.”

No one challenged McKenzie on any aspects of that report, but the school board meeting came shortly after the Charleston Gazette reported that the state had spent about $24 million of BTOP funds for routers that cost about $22,600 even though much smaller and less expensive routers would have served the needs of most of the CAIs where they were scheduled to be installed. Also, the Gazette reported, 366 of the routers remained boxed up in storage almost two years after they were bought, and 186 were not designated for installation in any particular places.

Board member Priscilla Haden wanted to know if that problem would affect broadband deployment to the schools.

“Frontier does not have a role in the router deployment, so what we’re doing in terms of construction really is a separate entity from the router deployment,” McKenzie told her. “We will terminate that fiber regardless of the router situation, whether it’s installed or whether it’s pending installation. It will not impact the construction of the fiber.”

But Haden pressed on and asked if the router situation would have any effect on getting service to schools.

“It could delay the school’s ability to order an Internet server if that router is not deployed and the Office of Technology got it deployed and in service,” McKenzie said. “It could delay your ability to order an Internet server.”

“Well, that’s pretty serious. I don’t want that to affect any of our schools.” – Priscilla Haden

“Well, that’s pretty serious,” Haden said. “I don’t want that to affect any of our schools.”

State Supt. Jorea Marple then assured Haden that all the education routers were on schedule.

Board President Wade Linger added that there are more than 1,000 routers, about 400 of them for schools, and most of those had been installed.

But Lowell Johnson, another board member said, “I’m confused now.” He wanted to know who is responsible for connectivity and what was specified in the federal grant say.

Linger said the federal government had approved the grant application and the state needed to ensure the money was being spent correctly.

“If they’re sized correctly or not doesn’t really affect whether or not they’ll work,” he said about the routers. “They may be more than we need, but they’re certainly not less than we need.”

Brenda Williams, division leader of the Education Department’s Office of Instructional Technology, said staff members from the Regional Education Service Agencies are responsible for installing routers in the schools, while most other facilities scheduled to receive them must depend on the state Office of Technology for installation. “As soon as those routers were purchased, we took control of those,” she said. “We have very few left that we can still install, and most of those are because the schools are waiting on installation of racks to hold the larger routers.”

Linger concluded the discussion by saying, “It’s very encouraging to see the progress that’s been made and that the plan for the final third is in motion. We look forward to hearing every month that we’re getting closer.”


Delegate Wants Program to Target Teen Fathers as Well as Teen Mothers

By Jim Wallace

The Joint Committee on Health barely received its study topics for the monthly legislative interim meetings before members tentatively agreed to change one of them.

House Concurrent Resolution 132 calls for the study of developing a state pilot program for school-age expectant mothers. But Delegate Cliff Moore, D-McDowell, suggested the program also should include the young men who get those young women pregnant.

“We're always focusing on the mothers – and we should – but we never make any attempt to incorporate fathers into any of these programs.” – Delegate Cliff Moore

“We're always focusing on the mothers – and we should – but we never make any attempt to incorporate fathers into any of these programs,” he said.

One of the co-chairmen of the joint committee, Delegate Don Perdue, D-Wayne, readily agreed to that suggestion. “By all means, the issue of fathers has to be part of that,” he said.

Moore also suggested that the proposed pilot program would fit in well in his home county. The county is the target of another program, Reconnecting McDowell, which aims to help the county reverse a decades-long decline into poverty by improving schools and other community resources.

“Since we have Reconnecting McDowell County going on, and since we have a very high rate of teen pregnancy, I’m certainly volunteering as a matter of record for McDowell County to be the pilot program where we test this thing out,” Moore said.

Perdue also made special note of another topic the committee is assigned to study: obesity and chronic diseases, as well as coordinated approaches to address them. He called obesity “one of the most difficult and far-reaching problems our state has.”

On a related matter, Perdue told committee members that the Legislative Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resources Accountability “is taking up Medicaid in a very profound way. We’re going to be looking at it very deeply throughout the interim sessions. That is our only real topic of discussion.”

Perdue promised the share the report that comes out of that study with members of the Joint Committee on Health. “I don’t know that we’ll find out anything new,” he said. “I hope we find something that is old that we can turn to our favor.”



Teen Takes Round One Test for National Spelling Bee

Robert Samuelson: College Doesn’t Work for Everyone

Promise Scholars Reception at Governor’s Mansion

PROMISE to Make a Difference

Old Meets New in Buffalo at High Schools

The End of an Era, Buffalo High School Closes its Doors

Shoals, Eastbrook Elementaries are ‘Schools of Excellence’

Teacher of the Year Chosen at Board Meeting

Bus Driver Praised for Control

Jefferson BOE Considers Budget Issues

‘No Words to Express our Sadness’

RBCI Receives $200,000 NASA Grant for Composites Project

Wheeling Jesuit Career & Cultural Program Open to High School Students

Patriotic Visitors Brave the Heat to Honor Veterans at WV National Cemetery

 Ron Duerring: Capital High T-Shirt Case was Exaggerated

Use of Math Software in W. Va. Schools Doesn’t Add Up

WV Fifth Grader Donates $10,000 Prize to School Library

Hoppy’s Commentary

Morgantown’s University High to get Solar Panels

Caperton’s Back with Books about College Board, Education

IRS Definition of Retirement Age has Teachers, Employees Worked into a Frenzy

School Year may be Winding Down, but W. Va. Schools Chief Wants Kids to Read this Summer

‘Horseplay’ Hurt Spencer Teacher, Parent Says

Roane County Teacher Okay After Incident Involving Students

Wyoming Board Renews Contracts of Three Officials

MU’s Summer K-12 Program Still Accepting Students

Correction: Handwriting Champ Story

Berkeley County Schools Finding Ways to Provide Some Benefits in Light of No Pay Increases,0,1860686.story

New Objections to Gas Well Site Near Wheeling Park High School

Chesapeake to Drill Under Brooke School

Wood County Students Celebrate End of School Year

Logan Fifth-Grader Wins National Chess Title

Raleigh Looks at Pre-K Program

WVDEP Announces Environmental Excellence Winners

Family Presents Award in Honor of Izzy

High School Student Dies in Crash; Three Others Injured

Op-Ed: Investments in STEM Education are a Key to Our Military Strength

Spring Mills Students Bring Joy to Vets, Families

Local Student Honored with Day of Her Own

- Compiled by Christine Galusha, Office of Communications, W. Va. Department of Education. Used by Permission WVDE Office of Communications.