State Board

January 4, 2013 - Volume 33 Issue 1

State Board / State Department of Education News


James B. Phares officially became West Virginia’s 28th state superintendent of schools on Wednesday during an oath of office ceremony in Charleston.

The West Virginia Board of Education hired Phares during its December meeting to fill the post overseeing West Virginia’s public schools. Phares, who most recently served as superintendent of Randolph County Schools, brings nearly 40 years of educational experience to the position. He replaces Chuck Heinlein, who will resume his previous role as deputy superintendent.

“I am optimistic about the future of education in West Virginia and look forward to working with students, parents, educators, administrators, higher education, all branches of government, business and community members to transform our schools,” Phares said. “The 21st century workplace requires us to change how we prepare students to live and work if we want them to be successful. Only by working together can we systematically improve the academic opportunities of all our children.”

Phares will earn $165,000 to oversee West Virginia's public schools. The state’s 55 county school districts serve about 282,000 students in preschool through 12th grade with an operating budget in excess of $2.5 billion.

A native of Elkins, Phares has nearly 40 years of experience as a classroom teacher, university instructor, principal, assistant principal and county superintendent in Virginia and in Marion, Pocahontas and Randolph counties. He earned his bachelor's degree in elementary education at West Virginia University, a master’s in school administration from Lynchburg College in Virginia and a doctorate in education administration from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Known for his in-depth knowledge of school personnel and operations, Phares has earned a reputation for turning around struggling schools. He was hired by the Randolph Board of Education in 2009 after a report by the Office of Education Performance Audits outlined several deficiencies that could have led to a state takeover. Phares helped lead the school system through the turmoil, and full accreditation was eventually given to the system. He also helped spearhead an excess levy that passed in 2010, a first in Randolph County since 1989.

During his career, Phares has received multiple awards. In 2006, he was named the West Virginia Music Educator Superintendent of the Year and in 2007 was named the West Virginia Association of School Administrators’ Superintendent of the Year, the Marion County Chamber of Commerce Educator of the Year and a West Virginia Distinguished Mountaineer. He has been a national finalist for the American Association of School Administrators’ Superintendent of the Year award and was inducted in 2009 to the WVU Department of Education and Human Resources Hall of Fame.

 

 

West Virginia is making progress in modernizing how county school districts evaluate teachers, the state Board of Education has learned.

In 2011, the West Virginia Department of Education launched a pilot in 25 schools to test a revised educator evaluation system. This school year, the pilot was expanded to include 136 schools.

Results from the pilot show that the majority of teachers believe the new evaluation system is having a positive effect on their individual skills and student performance by promoting continuous growth. The revised system not only has reduced the number of educator observations but also has required that all teachers receive an evaluation. Student learning is included as 20 percent of the evaluation total.

“The revised system focuses on professional growth for teachers, counselors and those who lead them by emphasizing support, guidance and constructive feedback,” Chuck Heinlein, who served as state superintendent for more than six weeks late in 2012, said. “The system is based on standards and rubrics that define expectations, provide clarity and minimize subjectivity. It is truly about encouraging personal growth and development.”

West Virginia began the process of updating its teacher evaluation program in 2009 when the state Board of Education adopted new professional teaching standards. The next year, the U.S. Department of Education began requiring states to revise their educator evaluation systems to qualify for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funding. The board thenin 2010 assembled a task force to work on the new educator evaluation system. The task force includes teachers, counselors, principals, superintendents, teacher organizations, and other key stakeholders.

In its response to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s “Education Efficiency Audit of West Virginia’s Primary and Secondary Education System,” the state Board of Education also placed importance on establishing a new educator evaluation system. Board members said the new evaluation system, when expanded statewide, will help teachers and principals alike and ultimately improve student achievement. The board’s audit response, “From Audit to Action: Students First,” can be found at http://wvde.state.wv.us/policies/audit-response.html.

For more information on the revised evaluation system, contact Lisa Hedrick in the Office of Professional Preparation at (304) 558-7010.

 

 

The West Virginia Board of Education reviewed public comments submitted for the recently released “From Audit to Action: Students First” report during its monthly meeting in December.

“From Audit to Action” highlights the board’s education reform goals (http://wvde.state.wv.us/policies/audit-response.html) and was developed in response to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s “Education Efficiency Audit of West Virginia’s Primary and Secondary Education System.” Most of the comments focused on a balanced calendar, teacher leadership, teacher paperwork overload solutions and teacher evaluations.

“I was very pleased that people took the time to respond to our audit,” board Vice President Gayle Manchin said. “The comments send a very clear message that West Virginia residents welcome change but they want to be part of the process. As we move forward, we need to be very cognizant of reaching out to teachers, administrators and others so they have a voice in some of these very dramatic changes.”

Highlights in “From Audit to Action” include re-examining educator seniority in an effort to place the most qualified teachers in classrooms, raising the enrollment of secondary students in career and technical programs through support for a middle school pipeline, supporting whole-school incentives for student achievement, and conducting meaningful conversations about the sustainability of small county school systems.

Another significant recommendation in “From Audit to Action” is to transfer more authority and responsibility to the local level. This is dependent on the ability of the board and the Legislature to work collaboratively to revise state code regarding supervision, according to the report.

“The board is dedicated to serious education reform, which is needed if we expect to provide our schools and teachers with the tools, training and flexibility necessary for students to succeed in life and work,” board President Wade Linger said. “We know that change is never easy, but the board is committed to charting the path forward.”

The public can offer comment on the audit response at http://wvde.state.wv.us/policies/audit-response.html.

 

 

The West Virginia Board of Education voted December 12 to return complete control of Lincoln County Schools to the county school board and grant full accreditation to the district. The decision comes after Lincoln County made great strides in improving management and operations, personnel hiring, licensure and other deficiencies.

At the direction of the West Virginia Board of Education, the Office of Education Performance Audits (OEPA) conducted a new audit of Lincoln County in October. The findings led the OEPA to recommend provisional oversight be lifted.

“The county superintendent and the local board are functioning well,” OEPA Director Gus Penix told the board. “A professional culture and climate exist at both the county and schools. Extensive evidence shows that Lincoln County Board of Education members no longer are attempting to interfere in employment decisions nor are they allowing political factions to influence personnel decisions.”

The state board intervened in Lincoln County in 2000 after an Office of Education Performance Audits review discovered questionable financial and hiring practices in the county offices as well as serious facilities, curriculum and leadership issues. Since the intervention, Lincoln County has worked to resolve the majority of its issues.

Provisional control, including personnel decision making authority, was returned to the Lincoln County board in 2010. However, a partial audit in 2011 showed the county had regressed and was not in compliance with state personnel laws. An additional personnel audit was conducted in June 2012 before the follow-up in October.

“We are happy to hear about the good things happening in Lincoln County,” state board President Wade Linger said. “The county board, the superintendent, principals, teachers, staff, students and parents in Lincoln County all have worked hard to improve and should be commended for their efforts.”

Schools in Fayette, Gilmer, Grant, McDowell, Mingo and Preston counties are currently under state intervention.

 

 

The Grant County Board of Education regained partial control of its schools December 12, following a vote by the state school board.

The decision to return decision-making powers in curriculum, policies, facilities, transportation and the school calendar came after the county improved deficiencies uncovered in an audit by the Office of Education Performance Audits (OEPA). The state board voted to maintain control of personnel and financial issues.

At the direction of the West Virginia Board of Education, OEPA returned to Grant County for a follow-up review in September and recommended the state board should return partial control as a result of its findings, OEPA Director Gus Penix told the state board.

“Some concerns for developing capacity for board leadership development remain,” Penix said. “The improvements to date warrant conditional approval status and moving forward to returning full control to the county board.”

The state board intervened in Grant County in 2009 after an Office of Education Performance Audits review uncovered serious county board leadership problems as well as personnel and curriculum issues. The initial audit described the situation as “bleak” with students being deprived of an adequate educational system.

Since the intervention, the county has worked to address many of the issues, including irregular actions by the county board and violations of state code and state school policy.

“The improvements in Grant County are good news,” Chuck Heinlein, who was then serving as state superintendent, said. “We look forward to hearing more about the progress as Grant County schools continue to improve.”

Schools in Fayette, Gilmer, Grant, McDowell, Mingo and Preston counties are currently under state intervention.

 

 

The West Virginia Board of Education welcomed its newest member on December 12. Thomas W. Campbell, a former state delegate, took the oath of office during the board’s monthly meeting in Hamlin. Campbell replaces Lowell Johnson whose term expired in November.
 
“I am grateful for this appointment,” Campbell said. “I look forward to working with my fellow board members and all stakeholders as we work to prepare all of our children for career readiness and success in life.”

Campbell attended West Virginia University and graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. Campbell was first elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1996 and served through 2012. During his tenure in the House of Delegates, he served as chairman of the House Education Committee from 2005 to 2006 and previously served on the House Finance Committee's education subcommittee. Campbell also currently represents West Virginia on the Southern Regional Education Board and is a 15-year veteran of the Read Aloud West Virginia Program at Ronceverte Elementary School in Greenbrier County.

“What an exciting time for Tom to join us as we roll up our sleeves to begin work on education reform,” state board President Wade Linger said. “Tom brings a cache of qualifications to the table in his work with the state Legislature and professional life. I am confident that his perspective on education issues will benefit the students of our state.”

The West Virginia Board of Education's 12 members include nine citizens appointed by the governor and three non-voting, ex-officio members – the state superintendent, the chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and the chancellor of the West Virginia Council for Community and Technical College Education. Board members serve overlapping terms of nine years, and no more than five citizen members may belong to the same political party.

The West Virginia Board of Education is established in the West Virginia Constitution and is vested with general supervision of the state's elementary and secondary schools. The board meets monthly to determine state policies and to establish the rules that carry into effect state law regarding education. The board also has general control, supervision and management of the business and educational affairs of the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind.

Campbell resides in Lewisburg with his wife, the Rev. Dr. Susan Sharp Campbell.

 

 

The first teacher-in-residence program created under a new state law and board policy adopted to address teacher shortages is proving successful, members of the West Virginia Board of Education learned at their December meeting.

West Virginia State University collaborated with Clay County schools to develop the pilot partnership that places a senior in the college’s education preparation program in a public school classroom when no other teacher is available to fill the vacancy. The program differs from student teaching in which the college student spends 12 weeks in a class under a veteran teacher’s supervision.

The teacher-in-residence program allows the college student to lead his or her own classroom for the whole school year. To qualify for such a position, the college student must have completed the necessary content area coursework with a minimum 3.0 GPA and have met the proficiency score on the state competency exam. The teacher-in-residence earns 65 percent of a regular teacher’s salary and is intensively supervised and mentored while gaining teaching experience necessary for certification. The participating county gets a qualified candidate to fill a posted teaching vacancy for which no other fully certified teacher applied.

“This program helps fill a void many counties face in trying to fill high need areas in their schools with a qualified teacher,” Chuck Heinlein, who was then serving as state superintendent, said. “Educators and policymakers are continually searching for new ways to recruit and retain excellent public school teachers and this is but one additional way to do that.”

With nearly 11,000 of the state’s 24,000 public school educators eligible for retirement within the next five years, many counties already are struggling to find math, science, special education and foreign language teachers.

Allen Tanner, one of two student teachers in the teacher-in-residence pilot in Clay County, teaches high school math. In talking about Tanner’s class, one student said, “Mr. Tanner has taught me how math relates to what I do every day.”

Joanne Nine, a teacher-in-residence at H.E. White Elementary, is described by colleagues as “a friendly face who delivers quality, caring instruction to her students. Clay County Schools is fortunate to have brought another teacher home.”

Under state Board of Education Policy 5100, once Tanner and Nine complete the teacher-in-residence pilot and earn a college degree from their institution of higher education, they can apply to the state Department of Education for full certification to teach in West Virginia public schools.

Also at the December meeting, the board approved an application from Concord University to create a similar teacher-in-residence pilot in southern West Virginia that would serve several counties, including McDowell County.

 

 

Posted: December 11, 2012

West Virginia Board of Education President Wade Linger will seek an independent review of all board and West Virginia Department of Education existing contracts and agreements with vendors. Linger discussed the proposal with board members during their monthly meeting.

“As the president of the West Virginia Board of Education, I intend to ask the board to approve an independent review of all of the existing contracts and agreements,” Linger said. “One of the goals of this independent review will be to confirm that the board and the Department of Education are meeting or exceeding the rules and regulations pertaining to the bidding and purchasing practices for state agencies.”

Linger said his plan was to ask the West Virginia State Bar to seek applications and recommend an attorney with no ties to state government or the Department of Education. It is expected that the independent examiner will have an understanding of state contracts, state bidding procedures, requests for information, requests for proposals and sole source contracts.

In addition to reviewing current agreements, the independent examiner will be tasked with evaluating practices and procedures in bidding and purchasing, and provide guidance to the state board for entering into future contracts.

“I believe that it is extremely important for county boards of education, county administrators, teachers, students, parents and taxpayers to have confidence that the West Virginia Board of Education and the Department of Education are following the rules and regulations put in place by our legislators,” Linger said. “I believe it is important to confirm that the bidding and purchasing practices are free from political pressure or individual interest.”

The contract review is estimated to take four months to complete.

“The governor’s education audit allowed us to recognize areas in which we are succeeding and areas that need improvement,” Linger said. “The board must lead and chart the path forward as we provide ideas, direction, inspiration and the supervision necessary to create a strong educational system for our students. The request for an independent review of contracts is an example of our hands-on approach.”
Unless otherwise noted, for more information on the above items, contact the Office of Communication at 304-558-2699.