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McKinley Architects & Engineers

The Thrasher Group

February 22, 2013 - Volume 33 Issue 5

 

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


By Jim Wallace

Some of the actions the state needs to take to respond to recommendations of the education efficiency audit require legislation, but many do not, and state Supt. Jim Phares made it clear to the Senate Education Committee this week that the state school board and the Education Department are moving ahead on those.

“We do support and join the governor in his priorities. We have embraced the challenges set forth.” – Supt. Jim Phares

“We do support and join the governor in his priorities,” he said. “We have embraced the challenges set forth.”

Phares said several items that can be accomplished through policy changes by the board include:

  • Certification of teacher education programs and direct professional development to support reading at grade level by the end of third grade;
     
  • Establishment of a commission on small school systems to review the current government structure of the 55 county boards of education (working with the West Virginia School Board Association and its executive director, Howard O’Cull);
     
  • Use of Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs) to create efficiencies and decentralize the delivery of professional development services;
     
  • Coordination of staff in cross-counseling efforts between public education and community colleges to ensure high school graduates are prepared for careers;
     
  • Requiring every career center to adopt or develop at least one career pathway that meets Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) standards for preparations for tomorrow;
     
  • Investigation of Project 24 (an initiative from the Alliance for Excellent Education for effective use of technology to prepare students for college and careers) and advising the governor’s office on using technology to personalize and enhance the education of all students.

Phares said he is preparing for a visit from two SREB staff members during the first week of March. They will meet with the leaders of the House Education and Senate Education committees to discuss the career pathway initiative to build bridges between high schools and tech centers, he said.

“We want to take a step back and take a look at our infrastructure,” Phares said. “We also want to review the world of bring-your-own-technology to school as an issue to enhance our technology use in the classrooms. There are other states that have done very well with this process, and Project 24 will help us deal with that by simplifying acceptable use policies and other rules and regulations that may have to be put in place.”

Some sections of state code must be revisited to allow for changes in the school calendar and professional development, he said, and the department is working with legislative staff attorneys on that.

“We’re really excited about the governor’s strong stance on CTE [career-technical education],” Phares said. “We agree with the governor that in order for our students to understand their opportunities, they should have access to counseling from our community colleges. All of those pieces fit together.”

Work is under way to change Policy 2510 to embed academic credits into the CTE programs, he said, and the department also intends to take a look at career courses to make sure they are of high quality and meet the demands of the job market. Phares said the department has begun meeting with businesses, including Westvaco, Frontier Communications, First Energy and Dow Chemical, to get their expertise on how school programs can evolve to meet their industries’ needs. They also have discussed having business officials mentor students on soft skills they’ll need in the workplace.

“Most people refer to them as soft skills,” Phares said. “I refer to them as hard skills, because the skills that they’ll need are the ones that most often get them fired from work, and that is they can’t get along or they can’t show up for work on time or they can’t follow directions.”

The business people have been pleased at the opportunity to collaborate with public education in more ways than just spending money, he said.

“I know there’s been a lot of talk about balanced calendars, but balanced calendars may not make sense in all counties. What we’re talking about is autonomy and providing that in all counties kids are in school 180 days a year and also ensuring that the teachers have their 200-day contract.” – Supt. Phares

Phares said he is pleased that talk about changing the school calendar has shifted to what would be in the best interest of students. “I know there’s been a lot of talk about balanced calendars, but balanced calendars may not make sense in all counties,” he said. “What we’re talking about is autonomy and providing that in all counties kids are in school 180 days a year and also ensuring that the teachers have their 200-day contract.”

Because the Center for Professional Development (CPD) is under the auspices of the Department of Education and the Arts, Phares said, he has been meeting frequently with that department’s cabinet secretary, Kay Goodwin, about such subjects as a leadership development plan in which the Education Department would provide some collaborative funding to CPD to expand support for local school leadership. The two departments would collaborate on the design, delivery and evaluation of that program, he said.

“This wouldn’t replace what they’re doing now,” Phares said. “This would enhance what they’re doing now and add to it.”

The Education Department also is working with the Institute for Higher Education about leadership development programs for local school boards and local superintendents, he said. In addition, the department is forming a partnership among West Virginia University, Marshall University, the Education Department and the WVSBA to standardize training that’s based on national superintendent leadership standards and national school board leadership standards.

“Probably the second-most demanding thing I’ve done has been being involved with RESAs and local school systems and talking to them about the development and delivery of professional development, which will be decentralized and take professional development from Charleston to the local school level. I’m pleased to say that that is still moving forward.” – Supt. Phares

“Probably the second-most demanding thing I’ve done has been being involved with RESAs and local school systems and talking to them about the development and delivery of professional development, which will be decentralized and take professional development from Charleston to the local school level,” Phares said. “I’m pleased to say that that is still moving forward.”

Some things must be aligned to West Virginia Board of Education policies, he said. Those include: skills for principals; standards for professional practice for superintendents, principals, teachers and leaders; beginning teacher internships; and performance evaluation of school leadership personnel.

Phares said work needs to be done at policy and procedural levels to tighten accountability and oversight to ensure that the services provided by the RESAs – professional development and sharing administrative services – are used by counties in an effective and efficient manner.

On early childhood education, the Education Department is working with the Institute of Higher Education to require all elementary teacher candidates to pass a subject matter test designed to ensure content knowledge of reading, language arts and literacy skill development, he said.

 

Readiness for life beyond high school is focus of two projects.

To reduce the number of high school graduates who need to take remedial courses in college, the department is working on two courses for seniors. Phares said one is called Transition Mathematics, which originally was written to align with 21st century content standards but has been rewritten to align with the Next Generation content standards and objectives for the Common Core. He said the course must be offered annually and will be counted as a math credit. Students in the professional pathway and those in the college-bound skills pathway who do not attain the state assessment benchmark for college and career readiness will be required to take the course in their senior year. The course will be able to be used to qualify for the Promise scholarship, but it’s considered remedial and will not meet requirements for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, he said.

For English readiness, public education and higher education staffs have designed a course that Phares said schools will be required to offer annually and count as an English 12 credit. Seniors in the professional pathway and those in the college-bound skills pathway who are border-line in terms of meeting the benchmark will be required to take the course, he said.

On the issue of truancy, Phares said he has been meeting with juvenile justice officials, but he added that the problem is not as bad as it had been a few years ago. In 2008-2009, 2.77 percent of 133,000 elementary students, 5.97 percent of 74,000 middle school students and about 10 percent of 92,000 high school students had 20 or more unexcused absences. By 2010-2011, all those rates had dropped.

“I’m pleased to say it is continuing to drop at all three levels this next year,” Phares said, attributing the improvement to collaboration between school officials and the court system. He said that, when he was superintendent of the Randolph County schools, educators and a local judge spoke to physicians about the truancy problem and told them they were giving too many students excuses for missing school. After they told the doctors they might be subpoenaed to give testimony about the students, the number of excuses they wrote dropped drastically, he said.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” Phares said, and that includes reducing the many reasons why students can be out of school but counted as present. He said that sends them a message that it’s OK not to be in school. “The message we need to be sending them is that you need to be there every day,” he said.

But Sen. Eric Wells, D-Kanawha, said he was concerned about the high rate of absences by teachers. He said the Kanawha County school system spends $4.6 million each year on substitute teachers, some of whom missed more than 10 days of work.

“We didn’t have a single county – other than Clay County three years ago – that had a higher attendance rate for teachers than we did for the students.” – Supt. Phares

Phares said the department has been working on data about that.  “We didn’t have a single county – other than Clay County three years ago – that had a higher attendance rate for teachers than we did for the students,” he said, but added that the data wasn’t “clean.”

Wells said it would not be a fair comparison if students are granted more excused absences than teachers. He said he would like to see the excused absences and unexcused absences for both students and teachers using the same type of criteria.

“I think we’re singing the same song, Senator, and that is we want clean data all across the board as to when are the students really out no matter for what reason they’re not there and when they’re out because they don’t have an excuse,” Phares said. “And that’s two totally different things.”

Wells said that, if Kanawha County could cut teachers’ absences in half, it could put another $2 million into the classrooms.

When asked at what point tardy students are counted as absent, Phares said it varies by county, but most districts are very strict and some districts use elaborate formulas.

“The kids that are truant aren’t coming in late; they’re not coming in at all,” he said. “It only starts out with coming in late. Their parents can’t get up and get them there, and then all of a sudden, they can’t and get them there at all.”

 

Board president wants more work on teacher evaluation methods.

The committee also heard from Wade Linger, president of the state school board, on efforts to improve the way teachers are evaluated. He said a committee of more than 20 people has been working on that for more than two years, and a pilot version is being tested at 136 schools.

“It’s clear that a lot of work has gone into it, and it’s a nice looking document, but it’s just not finished. That committee is going to bring the thing before the board in March.” – state school board President Wade Linger

“It needs to accomplish what we want it to accomplish as far accountability and putting the emphasis on the right measurable actions,” Linger said, adding that it also must help the state get a waiver of the federal No Child Left Behind requirements. “I can tell you that I’ve reviewed it recently and it’s not finished. It’s clear that a lot of work has gone into it, and it’s a nice looking document, but it’s just not finished. That committee is going to bring the thing before the board in March.”

The board probably will approve the latest version conditionally but set a date for further changes with more emphasis on student growth and distinguishing between highly qualified, highly effective teachers and those not so good, Linger said.

Although the school board can do much on its own, he said, the Legislature will have to help with some statutory changes. Those changes include allowing the Office of Education Performance Audits (OEPA) to evaluate all schools and not be restricted to just the low-performing systems. Also, Linger said, the board would like to have accreditation standards enacted in policy rather than in law, which is part of the flexibility the board would like to have to react to ever-changing federal requirements.

Senate Education Chairman Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, said he would favor loosening the restriction on which schools the OEPA can inspect. He said some legislators imposed the restriction years ago because they wanted to avoid “witch hunts.”

Linger said the board would prefer to “nip problems in the bud and help rather than go in after there is a problem and punish them.” Plymale said that’s the difference between the past and the present. “You do it in more of a corrective manner than you do in a punitive [manner],” he said.

When Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, asked what clues the board gets that indicate a district is having problems, Linger said usually the first inkling is when a district starts to go into deficit. “Obviously, there’s some sort of problem in the way they’re managing their money,” he said.

Phares said that usually becomes apparent early in a school year, around October. “You can see that the carryover is diminishing from one year to the next,” he said.

Right now, 33 of the 55 counties have diminishing carryovers over three years, and that is directly related to a decline in student enrollment, Phares said. If the deficit is less than 3 percent, it’s considered a casual deficit, he said, but if it’s greater than that, it’s a bigger problem. Phares added that if a county suddenly has many grievances go against it for not following hiring practices, that’s another indicator of trouble, as are lack of transparency, disputes among board members and low test scores. He said the board has asked several districts to submit plans to avoid state takeovers.

“Please understand: We have no desire to take over school districts. We don’t want that. Part of what we’re trying to do is nip it in the bud. As the superintendent was saying, these things start happening as they have declining enrollment, and at the local level, they’re reluctant to reduce staff because of all the reasons we’re all reluctant to do that. And then they get into trouble.” – Wade Linger

To that, Linger added, “Please understand: We have no desire to take over school districts. We don’t want that. Part of what we’re trying to do is nip it in the bud. As the superintendent was saying, these things start happening as they have declining enrollment, and at the local level, they’re reluctant to reduce staff because of all the reasons we’re all reluctant to do that. And then they get into trouble.”

Asked whether staff cuts are the only way districts can reduce costs, Linger said it’s a huge percentage of their expenses, so it’s the only way to make big cuts.

 

School safety will be subcommittee’s focus.

In other business, Plymale set up a new subcommittee on school safety and access issues with Sen. Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming, as chairman. Other members are: Plymale; Wells; Boley; Greg Tucker, D-Nicholas; and Bill Cole, R-Mercer. Hall said he and Plymale will meet on Monday with U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin to discuss federal efforts on school safety. Sometime after that, Hall said, he expects to schedule a public hearing.

Also this week, the Senate Education Committee approved Senate Bill 177, which would allow a student’s unexcused tardy minutes to be added up so that when they equal half a school day, the student would be credited with a half-day of absence. The bill’s lead sponsor, Sen. Chris Walters, R-Putnam, said it is a result of a meeting he had with Kanawha County Supt. Ron Duerring, who said teachers want to be more effective in addressing truancy.

Rebecca Derenge, attendance coordinator at the Department of Education, said the legislation is needed more to help judges, who want the law to be specific about how much tardiness translates into absence.

 

 

By Jim Wallace

The special work group in the House of Delegates considering how to respond to the education efficiency audit and reform West Virginia’s education system heard the views of two members of the West Virginia School Board Association (WVSBA) this week.

Barbara Parsons, president of Monongalia County school board, took the lead. After explaining that she had spent most of her career in human resources, including 20 years at Monongalia General Hospital, she contrasted that experience with what she has found in public education. She noted that West Virginia Code says a school board can exercise only powers expressly conferred to it or those arising by implication and can exercise no power not expressly conferred. She said Subsection 18-5-13 lists 21 things that boards have authority over:

  • Control and manage schools;
  • Establish schools;
  • Close schools;
  • Consolidate schools;
  • Close schools based on attendance;
  • Provide transportation;
  • Lease buses;
  • Provide insurance coverage for bus drivers;
  • Provide optional insurance;
  • Employ teacher aides;
  • Establish self-supporting dormitories (“That’s a new one to me,” Parsons said. “We do offer three meals a day to certain groups of people in our school system. I think dormitories are probably going to be next”);
  • Engage legal counsel;
  • Provide uniforms for school service personnel;
  • Provide traveling expenses;
  • Allow employees to use public transportation;
  • Provide liability insurance for employees;
  • Enter into agreements with other county boards;
  • Provide information about vocational and higher education opportunities to exceptional students;
  • Transfer money to other county boards for student transfers;
  • Enter into job sharing; and
  • Expend funds for students on a per capita basis.

“All of these items have been addressed through very prescribed processes,” Parsons said. “They’re excruciatingly detailed and enumerated in the West Virginia Code, which is promulgated through the West Virginia legislative process.”

Holding up an inch-thick operating and personnel manual, she said, “Now I have to say in all my years in human resources, I have never run across a corporation that gave me my manual in such excruciating detail, or in any detail at all, as I find here. So when I became a board member, I was pretty much stunned at how little discretion the local board had with regard to most of the things I thought boards were supposed to do.”

Parsons pointed out that nowhere does the enumerated authority address matters related to students’ success and achievement, qualifications or performance of staff, quality improvement, fiscal accountability or school management.

“Now, my philosophy is you can’t lead if you don’t know where you’re going,” she said. “And if you don’t partake of continuing education as a board member, how do you know what’s coming, how do you know where you need to go, and how can you lead?”

As a government function, Parsons said, education is closer to home and to every person than other divisions of government because it touches every life. “By being on the ground in their communities,” she said, school boards provide public input into education.

“Local control, as we’ve discussed at the School Board Association, is really local discretion – discretion to implement creative, evidence-based programs that address the urgent challenges facing our school districts. Would it not be better to allow boards to focus on solutions rather than mandates, policies, procedures, reports and compliance with all of these things?” – Barbara Parsons

“Education is a state function but a district or local issue,” Parsons said. “Local control, as we’ve discussed at the School Board Association, is really local discretion – discretion to implement creative, evidence-based programs that address the urgent challenges facing our school districts. Would it not be better to allow boards to focus on solutions rather than mandates, policies, procedures, reports and compliance with all of these things?”

Having been involved in many organizations in which accreditation has driven decision-making, she said, she has found that people in them get so caught up in what they must do for the accreditation process that they lose sight of their goals. In the case of school boards, the goal is improving education and students’ achievement, Parsons said.

“We’re simply seeking more ownership of the educational process, which truly represents the role we should be living, which is governance,” she said. “Achievement equals pride. People will not take ownership in something that they cannot manage. Without ownership, there can be no pride, so we’ve got to let boards have ownership – more ownership – so that they are accountable to themselves as well as to the state for the outcomes that they’re seeking.”

 

Delegate challenges Parsons on leadership decisions.

But Delegate Doug Reynolds, D-Wayne, questioned whether her own board is running the Monongalia County schools well. He told Parsons that legislators recently heard a presentation from a union representative that said Monongalia County schools had the state’s highest ratio of administrators to teachers and a low teacher-to-student ratio. He asked her for an explanation.

Parsons said she disagreed with the numbers. She said there are differences of opinion between the union and the school board on definitions. Many of the added positions support teaching, such as coaches for teachers, coaches for students, nurses, counselors, psychologists and others who don’t work directly in classrooms, Parsons said.

“Their complaint is that we have too many people who aren’t in the classroom on the payroll,” she said. “I’m saying those people are in there for you and to support the students to help them become better learners and to help them deal with problems so they can become better learners.”

Parsons said her board looked at the numbers and found Monongalia County was not at the top in terms of administrative positions but was fifth or sixth on the state list. The number of teachers in the district also has gone up, she said.

“As a county with an excess levy, we have additional funds to provide additional support for the services our students need, and we’re very much in favor of supporting our staff and our faculty in their development and providing them with support to help their students,” she said. “We’ve put our money there. We haven’t taken it out of the classroom. We’ve enhanced all the salaries in a number of occasions due to our excess levy monies that we have used.”

Parsons compared the situation in education to that in health care, which has more people handling paperwork than ever before. She said the schools have many more mandates, federal requirements and compliance issues to document and services that must be offered that were not required before. She added that the Monongalia County school board is very comfortable with what it has.

Reynolds asked her which mandates do not benefit students and just end up being paperwork that does not produce educational value. Parsons first said the federal No Child Left Behind law has not been helpful at all. She said the problem with state mandates is that they continue to change, which makes it difficult to track any improvement. Instead, she said, the state should let change take place and be fully implemented to see results, because only confusion results otherwise. “And it takes us away from the focus that we want, which is to work in our classrooms with the students and address their needs and help them achieve their education,” Parsons said.

Asked about statutes she would like to change, Parsons brought up issues her board has had with restrictions on hiring. She cited a problem in Monongalia County in which a special education aide who was put on probation in spring 2011 with a designation not to be rehired. Despite that designation, the aide has bid for other jobs seven times and gotten them. So Parsons asked, “How do you have continuity? How do you pay for the overhead it takes to process all that paperwork? How does she learn the job she’s been into when she can bid out immediately?”

Parsons said that, in the health care industry, someone who bid on a job couldn’t bid on another one for six months. She said she had worked with many union contracts and didn’t recall one that would allow that to happen. It becomes an issue of performance and managing the person, she said, and it creates a lot of havoc. “This is an example of how most organizations would not operate,” she added.

Another example Parsons cited with state law governing hiring is the inability to use incentives to fill vacant positions. In the health care industry, she said, if a facility needed certain specialized nurses, it could offer signing bonuses, hiring bonuses and referral bonuses. If the market drove certain jobs up outside the range of a classification of people, the employers could address that, but such steps are not possible in the education system, she said.

“We are a service to the citizens who deserve their children to be educated, and that means we have got to have teachers who can educate, and they have to be there,” Parsons said. “And ultimately, it does come down to money.” She said each county school board should have flexibility to manage those issues and added that counties on the state’s border deal with different issues than those away from the border.

“So instead of telling us how to do it, tell us what needs to get done, and let us do it.” – Barbara Parsons

Parsons said she was not suggesting the state should give carte blanche to school boards but should give them much more leeway than they have now. “So instead of telling us how to do it, tell us what needs to get done, and let us do it,” she said.

But Delegate Denise Campbell, D-Randolph, said she also works in health care and has found that signing bonuses never work for the people who are there. She asked how to tell a longtime employee that someone new is being brought in with higher pay. “That almost never works,” she added.

When Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, got his chance to speak, he agreed with Campbell that differential pay should not be considered.

“It’s not a solution to the problem,” he said. “It creates more of a problem. To me, it’s a Band-Aid approach to a problem that’s much bigger.”

Campbell also questioned why the aide in Monongalia County was rehired after she was designated not to be rehired. Parsons replied that the school board couldn’t prevent someone from bidding on a position for which that person is qualified. That person would be terminated only if nothing else were available for her, she said. The aide continued to bid on jobs to get the workplace and the hours she wanted, but the number of times she did it over a couple of years was disruptive, Parsons said.

 

Board president calls for real change.

The other WVSBA representative to address the House committee was Greg Prudich, president of the Mercer County Board of Education, who said the time has come for bold action on education reform.

“Now is the time for real change. We don’t need to tinker anymore. We don’t need the fear of change. We need to do the things we know we can do to make things better.”—Greg Prudich

“Now is the time for real change,” he said. “We don’t need to tinker anymore. We don’t need the fear of change. We need to do the things we know we can do to make things better.”

Prudich said gaining local flexibility is the reform county school boards want the most. “I can’t tell you how frustrated I’ve been over 15 years being told by the superintendent, ‘We can’t do that,’” he said. The reasons he gets often are based on policy or law passed many years ago. “We want the state to set the standards, goals, aspirations and direction and then give us the flexibility to achieve them,” he said.
 
The school calendar is a good example for Prudich of how school boards need local flexibility.  He said local school systems would have a better grasp of their needs, their weather patterns, and their desires about when to start the school year, when to end it and how to make up missed days. The current system for developing school calendars in West Virginia doesn’t work, he said.

“A one-size-fits-all approach in a state as diverse as this just won’t work,” Prudich said. “We are currently constrained by many different statutes and policies as they relate to our calendar.  The constraints practically mean and continually create a situation such that we cannot provide our students 180 days of actual instruction – ever.” 

School systems are more likely to get closer to 165 days of actual instruction, he said, because school boards are hamstrung by rules, such as one that the calendar must cover no more than 43 consecutive weeks. Within that, the school system must provide instructional support and enhancement (ISE) days and outside school environment (OSE) days, and Prudich said the state rules even go so far as to specify how many of those days must be scheduled in particular months. For example, the law says boards must wait until after March 1 before using non-instructional days to make up for lost instruction. Likewise, the law tells boards how they must use ISE days, prescribing how many hours are devoted to various matters.

Prudich added that, although state code states nothing should prevent year-round school, as a practical matter the code provides many roadblocks. 

School boards would like to have unfettered control of the school calendar, deciding at the local level when to start, when to finish, how to make up missed days, how long to take for winter break, and whether to have school year-round or not, he said.  Doing so would provide an opportunity for local school districts, working within their communities and with their teachers and service personnel, to create innovative calendars that work in their communities, Prudich said. 

“We believe that what works in our county of Mercer may not work in other counties with different sizes, different geography, different weather patterns.  We believe the more we can control our calendar locally, the more likely we can provide 180 actual instruction days to our children.” – Greg Prudich

“We believe that what works in our county of Mercer may not work in other counties with different sizes, different geography, different weather patterns,” he said. “We believe the more we can control our calendar locally, the more likely we can provide 180 actual instruction days to our children.”
 
Prudich said the school boards would expect some constraints, such as allowing for holidays and election days, as well as providing time for professional development and collaboration time.  However, he said, telling boards that they must provide the time is not the same as directing them about when and how to provide the time. 

Noting that some people have said it is not the quantity of instructional days that matter, but the quality of instructional days, Prudich said school board members agree, but they want the best of both – a greater quantity of high quality instructional days.  That is a key to improving children’s achievement and outcomes, he said, because both quality and quantity make sense. 

Prudich said the WVSBA proposes the following reforms:

  • Eliminate the requirement that the minimum 200-day employment term for service personnel be scheduled within a 43-week period. “This change would give us so much more flexibility to address problems like weather and take a harder look at alternatives in scheduling our school year.”
     
  • Require county boards to actually provide 180 separate instructional days for students.  “We mean true instructional days.”
     
  • Alter the five ISE days to provide for two-hour blocks for faculty senate days with the remainder of those days to be designated for continuing professional development days to be used by counties to provide local professional development or collaboration time for employees, at the discretion of the county.
     
  • Revise West Virginia Code §18-5-45(g) to add the phrase “at least” before the word “three” to allow counties to schedule more than three non-instructional days prior to the commencement of the instructional term.  “This permits us to better prepare the new year and give our professionals more time for professional development and collaboration among teachers and administrators.”
     
  • Provide for more professional development days in the calendar, likely requiring the conversion of ISE days, as already mentioned. 
     
  • Eliminate the requirement that at least four non-instructional days be scheduled after March 1. “If we have 180 true instructional days, it no longer matters, and micromanaging the calendar is simply not working now.”
     
  • Permit the conversion of non-instructional days to instructional days when instructional days are missed due to weather/emergency (excepting state/national holidays).  “We need all the instructional days we can get. We need to be able to make them up when we can.”
     
  • Eliminate the requirement that all non-instructional days other than the final prep day be scheduled prior to the termination of the instructional term.  “Again, limits like these are what limit our flexibility to manage our calendar with our teachers and with our service personnel.”
     
  • Eliminate the ability to use accrued instructional time to avoid adding days to the calendar.  “Accrued instructional time is simply not effective, and it’s not an instructional day.”

Prudich said he expected disagreement from others, including Dale Lee, who also is from Mercer County. However, he added that if he and Lee could negotiate on the issues, they’d come up with something workable. “But the lack of flexibility stifles all this,” he said.

Delegate David Perry, D-Fayette, asked why the school boards would want to eliminate the use of accrued instructional time. Prudich responded, “I think accrued instruction time is simply a mechanism that isn’t very useful. It prevents us from adding instructional days to the calendar.”

When Perry asked if the school boards would support having a minimum number of instructional minutes, Prudich said, “There’s no magical number. I don’t think 180 days is a magical number. I don’t think 8,100 minutes is a magical number. But I think we have to have some basics from which we operate.”

Perry said anything over 40 hours a week is overtime. But Prudich said that’s not true for professionals, and teachers are professionals. Many of them work more than 40 hours per week, he said.

Lee said Prudich is right about the ISE days. “There’re really not instructional days,” he said. “That’s why we’ve called for the last five years to add five days to the teachers’ contracts, so that we could make true instructional days for what needs to be there and use those ISE days for collaboration time and staff development.”

But Perry said it would cost the state about $7 million for each day added to teachers’ contracts.

Prudich gave the delegates an example of how more flexibility at the local level could work. He said the Innovation Zone process is cumbersome, but Mercer County used it to gain some leeway to make changes at its vocational-technical school, which is now the largest high school in the county and was one of three vocational schools to win a national award.

“We have embedded credit now,” Prudich said. “It’s because we worked together with the faculty and staff in our county. We used the Innovation Zone process, and we had some flexibility. We were able to do what fit our county, and it’s been a booming success – not a little tweak here and there but a booming success.

 

Nurse warns against one proposed change.

On another matter resulting from the education efficiency audit, the House work group heard from Laura Barber, a Kanawha County school nurse. She said nurses are concerned about an audit recommendation to contract out school nursing services to school-based health clinics. The clinics provide primary care only for children whose parents have provided written consent, she said, and they’re usually staffed by nurse practitioners and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) rather than registered nurses (RNs) like her. “If you ask them to pick up the slack, that’s like asking them to provide services for free to all the children,” she said.

Barber emphasized that school nursing is a specialty. “You cannot just put a nurse in a school and expect her to function,” she said. “School nursing is a bridge between health care and the academic setting.”

Many students have chronic health care problems, such as diabetes, asthma, obesity and attention deficit disorder, Barber said, so they need the specialized services of school nurses. She said school nurses are good for the health of students and they are cost-effective.

Delegate Larry Williams, D-Preston, noted that the Legislature quit classifying nurses as teachers in the School Aid Formula and put them in a separate category, so schools systems would not have the choices of cutting nurses’ jobs to save the jobs of teachers.

However, legislative staff attorney Dave Mohr said there is a problem with that portion of the law, which was approved in the late 1990s. When legislators made that change, he said, the bill came out of the House with costs for nurses represented as a ratio in the formula, but the Senate did not want a ratio and capped the cost at a dollar amount. Therefore, he said, every time nurses get a raise the number who can be employed goes down. Mohr called that step in the formula “broken.”

Noting that Barber suggested that school nurses should be RNs, Delegate Campbell said her school system uses both RNs and LPNs. To that, Barber said, “I really feel like the quality is in the RNs, because we can make assessments.” She said Kanawha County hires RNs, “because you get more bang for the buck.”

Campbell agreed with the school nurses’ position that schools need their services and they are cost-effective. She said it would cost twice as much to bring in a contract nurse to do what a school nurse does. She said she knows of nurses who have gone to work for the schools and taken pay cuts of several dollars an hour, because they like the school hours and having summers off.

Barber said an RN, unlike a school-based clinic, can take care of all kids in a building, so they are much more cost-effective. She also said LPNs are better suited for working in hospitals, where they are directed by RNs. Having LPNs work without supervision from RNs could cause liability issues for school boards, she suggested.

Mohr noted that the state school board disagreed with the audit’s recommendation to use school-based clinics instead of school nurses, indicating that recommendation is unlikely to be followed.

 

 

By Jim Wallace

When Joe Panetta of the Department of Education showed up at a meeting of the House Education Committee this week to explain how school calendars are developed, most of the interest was in the balanced – or year-round – calendar. However, Panetta, who is assistant superintendent in the Division of Student Support Services, said an increasing number of districts are taking the more modest step of simply starting the school year earlier in August.

Eight districts started early enough this school year to finish the first semester by Christmas, he said, which gives both students and staff the advantage of not having to worry about exams after the holiday break.

“We are seeing more counties move toward a schedule where they could start earlier,” Panetta said. “We’re hearing a lot of interest for next year, so I think there will be more counties that start earlier.”
           
Asked whether districts that start the year early have trouble scheduling the WESTEST, he said the state school board has had to give them waivers to expand the timeline for the test to three weeks and allow them to start giving it a week earlier. In statute, the test is not to be scheduled before May 15 unless the board grants a waiver. Panetta said the department also must work with McGraw-Hill, which provides the test. “You don’t want a test out there too long without being protected and students having access to the test,” he said.

Some districts have expressed interest in switching to a balanced calendar, Panetta said, but so far only Kanawha and Marshall counties have two schools each with balanced calendars. However, he said, Cabell County is looking at it seriously and a few others are having preliminary discussions.

But Delegate Denise Campbell, D-Randolph, said, “Where I come from, which is rural West Virginia, all of our schools are 30, 40, 50 or more years old, and the balanced calendar, I think, would be a challenge for us, because of air conditioning. Let’s say, for instance, that you go to a balanced calendar. Is there going to be any effort to be able to help get these schools to where they are able to have a balanced calendar?”

Panetta replied, “Obviously, that’s a problem. Probably the Legislature will appropriate some funds for that if we see that counties do have schools that aren’t air conditioned are interested in it. Right now, I think that the counties that are have taken that into consideration – Cabell County for example. I think most, if not all, of their schools are air conditioned.”

Delegate Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, said he served on his district’s school calendar committee a few years ago, and one concern members had was about special activities like governor’s schools in the summer, sporting events and such. He asked how much thought has been given toward moving those events to accommodate a balanced calendar.

Just the earlier start to the school year in some districts has prompted such discussions, Panetta said. For example, the Education Department realizes it can’t schedule professional development in the first two weeks of August anymore. As the state moves toward more professional development at the local level, such activities can be scheduled better, he added. “I think you’ll see a lot of movement in that direction,” Panetta said.

Delegate Tiffany Lawrence, D-Jefferson, asked how regional and statewide athletic competitions might be affected by a balanced calendar. “I don’t think there will be real difficulties with high school sports,” Panetta said, but there would be adjustments.

Schools using balanced calendars typically have breaks of about three weeks each distributed throughout the year instead of having a long summer break. Lawrence wanted to know if the schools could be used for training and other programs during those breaks.

Panetta said they can, and that’s an advantage of the balanced calendar, because that time can be used for “inter-sessions” to help students who are behind to catch up with their peers.

“Instead of waiting for summer for summer school if kids fall behind and a whole year’s gone by, you can schedule inter-sessions after the first nine weeks and try to get kids who are starting to fall behind up to their grade level,” he said.

But Delegate Adam Young, D-Nicholas, wondered if the balanced calendar really would benefit students. “All of the research that I’ve done, I have not seen where having a balanced calendar versus not having a balanced calendar improves test scores,” he said. “So that’s my biggest question. That’s what we’re ultimately here for to improve student achievement.”

However, Delegate Josh Stowers, D-Lincoln, who has done extensive research into the subject for graduate school work, said much data show that at-risk kids at the elementary level do better in math when they are on the balanced calendar. The number of middle schools and high schools using balanced calendars is too low to have meaningful data for them, he said.

“It’s kind of a wash once you move up the socio-economic ladder, but those disadvantaged kids, those at-risk kids, there’s some pretty clear data out there that shows that this is helpful.” – Delegate Josh Stowers

“It’s kind of a wash once you move up the socio-economic ladder, but those disadvantaged kids, those at-risk kids, there’s some pretty clear data out there that shows that this is helpful,” Stowers said, adding that they need less remediation at the end of the school year.

Panetta added that the balance calendar also provides nutritional advantages.

“Students who are away from school for a whole summer are maybe not eating nutritional meals for maybe an entire summer period,” he said. “By shortening those breaks and spreading them all through the year, obviously the kids will learn better eating habits.”

 

Meeting current requirements is difficult.

One problem school districts have with current restrictions on how they set up their calendars is getting in the required 180 instructional days. Data Panetta presented from the last five years showed it’s rare for a district to get all 180 days in, usually because of problems with wintry weather. The average number for those five years was 175.5 days. But Delegate David Perry, D-Fayette, wondered whether some of the districts that failed to reach 180 days might actually be getting in the required number of instructional minutes per year.

“In other words, you may have 175.5 average number of days a year, but you may have met the 8,100 minutes,” he said. Panetta said that might be true, but he didn’t have data to show it. However, he said, the counties with the fewest days would have trouble doing that.

On the balanced calendar, Perry said, counties already could adopt it by applying for waivers, so new legislation wouldn’t necessarily be needed. However, Panetta said one problem with that is the restriction that limits personnel to 43-week employment terms, which would make it hard to do a balanced calendar on a countywide basis.

“So as we look at a balanced calendar – a year-round calendar – we actually got to start talking about a contract issue,” Perry said.

“A contract issue or that restriction,” Panetta responded.

Schools in Cameron in Marshall County are operating on a balanced calendar, so Delegate David Evans, R-Marshall, asked whether personnel there would get paid overtime for working outside the 43-week limit. Panetta said that if the calendar is adopted on a school-by-school basis, the personnel can volunteer to work the balanced calendar. He said someone who doesn’t want to work that schedule can transfer to another school within the district.

Evans said the balanced calendar could hurt 4H programs, summer camps and similar programs. Panetta said districts would have to account for those things, and communities could adjust their activities to the school calendar.

“You’d find communities could adjust,” he said. “The day care centers – they’d adjust their schedules. Usually, the school calendar drives a lot of activity. If the school calendar changes, a lot of the community groups will change their calendar to accommodate that change.”

 

 

By Jim Wallace

Gov. Tomblin has pledged to do what he can to set things right with a program that spent $24 million in federal stimulus money on computer routers for schools, libraries and other agencies.

That pledge came after Aaron Allred, the legislative auditor, delivered to legislators a blistering criticism that accused the state of wasting millions of dollars on those routers. In the audit he presented to both the Joint Standing Committee on Government Organization and the Joint Committee on Government Operations, he said the administration’s grant implementation team wasted at least $8 million by not properly seeking bids for the routers. In addition, Allred accused the team of using poor judgment in placing many of the routers at facilities that could not use them or could have made better use of much smaller routers.

“What we’ve got to do is move forward, see what we can do to continue to make sure that broadband is all over this state and that we get the best use out of the computers.” – Gov. Tomblin

During an interview on “Talkline” on the MetroNews Radio Network, Gov. Tomblin said that he cannot undo the mistakes that were made, but he can try to ensure that future purchases are handled better. “What we’ve got to do is move forward, see what we can do to continue to make sure that broadband is all over this state and that we get the best use out of the computers,” he said. He said he told Rob Alsop, his chief of staff, to review the legislative audit’s findings.

Alsop had the difficult task of defending the purchase after Allred made his presentation. However, the purchases were made in 2010 by the administration of former Gov. Joe Manchin, now a U.S. senator, and the Tomblin administration inherited the program that is part of a $126 million grant the state received under the federal Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP). Allred found that the state Office of Technology and the grant implementation team misspent federal funds by buying 1,164 Cisco model 3945 routers for many community anchor institutions (CAIs), including schools and libraries, when smaller routers would have been more appropriate for hundreds of them.

“It’s the opinion of the legislative auditor that the state could have saved approximately $2.8 million if it had bought smaller Cisco routers for the state’s 172 libraries,” Allred said. “We believe the state could have saved $1 million by purchasing smaller routers for the State Police or $1.4 million if the state had not even purchased routers for the State Police.”

Most of the 77 routers purchased for the State Police have not been put into use, because they could not accommodate the agency’s phone system, and the agency already had bought new routers a few years ago. Allred said it would cost $84,000 to make the routers suitable for State Police use, and the agency spent $10,000 to update just two of them.

“We also believe, if the state could have appropriately sized routers for the schools in the state that were purchased, if the average savings was $10,000, the state could have saved $3.68 million,” Allred said. “When you look at these routers, there are a couple of things to understand. One of the things is the contract these were used to be purchased upon was for a simple expansion of telephony.”

“I used to be a programmer for the executive office of the president of the United States, so I’m not a complete idiot when it comes to technology.” – Aaron Allred

A Cisco statement that he read revealed that the company recommends those routers for serving 700 to 1,200 phones, but many of the facilities that received them have only a few phone lines. Allred also criticized the router purchase for forcing facilities that have them to use virtual private networks (VPNs), which require more resources and time to process messages than internal systems do. “I used to be a programmer for the executive office of the president of the United States, so I’m not a complete idiot when it comes to technology,” he said. 

Allred said his staff spoke with technology experts at the Department of Education and looked at national standards. “It’s our opinion, based upon advice from technical staff, that certainly for schools that have enrollment of less than 500, a Cisco 2951 router is a Level 2 router, which would have cost approximately $10,000 less, could have been used,” he said. Such a router could support more than 100 phones and 150 simultaneous VPN connections, he said.

“I believe every West Virginian deserves the same broadband access whether you live in downtown Charleston or whether you live in Franklin in Pendleton County,” Allred said. “But having the same access doesn’t mean you buy the same number of buses for the Pendleton County school system that you buy for the Kanawha County school system.”

The Clay County community of Clay, which has a population of about 500, got seven routers, and five of them are located within half a mile of each other, he said. Likewise, Franklin in Pendleton County received six routers for a population of 721, and four of them are located within three-quarters of a mile of each other.

In addition to locations, some of the facility choices don’t make sense, Allred said. The Marmet Public Library, which is located in a trailer, has one Internet connection for the public and got a router, yet Riverside High School, which serves the Marmet community and has 1,244 students, did not get a router.

“It doesn’t make any sense in how these things were allocated that the places that would have the most use for them did not get them,” Allred said. Out of the 57 schools in West Virginia with more than 750 students, 36 do not have one of the routers, he said, and that includes Cabell-Midland High School with 1,836 students. “This would have been an appropriate location for one,” he said. “But libraries with one to five phone lines and less than 10 Internet connections did. The router in Marmet is probably worth more, according to [Kanawha County] Commissioner [Kent] Carper’s staff, than the building it sets in at the Marmet Public Library.”

Allred found three causes for the inappropriate purchases:

  1. The state abdicated the running of this program to Cisco’s local sales representatives;
  2. No capacity or user study was done to determine what actually was needed by state institutions, public libraries and schools; and
  3. These routers were purchased through an unauthorized bid process that excluded any company but Cisco from selling them to the state.

Cisco recommended the routers because they have dual power supplies, Allred said, and a Cisco representative said the Education Department wanted dual power supplies. “We found no one at the Department of Education that said they ever required these routers to have a dual power supply,” he said.  In fact, department officials said they would not have made such a request, he said, and Cisco’s representative said he did not have the request in writing because it was made verbally.

Allred said Cisco also added $6.6 million of additional features to the routers, and not all of the routers would have needed those features.

His office contacted all 55 school districts and all 55 county governments. The responses from 38 county clerks and 32 school technology officers were that seven counties have voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) phone service, but 12 county school systems do not. Four county clerks and six school districts said they have plans for VoIP in the next five years. “If there’s no plan for a voice over Internet protocol system, the money that was spent on the VoIP features and modules within these routers are worthless,” Allred said.

If the state could have saved only $5 million by planning better which routers to purchase and gotten National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) permission to transfer the money to fiber for middle-mile connections, the state could have laid another 104 miles of fiber, he said.

“Fiber is expensive. The average cost of this project so far to lay fiber has been $47,860 for every mile. It’s fiber that’s the key to providing great broadband service throughout West Virginia.” – Aaron Allred

“Fiber is expensive,” Allred said. “The average cost of this project so far to lay fiber has been $47,860 for every mile. It’s fiber that’s the key to providing great broadband service throughout West Virginia.”

Allred concluded that the majority of the router purchases were unnecessary. “I believe that the Cisco sales representatives and engineers had a moral responsibility to propose a plan, which reasonably complied with Cisco’s own engineering standards,” he said. “It’s my opinion as the legislative auditor that Cisco’s representatives showed a wanton indifference to the interests of the public in recommending using $24 million of public funds to purchase Cisco Model 3945 routers.”

His three recommendations are that:

  1. The state Purchasing Division should determine whether the actions or inactions by Cisco representatives fall under the purview of a section of West Virginia Code and are grounds for debarment.
  2. The Office of Technology should immediately conduct a capacity/users need study in conjunction with the state’s Broadband Deployment Council and report back to the Legislature before the end of its 2013 regular session on the results of the study and whether it would be legal to redeploy any of the routers for more appropriate use.
  3. The Office of Technology should immediately contact Cisco and the NTIA to see if the state could trade out unnecessary features/modules in the routers which have yet to be deployed in exchange for the $80,000 of Cisco VoIP modules necessary for the routers to run in the State Police’s system.

 

Process was unauthorized.

A second issue Allred addressed was his claim that the Office of Technology used a legally unauthorized purchasing process to buy the routers with $24 million of federal stimulus money. Four vendors were pre-qualified for a purchase for “a simple expansion of a pre-existing network/telephony hardware and software platform/system architecture.” Only Cisco and Pomeroy IT Solutions bid, Allred said, but when the bid was put out, it specified only Cisco equipment.

Piggybacking on a contract is allowed but limited, he said. For purchases of more than $1 million, contract management is mandatory and includes reporting to the state’s purchasing director, Allred said, but the 2010 purchase was made through a secondary bidding process.

“I’ve been the legislative auditor now for over 19 years. This is my 20th session. We’ve done a lot of auditing. Until this, I had never heard of secondary bid.” – Aaron Allred

“I’ve been the legislative auditor now for over 19 years,” he said. “This is my 20th session. We’ve done a lot of auditing. Until this, I had never heard of secondary bid. A secondary bid process means that an RFP [request for proposals] is released to only those pre-qualified vendors on a specific contract who then may bid and a purchase made based upon the original contract.”

The director of the Division of Purchasing, David Tincher, had no fore knowledge of the $24 million purchase, Allred said. The secondary bid process did not appear in West Virginia Code, legislative rules or even the Purchasing Division’s handbook in 2010, he said, although in 2011, it was added to the handbook, but it’s still not in the code of the rules.

“I think there are some lessons we need to learn,” Allred said. “First off, we are overly dependent on Cisco’s goodwill. There’s been no competitive pressure on Cisco to give us their best price and engineer for us their most appropriate equipment. I’m also concerned in this instance that by putting the VoIP equipment based upon Cisco’s recommendation on phones that we’ve assisted Cisco to sell VoIP systems to all 55 county governments and all 55 school districts.”

Another lesson he cited is that, not only does he believe the secondary bid process is not legal, but it can be abused. In this instance, he believes it was.

 

Alsop defends purchase decisions

Alsop, who in addition to being chief of staff for Gov. Tomblin recently became his designee on the Broadband Deployment Council, said the administration has some disagreements with Allred’s findings. On Allred’s position that the VoIP for all the routers cost $800,000 to $1.4 million, Alsop said, “That’s only possible if you strip out every other capability out of the routers so that you don’t have any network capability, any wireless capability, any data capability and any video capability.”

“If you’ll talk to the grant implementation team, I believe their purpose was noble. They wanted to foster and plan for future development.” – Rob Alsop

The grant implementation team’s goal was to force broadband opportunities out into the communities, he said. “If you’ll talk to the grant implementation team, I believe their purpose was noble,” Alsop said. “They wanted to foster and plan for future development.”

West Virginia lags behind other states in broadband development, he said, and faster speeds are vital. “The grant implementation team’s vision was not to provide just a replacement router for what’s there, but to help foster and purchase things that those schools, those 911 centers and communities could not purchase on their own,” Alsop said. The Education Department made recommendations on where the routers should go, he said, and this was about pushing broadband capability out into rural communities.

“I think the real question is: What are the successes going to be five years from now?” Alsop said, adding that, if some counties are not looking toward using VoIP, they should be.

“If we’re going to get ahead of the curve and keep ahead of the curve, you have to make some investment and start thinking outside the box,” he said. “We need those counties with this technology to be doing those things, and shame on us if we don’t make sure they use those technologies for the next decade.”

Alsop said the team realized there would be no second chance. He said the federal government agreed there could be some savings through a two-tiered router approach. The discount the state received was about 25 percent more than it would get normally, Alsop said, but buying smaller routers would have eaten up some of those savings.

The router for the Marmet library was too big, he said. “But you could also look down in McDowell County and the increases that we’ve seen there,” Alsop said. “All the schools now have the capacity for 100 megabits and a one gigabit pipeline capacity for the backbone. And as it related to the voice over Internet protocol, if that’s implemented, it’s a huge savings.” He noted that the Kanawha County Public Library already is saving a lot of money with VoIP and said the education system could be the biggest beneficiary.

“We are working with the Department of Education, and if they believe that routers need to be deployed in a better place, we will be doing that.” – Rob Alsop

On the criticism that the grant implementation team didn’t do a needs assessment, he said that was because it wasn’t looking at current needs. “We are working with the Department of Education, and if they believe that routers need to be deployed in a better place, we will be doing that,” Alsop said, adding that the administration also is working with 911 centers and other community anchor institutions. In addition, he said, the state is working with NTIA on solutions for the State Police routers.

Alsop said the pre-qualification process was open to any vendors, and four became qualified. “As a result of that procurement, we got a discount of 51 percent off of Cisco’s normal pricing, and as I mentioned, about 25 percent more than the normal discount the state gets,” he said.

Although he conceded that Allred made several good points about the secondary bid process, Alsop said the administration believes there is a statutory basis for it. The best thing the administration could do is have the Legislature consider whether to authorize it through statute, he said. The administration already has put in some safeguards that Allred recommended.

Sen. Evan Jenkins, D-Cabell, said it seemed to him that the key issue is whether the routers’ capacity exceeds future needs.

Allred said, “I think they far exceed the future needs, and I think the Marmet library is a good example.” He said the library probably could meet its needs for about $75 a month through Suddenlink without even a Level 2 router.

“Technology tends to make things smaller,” Allred said. “Things that today would be considered Level 3 10 years from now are liable to be considered a Level 1 router.”

Routers have seven-year lifespans, he added, so by the time those for the State Police are hooked up, half of that will be gone.

When Jenkins asked if the purchase of the routers was a good decision, Alsop said, “If we had bought 300 large routers and 700 of the small routers, the discount that we would have received, we believe from everything we know, would have been much less.” He added, “If you tinker with those discounts at all, then you eat away at most of those savings.” The federal government estimated a 2.5 percent cost savings, he said, so he believes the decision was justified. However, Alsop conceded that not getting the issue with the State Police routers fixed earlier was not reasonable.

Despite the problems with the implementation of the BTOP grant, some officials, including Jim Phares, state superintendent of schools, have said West Virginia is benefitting from the project. In a commentary elsewhere in this publication, he writes, “BTOP is helping West Virginia schools overcome enormous challenges by extending fiber optic cables and equipment to much of our state. This means schools that can’t provide virtual learning courses or can’t allow enough simultaneous student access will soon have bandwidth opportunities for personalized learning anytime from anywhere. Students are on the verge of having broadband access to the same computer-based tools as any other student in the country, or even the world. And that’s a game-changer for West Virginia.”

Phares said BTOP-funded broadband expansion also is allowing educators and students to access digital content through interactive lessons, videos, project- and problem-based learning activities, videoconferencing sessions, webinars, forums, social learning sites, virtual courses, and online credit recovery options.

 

Editor’s Note – Jim Wallace is a former government reporter for theCharleston Daily Mail, former news director of West Virginia Public Radio and former news director of WWVA/WOVK radio in Wheeling. He now works for TSG Consulting, a public relations and governmental affairs company with offices in Charleston and Beckley. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from The Ohio State University and a master’s degree in journalism from West Virginia University. Wallace is the author of the 2012 book,A History of the West Virginia Capitol: The House of State.

 

 

 

By Christine Galusha

Senate Gets First Crack at Tackling Reform
http://www.dailymail.com/News/201302210280

Kanawha School Redistricting Prompts Outcry
http://www.dailymail.com/News/201302210317

U. S. Attorney Ihlenfeld Brings Drug Abuse Educational Initiative to Local Schools
http://www.mydailyregister.com/view/full_story/21784350/article-Mason-County-BOE-approves-policy-reviews?instance=popular

Ex-State PTA President Pleads to Funds Theft
http://wvgazette.com/News/201302220028

Putnam Preschool Teacher Receives Statewide Award
http://wvgazette.com/News/201302220026

Kenya: Peace Corps Worker to Help Deaf Students with Milk Money
http://allafrica.com/stories/201302221099.html

Multimillion Dollar Lincoln County School Building Bond up for Vote Saturday
http://www.wchstv.com/newsroom/eyewitness/130222_14045.shtml?wap=0

Mason County BOE Approves Policy Reviews
http://www.mydailyregister.com/view/full_story/21784350/article-Mason-County-BOE-approves-policy-reviews?instance=popular

Chamber Offering Scholarship Program
http://www.theintermountain.com/page/content.detail/id/559414/Chamber-offering-scholarship-program.html?nav=5008

Icy Threat Closes Schools
http://www.wvva.com/story/21302007/2013/02/21/officials-brace-for-icy-conditions-across-the-two-virginias

Hundreds of Students Flock to WV Capitol for Tobacco Free Day
http://www.wchstv.com/newsroom/eyewitness/130222_14049.shtml?wap=0

Roane County Schools Consider Cutting Bus Services
http://www.wchstv.com/newsroom/eyewitness/130221_14033.shtml?wap=0&

UPDATE: Substitute Teacher Arrested on Sex Abuse Charges, Name Released
http://www.wsaz.com/home/headlines/Substitute-Teacher-Arrested-in-Mason-County-192367951.html

NOTE: The above information was compiled by Galusha West Virginia Department of Education Office of Communication - cgalusha@access.k12.wv.us