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February 14, 2014 - Volume 34 Issue 11

 

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


By Jim Wallace

Just days after the House Education Committee passed a bill that some critics said would reverse important changes made in last year’s major education reform bill, Senate Bill 359, the committee took it up again. The full House approved the bill today.

Education Chairwoman Mary Poling told committee members Monday that House officials had determined that amendments the committee made in House Bill 4394 the previous Thursday were flawed, so they had to reconsider it.

The changes the committee tried to make last week were directed at provisions of last year’s reforms that have given faculty senates and principals more say in hiring teachers at their schools. The law lists nine criteria that can be considered during the hiring process but does not assign weight to any of them or even require that all of them should be considered.

In last week’s action, the committee adopted a compromise amendment that would require faculty senates and principals to consider each of the nine criteria in the hiring process, but it still would not have assigned any weight to any of them. That backed off from earlier amendments that would have provided less flexibility. But because of errors made in the committee’s meeting last week, Poling, D-Barbour, and Dave Mohr, senior policy analyst for the committee, explained that the compromise amendment was not adopted properly.

When the committee resumed its work on the bill this week, it was with a different amendment proposed by Delegate Tiffany Lawrence, D-Jefferson. She and Delegate Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, had developed the previous compromise amendment.

“We’re codifying those recommendations in that either a principal or faculty senate making this consideration would be required then to document those criteria.” – Delegate Tiffany Lawrence

As Lawrence explained her new amendment, she noted that state board policy already recommends consideration of the nine criteria. “So the only change we will be making to the state board policy, which is a recommendation, would be that we’re codifying those recommendations in that either a principal or faculty senate making this consideration would be required then to document those criteria.” Her proposal would require them to use a matrix or chart showing they had considered each of the criteria, although no weight would be assigned to any criteria.

In support of the amendment, Delegate Denise Campbell, D-Randolph, said it would ensure transparency and documentation. But Espinosa wanted to know what effect it would have on the hiring process. He asked Heather Hutchins, general counsel for the Education Department.

“The change is in the documentation of that consideration,” she said. “It will change the defense if documentation is kept but will not change the way hiring decisions are made.”

But Espinosa wanted to know if it would make it more difficult legally to defend hiring decisions. Hutchins said that would depend on how the matrix or chart is developed. She said officials at the Education Department had been having discussions about that. So far, she said, they had determined the change would require teachers and principals who had been trained in the new hiring process to be retrained and care would have to be taken to ensure the matrix or chart is not misleading.

School districts would have to maintain the matrices or charts in case they were needed in the defense of grievance cases, Hutchins said.

“Do you anticipate that would increase the number of grievances?” Espinosa asked.

“I do believe it is possible,” Hutchins said. “If there's a wide degree of latitude and no documentation required, we have, I think, heard anecdotally that some individuals have said there’s no point in filing a grievance.”

Further, she said, “I do think it has the potential of increasing the number of grievances that are filed. Whether or not that will happen, I don’t know, but I believe there is the potential for that.”

Poling said a chart would allow room for a narrative, which could be useful. She noted that Senate Bill 359 charged the state board with designing a process that would avoid litigation but not prevent it. Hutchins responded that it’s in everyone’s best interest to avoid litigation over an issue.  

“My legal opinion would be that it would not be appropriate to mess up something that is working,” she said.

 

Administrators expect the change to have some effects.

Espinosa then asked people with more direct experience in hiring teachers for their reactions. A.J. Rogers, executive director of the West Virginia Association of School Administrators, said, “I don’t think it would change the hiring process, just the documentation part.”

Mike Kelly, principal of Herbert Hoover High School in Kanawha County and a representative of the West Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals, said of Lawrence’s proposal, “It would probably affect what happens after the fact more than before. My opinion is, as the code is now, that when a principal and the representatives of the faculty senate sign off on that paper that they are essentially saying they're guaranteeing, giving their word, that the process was followed according to law.”

Asked about keeping a matrix, Kelly said, “I probably would not keep a matrix right now, because it’s not required and may not be necessary.” Although he said he didn’t see a problem with having documentation or justifying his hiring decisions, he added that he and some of his fellow educators are concerned about the long-term consequences of the documentation.

“It’s been terribly exciting for principals and teachers to have the opportunity to interview people and make decisions about what is best for our schools,”’ Kelly said. “We never experienced that before. We’ve posted a job. We’ve gotten a list. This person is at the top of the list. They want the job, they get it. It’s very exciting for us, because the most important thing is to get good people into the building.”

Hutchins said the only documents that now must be retained are the forms faculty senates and principals use to indicate their hiring recommendations. Lawrence’s amendment would require school districts to keep more documents, she said.

Delegate Roy Cooper, R-Summers, then asked, “What do you think what we’re doing here might do to the willingness of a faculty senate to get involved in the hiring of someone?”

Rogers said the teachers and principals he had spoken with have been “extremely excited” about having the opportunity to have roles in choosing who will work with them in their schools. But he said legislating requirements for what might have to go into a matrix or the narrative on a chart could take away from their flexibility.

Delegate Dave Pethtel, D-Wetzel, said, “Really what this comes down to is what shall be required as far as documentation to be kept in the interview process.” Then he asked Hutchins, “Would you also agree that, if a person wants to file a grievance based on what presently shall be required to be kept, it makes it virtually impossible for that person to win that grievance?”

“I don’t think it makes it virtually impossible,” Hutchins said. “I think it makes it a different standard of proof. Previously, under the old system, there was a very exacting examination of the matrix and each element that went into it – a very laborious process.”

Because of last year’s reforms, she said, for someone with a grievance to win that person would have to prove that those engaged in the hiring process used an “arbitrary and capricious” standard.

 “If those individuals can articulate a statement as to why they hired an individual that’s not arbitrary and capricious, which means it is rationally related to the hiring decision that they’ve made, that’s all that needs to be shown,” Hutchins said, giving examples of not liking a job applicant’s shoes, church or age as reasons for sustaining a grievance.

“So it’s a different consideration,” she said. “I don’t think it’s impossible. It’s different.”

Pethtel responded, “But it’s more difficult than if you have an actual set of standards.”

Hutchins called that comparing apples and oranges. She said the former hiring process was very rigid.

“So we’re not creating a new system to make it more difficult for teachers,” Hutchins said. “We’re creating a different system, a system that makes the hiring process more flexible and makes the schools have a greater voice in who they get rather than that rigid matrix system before.”

Then she added, “I think that there is the potential for use of a matrix to mean there would be more grievances filed.”

State Supt. Jim Phares told the committee that, when he was at a meeting of county superintendents from across the state last fall, only one reported having a grievance that had reached Level 3 while others said they had a total of four grievances that all had been resolved.

 

Democrats support the amendment.

When Lawrence defended her amendment, she said, “Let me just say a couple words: transparency, transparency, transparency, accountability, accountability, accountability.”

Saying that taxpayers’ dollars are used to pay teachers, she said, “We’ve all heard evidence anecdotally, and in some cases factually, that there are improprieties taking place and things that are not proper in the hiring practices. I think that flexibility and discretion is still very, very apparent in the amendment that we have before us, as stated in previous legislation in Senate Bill 359 and also in this bill. The only difference that I can see in the amendment that I’ve proffered is that we now have proper documentation.”

Several other Democrats on the committee also spoke in favor of the amendment. Delegate Ron Fragale, D-Harrison, said, “To me it’s maybe appalling that we want to have a system that’s funded by taxpayers that is our school system and it’s not accountable in terms of the hiring process. There’s no documentation.”

Someone who is turned down for a job has the right to know why, he said, calling it “obscene” not to have paperwork.

“We’re not talking about changing the world of education. We’re talking about putting it on a piece of paper to say this is why you got hired or this is why you did not get hired.” – Delegate Adam Young

Delegate Adam Young, D-Nicholas, said he also supported the amendment. “We’re not talking about changing the world of education,” he said. “We’re talking about putting it on a piece of paper to say this is why you got hired or this is why you did not get hired. It’s not something that will be detrimental to the intent of Senate Bill 359 that came out of this committee last year. I believe transparency in government is important. We hear that all the time. If you would be in opposition to this, in my opinion, you would be in opposition to transparency in government.”

Likewise, Campbell said, “Why would we not want to put something in writing? It almost leads you to think we have something to hide if we don’t want to put it in writing.”

Delegate Larry Williams, D-Preston, said he served almost 16 years as a school board member. If he were still on a board, he said, he would want to see documentation for hiring decisions.

But Espinosa, who opposed the amendment, said he saw no reason to make a change in the education reform law, which is less than a year old and has led to few grievances. He wanted to give the new hiring process more time to see how it works. If problems would develop, he said, he would be willing to change it later.

“I am left with the conclusion that this amendment that’s here before us – it seems to be a solution in search of a problem. I’ve heard nothing from anyone that we’ve questioned here today that has suggested that this legislation that we enacted last year is fatally flawed and is in need of the amendment that we have here before us.” – Delegate Paul Espinosa

“I am left with the conclusion that this amendment that’s here before us – it seems to be a solution in search of a problem,” he said. “I’ve heard nothing from anyone that we’ve questioned here today that has suggested that this legislation that we enacted last year is fatally flawed and is in need of the amendment that we have here before us.”

But Delegate David Perry, D-Fayette, who made the initial amendments to change the hiring practice, said he supported Lawrence’s amendment, which would not go as far as he initially wanted to go. “Nothing in this amendment weakens the hiring practice contained in last year’s Senate Bill 359,” he said. “As a former educator and teacher and principal, I want my county to hire the most qualified teachers for every vacant position. I believe Senate Bill 359 set up a standard for hiring the most qualified applicants for teaching positions, and I believe that this amendment ensures that we meet the standard. The amendment simply provides that we are hiring the most qualified applicant. If we are, indeed, hiring the most qualified applicant, then we shouldn’t be afraid to document it. Frankly, the amendment is good government, and it’s a transparency amendment.”

Delegate David Walker, D-Clay, said it shouldn’t surprise anyone that legislators would try to improve on Senate Bill 359. “I really don’t understand why documentation scares everyone like this,” he said.

When the committee finally voted on Lawrence’s amendment, all seven votes against it came from Republicans, but the 16 votes in favor of it came from a mixture of Democrats and Republicans.  The Democrats in favor of the amendment were: Jason Barrett, D-Berkeley; Campbell; Fragale; Lawrence; Ricky Moye, D-Raleigh; Perry; Pethtel; Poling; Ted Tomblin, D-Logan; Walker; Williams; and Adam Young, D-Nicholas. Republicans who voted for it included: Jim Butler, R-Mason; Danny Hamrick, R-Harrison; Ruth Rowan, R-Hampshire; and Linda Sumner, R-Raleigh.

The Republicans who opposed the amendment were: George Ambler, R-Greenbrier; Cooper; Espinosa; David Evans, R-Marshall; Amanda Pasdon, R-Monongalia; Suzette Raines, R-Kanawha; and Steve Westfall, R-Jackson.

Pasdon offered a motion to separate the bill to take the hiring portion out and put it into a resolution calling for the legislature to study the issue during monthly interim meetings over the next year. But Poling checked with the House clerk, who said that dividing a bill that way would be against House rules, so the motion could not be considered.

When the final vote came on House Bill 4394, including Lawrence’s amendment, all 23 committee members present voted for it.

On Thursday, the full House accepted an amendment proposed by Poling, Barrett, Lawrence and Espinosa that made a few other changes in the bill, such as dropping state aid funding for any position not properly posted to the statewide job bank.

When the bill came up today for a final vote in the House today, it again became subject of a long debate that lasted 38 minutes. Among the several delegates who spoke was House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, who said, “I think we are micromanaging this thing to death.” But Lawrence said the bill with her amendment would merely codify what already is state school board policy.

“It is absolutely silly, I think, that we are arguing over something that is already done in many schools across this state,” she said.

The final vote was 70 delegates in favor, 25 against and five absent.

Since the House Education Committee amended the bill to change the hiring process, some people have spoken out against it. Phares told a radio talk show host that he thought the change would be a step backward. And the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce has criticized it as creating a new level of bureaucracy and undoing some of the flexibility in last year’s education reforms.

 

 

By Jim Wallace

A bill to raise the pay of teachers and school service personnel was among the legislation approved this week by the Senate Education Committee.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin had proposed a 2 percent increase for teachers and school service personnel, but with Senate Bill 391, the committee substituted its own proposal that instead would provide $1,000 across-the-board increases for teachers and a 2 percent increase for service personnel, as well as a $12 increase in the equity supplement for service personnel. It also would set a goal of having the starting salary for teachers reach $43,000 by fiscal year 2019.

“Across-the-board [increase] reaches the new teacher faster, and if you do a percentage, it only widens the gap. What I really felt like we should be focusing on is trying to get our starting salary for teachers up.” – Sen. Bob Plymale

“Across-the-board [increase] reaches the new teacher faster, and if you do a percentage, it only widens the gap,” Senate Education Chairman Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, said. “What I really felt like we should be focusing on is trying to get our starting salary for teachers up.”

With the Education Committee’s approval, Senate Bill 391 goes to the Senate Finance Committee for further consideration.

Another bill the Education Committee approved is Senate Bill 513, which would provide a more equitable distribution to county schools boards of reimbursement for the costs of serving high cost/high acuity special needs students. They are students whose educational costs exceed three times the average per student cost. They include regularly enrolled students placed in out-of-state facilities and residential facility students with special needs who are enrolled with a county school board.

The reimbursement of costs over the regular limit is made with a combination of state and federal funds, but currently meets only 54 percent of the eligible requests. At less than full reimbursement, counties with higher percentages of high cost/high acuity, special needs students spend disproportionate percentages of their instructional budgets on them. The bill would require a distribution formula that would equalize the budgetary effects as much as possible. Senate Bill 513 also now goes to the Senate Finance Committee.

A third bill approved by the Education Committee is Senate Bill 493, which would ensure that suspension days are not counted as days absent from school when assessing whether a juvenile is a status offender or when prosecuting an adult for his or her child’s failure to attend school. Committee counsel Hank Hagar said there are three reasons for doing that: first, for prosecuting a parent for failing to cause a child to attend school; second, for prosecuting a student who is over age 18 and still enrolled in school; and third, for adjudicating a juvenile habitually absent from school. The bill now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Another bill the Education Committee approved doesn’t directly affect public education, but would help a private school in Plymale’s district. Senate Bill 540 would require the Secondary School Activities Commission to promulgate rules to allow a college preparatory team to elect to be recognized as a member.

Plymale explained that, for a team to be able to compete in national events, it must be recognized by a state body like the SSAC. He said such a team can be an economic boost to a community. In this case, the school that would benefit is Huntington St. Joseph Prep, which has a nationally recognized boys’ basketball team.

With the approval of the Education Committee, Senate Bill 540 is scheduled to the Senate Judiciary Committee, but Plymale said that reference might be waived so the bill could go directly to the full Senate.

 

 

By Jim Wallace

Committees in both the Senate and the House dealt this week with bills about handling student data. The Senate Finance Committee approved Senate Bill 420, which is about data-sharing in the longitudinal data system that is being developed. The House Education Committee worked on House Bill 4316, which would create the Student Data Accessibility, Transparency and Accountability Act.

In both committees, legislators expressed concern about how students’ data would be used and made secure.

For many months, the public education system and the higher education system have been working together to develop the longitudinal data system, which would include data on students from pre-kindergarten through college. Thus, it was called a P-20 system. Now it is being called the P-20W system, because it also is to include data about students as they move into the workforce. To accommodate that change, Senate Bill 420 would add WorkForce West Virginia and the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals to the existing entities that are to enter into a state data-sharing compact. It also would create a governing board for the longitudinal data system, which has been dubbed Zoom WV by those developing it.

“If you don’t have a healthy child coming into the education system, they will suffer and not be able to learn,” – Sen. Bob Plymale

The Senate Finance Committee further added the Bureau for Children and Families to the agencies that would be part of the data-sharing compact. But Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, wanted to know why child care data would be added. Senate Education Chairman Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, said it would be a continuation of the state’s efforts in early childhood education. “If you don’t have a healthy child coming into the education system, they will suffer and not be able to learn,” he said.

Plymale emphasized that the bill would improve the security of individuals’ information. “Right now, we have this system set up in the state,” he said. “There is no transparency in the fact of how the data is exchanged. Even though they are setting up these things, this put a transparency in that if a child care center exchanges data, they will have a data exchange compact that will outline what they will exchange, what information.”

Before that would take effect, legislators would get to review the rules developed for the system, Plymale said. The Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability, which typically meets each month between regular sessions of the legislature, would have to approve the rules, he said.

But Boley asked, “Are we adding child care just for the funding? Is this for grants we can get from the federal government?” Plymale said that is not the case. However, Boley said she was afraid the legislation is a classic example of “the philosophy that the government owns every single bit of medical and education data” for everyone from conception to death.

“I don’t see that,” Plymale responded. Instead, he said, the longitudinal data system would provide the data necessary for educators to help troubled students, such as getting them to read at grade level by the end of third grade, which is one of the goals of last year’s major education reform bill, Senate Bill 359. He added that the people on the P-20 council already have authority to gather most of the data for the system. “This is the transparency layer that is not necessarily there,” he said about Senate Bill 420.

Boley then expressed concern about the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which is the basis for the bill’s privacy protections. She said she had heard that the U.S. Department of Education “gutted” FERPA a couple of years ago, but Plymale said he didn’t think that was true.

“We will protect children’s data so it does not get out into hands that it doesn’t need to. From an educational standpoint, you do need data to be able to make the decisions as you move forward in the education of that child. It’s also sometimes in the health of that child. If we have kids that aren’t healthy, they’re not going to learn.” – Sen. Bob Plymale

“The bottom line is FERPA is there for the students,” he said. “We have always understood that in the state of West Virginia. We will always understand that in the state of West Virginia. We will protect children’s data so it does not get out into hands that it doesn’t need to. From an educational standpoint, you do need data to be able to make the decisions as you move forward in the education of that child. It’s also sometimes in the health of that child. If we have kids that aren’t healthy, they’re not going to learn.”

Plymale also told her that West Virginia’s data would not get into a national database. All of the data, including backup data, would be kept within West Virginia, he said.

Boley still insisted that U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan had changed FERPA on January 1, 2012, without going through Congress. “And the reason that it was changed was to allow personally identifiable information to be made available to vendors and researchers,” she said. Plymale said he would be glad to follow up and consider any information she has about that.

Two agencies provided fiscal notes about potential costs if Senate Bill 420 would become law. The Higher Education Policy Commission said it would have to add two information technology positions for the West Virginia Network at an annual cost of about $148,000.

WorkForce West Virginia said its costs have been addressed through an interagency agreement with the Higher Education Policy Commission. The start-up and program costs for the process were completed and paid for in 2012, according to the fiscal note, and the cost of the yearly data exchange is only $226.26 for staff time, which WorkForce already is billing HEPC for. Thus, the agency said Senate Bill 420 would not impose any new costs on WorkForce West Virginia.

The Finance Committee approved the bill, although a few senators, including Boley, voted against it. The bill now goes to the full Senate for approval.

 

House bill also aims for transparency.

On the House side, the Education Committee received a briefing last week about House Bill 4316, but did not formally take up the bill for consideration until Tuesday and again on Thursday. It would create the Student Data Accessibility, Transparency and Accountability Act, which would require the Department of Education to make publicly available an inventory and index of all data elements with definitions of individual student data fields currently in the statewide longitudinal data system.

Under provisions of the bill, the Department of Education also would be required to create a data security plan, ensuring compliance with federal and state data privacy laws and policies. Certain contracts would be required to include privacy and security provisions. In addition, the bill calls for having a data governance officer within the department to ensure department-wide compliance with all privacy laws and regulations. Further, it would add new annual security and privacy requirements for reporting to the governor and legislature.

“There is never any personably identifiable information that goes to the U.S. Department of Education. We are not permitted to share that with them. They don’t need that, and we don’t send that.” – Carla Howe

Carla Howe, the department’s data governance manager, said vendors would have to sign contracts assuring they would not share any data beyond what is needed for projects they are working on. “The purpose here is that we are making transparent our processes and our systems,” she told the committee.

A few delegates expressed concerns about how students’ data might be used and what might be shared with the federal government. Howe said only aggregate information, not information about individual students, would be shared with the federal government. “So there is never any personably identifiable information that goes to the U.S. Department of Education,” she said. “We are not permitted to share that with them. They don’t need that, and we don’t send that.”

Further, Howe said, the developers of the longitudinal data system have adopted a less-than-10 rule. She said that means that when there is a subgroup with a small cell size, certain data would not be broken out to prevent against using the information to identify individuals.

Like Boley, Delegate Jim Butler, R-Mason, questioned references to FERPA. In particular, he was concerned about information he had received about one section of FERPA. “It actually permits someone who has violated a previous data law to regain access to personally identifiable information and re-disclose it,” he said.

Howe said, even if that is the case, FERPA is the floor for West Virginia’s protections, not the ceiling. She said the system’s developers are putting in measures to ensure that problems don’t happen, so the problem Butler cited might be an issue in states where FERPA is the only security measure, but not in West Virginia.

Asked whether there have been any cases of misuse of student database information in West Virginia, Heather Hutchins, general counsel for the Department of Education, said she had never received such a complaint in the 13 years she has been at the department.

When Butler asked how long the state has been collecting data and whether more types of data would be added, Howe said the data have been collected since the early 1990s, but there was an uptick in the information collected about 2002 with the passage of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The amount of data has been stable since then, she said and added that the system’s developers are in the process of determining the justification for collection of each piece of data.

Dave Mohr, senior policy analyst for the committee, noted that the bill also requires that the proposed collection of any new data must go out for public comment.

 

Some student data are sold.

In response to a question from Butler about whether schools sell students’ data, Howe said, “Absolutely not.” But Butler said, “I believe I got information contrary to that.” He then cited a report that a school district in Chula Vista, California, paid for a visit from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan by selling student data. Howe said she was not aware of that.

Despite what Howe said on Tuesday, Mohr told Butler on Thursday that directory information on students is sold for school-related purposes, such as to vendors of class rings and yearbooks. On Thursday, Heather Hutchins, general counsel for the Education Department, said she was unaware that school districts had sold information about students. But committee members who had worked in public education said it is a common practice.

Noting that data are to be used to evaluate teachers, Butler said on Tuesday that it could cut both ways, either helping teachers or showing that their students are not performing up to standards even if the problems are beyond teachers’ control. Howe said many states are using value-added modeling, but West Virginia is not. She said West Virginia has a student growth model already in place and Education Department officials are in the process of determining how to use that data for a portion of teachers’ evaluations.

Howe said they want to avoid the problem the District of Columbia had in which 95 percent of teachers received satisfactory ratings but students’ performance was abysmal. Next year, 15 percent of West Virginia teachers’ evaluations will be based on some kind of student growth measures, she said.

“We need information to make better educational decisions for students. So making sure that the information is correct is important.” – Carla Howe

Delegate Adam Young, D-Nicholas, asked whether the collection of data is detrimental or beneficial for the student. Howe responded, “We need information to make better educational decisions for students. So making sure that the information is correct is important.” She said the data can be used to help students to make sure they can graduate. Sometimes that is granular information, she said, and sometimes it requires looking at the big picture.

 

Many changes are made.

When committee members reconvened on Thursday, they dealt with a long list of amendments. Some were just technical in nature, but others were more substantial.

One amendment would require the state board to provide guidance to county boards on how directory information should be used, what should be included and how to give parents the opportunity to object in a more uniform manner. Directory information includes such items as students’ names, addresses, telephone numbers, date of birth, place of birth, major field of study, participation in officially recognized activities, sports, weight and height for members of athletic teams, dates of attendance, indication of graduation or lack of graduation, degrees and awards received, most recent schools attended and photographs.

At the request of Butler, William Shepherd, an information technology specialist who works for the Department of Veterans Affairs, testified as an expert on the subject. He said many companies use database managers to solicit such information for marketing purposes. Such information also can be misused such as for identity theft.

Butler asked, “In your experience then, does this seem like data security to you or does it seem like free data?”

Shepherd responded, “It’s the farthest this from data security.”

But when Young asked if he had dealt with the same type of system as that used by West Virginia’s public education system, Shepherd could not say he had.

Hutchins told the committee that in regard to the collection of students’ directory information, “We are 100 percent in line with other states. If we did not have an electronic system for gathering and maintaining data about students, we would be unable to put together aggregate reports that are required for our federal reporting. It would probably put into jeopardy our federal funding. We would be unable to make data-driven decisions.”

Hutchins emphasized that directory information is defined very narrowly in statute, and that information makes it possible, for example, for schools to have yearbooks and programs for basketball games. Other information, such as grades and health information, is kept securely at the county level and is not released to anyone requesting directory information, she said.

Although parents can opt out of making some data about their students available, Hutchins said, the schools must be able to keep such data as attendance records, test scores and certain health information. Butler asked if schools could improve the way they notify parents about their opportunity to opt out of non-required data. Hutchins said one provision of the bill is for the Education Department to publish a data dictionary that would describe all of the types of information being collected about students. However, she said, rules about dealing with such information as that for student athletes on school teams are best handled at the district level.

After that long discussion, the committee unanimously approved an amendment for the state board to give guidance to school districts on handling students’ directory information. Likewise, the committee approved several other amendments on various aspects of the bill, although Butler voted against a couple of them.

Then Butler presented a few amendments he had prepared. One would require the Education Department to notify the governor and the legislature in the case of a data breach. Committee Vice Chairman David Perry, D-Fayette, supported that amendment, saying it would make the bill stronger. The committee approved the amendment unanimously.

However, the committee soundly rejected other amendments proposed by Butler. One would have prohibited schools from selling student data. Perry said that would prevent such activities as sales of yearbooks and class rings, which are typically handled by vendors. Delegate David Walker, D-Clay, suggested it would interfere with school fundraisers, and Delegate Roy Cooper said it could “put a noose around fundraising.”

Another proposed amendment from Butler would have required school districts to get parental approval before sharing student data with other governmental or private entities. Delegate Ricky Moye, D-Raleigh, said that could preclude districts from sharing data even with the state school board or Department of Education. Butler agreed that could be a result, but he wanted parents’ to have control over their children’s data.

“I have a few children in school myself, and until I started researching this information, I had no idea that this data was being collected and shared and sold. I think it’s important that we know what’s happening with our kids. I also think this will get parents more involved in what’s going on with their kinds, because they will be forced to know what’s going on.” – Delegate Jim Butler

“I have a few children in school myself, and until I started researching this information, I had no idea that this data was being collected and shared and sold,” he said. “I think it’s important that we know what’s happening with our kids. I also think this will get parents more involved in what’s going on with their kinds, because they will be forced to know what’s going on.”

Delegate George Ambler, R-Greenbrier, said that might be fine in a perfect world, but in the real world, students often don’t return permission forms that are sent home with them.

In the end, the committee approved the revised version of House Bill 4316 on a 21-1 vote. Butler was the lone no vote. He said the bill had “too many loopholes,” and he would like to see a better version.

However, Cooper said, “This is probably one of the most difficult [bills] we’ve had because of what’s going on in the rest of the country. What’s going on with data has frankly got a lot of us scared to death.”

The bill now goes to the House Judiciary Committee for further consideration.

 

Sponsor gets emotional about her bill.

The House Education Committee also approved House Bill 4384, which would require teachers of students with exceptional needs to either be present at an individualized education program meeting or to read and sign a copy of the individualized education program plan indicating that they have read the plan and to make modifications intended to help students in particular subjects.

The lead sponsor of the bill is Delegate Denise Campbell who shed tears as she explained the need for it.

“We’re trying to get our children who are special needs to be included,” she said. “When they’re included, they’re in a regular class, and they do have a special ed. teacher who helps them. However, they do have to go to gym, art and other classes.

The regular teacher and special education teacher, as well as specialists such as speech and occupational therapists, are included in the IEP conferences. However, Campbell said, twice she has had a teacher who had her son, Logan, for three years say she didn’t know he was autistic. On his next grade card after one such conversation, she said, he was graded as unsatisfactory because he couldn’t read music. She said that Logan reads only at the second-grade level.

“The next time, Logan gets in trouble, because he can’t play a recorder, because he can’t read,” Campbell said. “His teachers who have contact with him need to know what their limitations are so they can make modifications. Just because my son can’t read music doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be in this class.”

If not all the teachers know about his condition, she said, maybe the physical education teacher would put him out on the playground and let him have a seizure.

“The purpose for this is to be sure that every child that goes to school in the state of West Virginia has an opportunity to succeed in every class that they’re in. And if they need a modification with music and if they need a modification with art and if they need a modification with physical education that they get those as well as the modification they get in the regular classroom.” – Delegate Denise Campbell

“The purpose of this bill is to be sure that every child that has an IEP [individual education plan], that has a limitation, that if the teacher just works with him for 30 minutes if it’s phys. ed., if it’s music, if it’s art,” the teacher would understand the child’s limitations. “The purpose for this is to be sure that every child that goes to school in the state of West Virginia has an opportunity to succeed in every class that they’re in. And if they need a modification with music and if they need a modification with art and if they need a modification with physical education that they get those as well as the modification they get in the regular classroom.”

Cooper many modifications for students with special needs are simple but very important. Delegate Ruth Rowan, R-Hampshire, said that, when she went to IEP meetings as a teacher, her classes were put under the direction of the music teacher or the physical education teacher, so those teachers never got to go to the IEP meetings.

The committee approved House Bill 4384 by a vote of 21-0. It goes now to the full House of Delegates.

 

 

The West Virginia Board of Education decided this week to have the board’s president, Gayle Manchin write a letter to legislators about a recommendation for county school boards to have more flexibility in their budgets. The letter would encourage legislators to consider the proposal during their monthly interim meetings leading up to their 2015 regular session.

The proposal originated at a meeting in late January of the state board’s Commission on School District Governance and Administration, which is chaired by state board member Tom Campbell. The commission has recommended giving “school boards flexibility with using up to 10 [percent] of Public School Support Program funds [also called School Aid Formula/State Aid to Schools/State Aid to Counties funding] and by giving authority to school boards to submit data to the State Superintendent determining which areas the funds should be reallocated to address identified district and school needs.”

In its discussions, the commission acknowledged that various statutory changes would be necessary for implementing the recommendation. Changes to state code would include:

  1. Funding for PSSP Steps 1, 2, 3 at the higher level allowed or “employed.”
  2. Removing the “restriction” on bus replacement and funding of all PSSP Step 4 “without restrictions.”
  3. Removing PSSP Step 7 restrictions.

Although not specified in detail, the commission discussed a process whereby county boards could be granted “funding flexibility” through approval of the state school board, which would also develop and ensure that various “accountability” mechanisms related to the flexibility would be implemented. 

Based on a document the commission provided to the state board, the current recommendation was developed through meeting with officials in the state Department of Education’s Office of School Finance as well as three county schools superintendents and three school district treasurers. The document also says:

 Given the economic constraints impacting current and future budgets, districts and schools need to have flexibility in using budget allocations in order to operate efficiently and improve student performance. The Committee for Economic Development recommends the following actions to revise how districts and schools are financed and resources are allocated:
Expand district and school budget authority, but require standards of good managerial practice and accountability for student learning.
Create district and school budgets based on the educational needs of students.
Develop data systems that indicate the best ways to spend money.
 
At Wednesday’s state school board meeting, several members discussed the proposal. They included Lloyd Jackson, who termed the proposal an “incredibly major change” in terms of school funding. While he said “the devil is in the details,” one possible effect of altering Step 1 on the School Aid Formula, which funds professional educator positions, could lead to increasing the number of school administrator positions in the state. That’s a matter the legislature effectively addressed in 1990 by developing dedicated funding for allotted administrative positions.

Campbell said, based on the commission’s study, the county boards vary considerably in terms of capacity and that, despite the uniformity of School Aid Formula distribution, geography and, most of all, declining enrollments prove flexibility in the funding, coupled with accountability, can better meet discrete board needs – perhaps more efficiently.

Mike Green, another state board member, also stressed the need for accountability, noting the state board, based on directives from the legislature, would approve the various funding flexibility requests. He also noted the need to “socialize this [flexibility recommendation] across the street.” (That was a reference to the legislature, which meets in the main Capitol building across the campus from Building 6, where the school board meets.)

“I really think a modest amount of flexibility, if used wisely by the counties, can have a significant impact on the finances for school districts across the state, particularly as inflationary pressures continue to hit county budgets.” – J.P. Mowery

Pendleton County schools’ Treasurer/Business Official J. P. Mowrey, who addressed the state board at Wednesday’s meeting, said the proposal would aid school districts in terms of various financial situations. “I really think a modest amount of flexibility, if used wisely by the counties, can have a significant impact on the finances for school districts across the state, particularly as inflationary pressures continue to hit county budgets,” he said.

Cabell County Supt. Bill Smith, who is a member of the Commission on School District Governance and Administration, also spoke to the state school board.

Prior to the state board’s vote on the motion to present the proposal to legislators, Campbell and state Supt. Jim Phares noted legislative action on it would not occur this year.

Campbell said he plans to bring several distinct commission recommendations to various state school board meetings, noting the complexity of the issues the commission studied.
According to Howard O’Cull, W. Va. School Board Association Executive Director, that organization has yet to take a position on the legislation, but may do so once more information is received in terms of “practicalities.”

For more information regarding the commission’s flexibility proposal, refer to the January 31, 2014, issue of The Legislature, which can be found at: http://publications.wvsba.org/2014/01/31/news.

 

 

By Jim Wallace

One of the new bills introduced in the legislature this week contains the West Virginia School Board Association’s compensation proposal for county school board members.

Senate Bill 562, which was introduced Thursday, has been referred to the Senate Education Committee with a second reference to the Senate Finance Committee. The bill must pass both hurdles  before it can reach a vote by the full Senate. The bill’s sponsors are Sens. Truman Chafin, D-Mingo, and Jack Yost, D-Brooke.

West Virginia School Board Association President-elect Jim Crawford (Kanawha), who has spearheaded the bill’s introduction, said WVSBA members will receive further information regarding the bill on Monday, February 17.

“It is very important that members know what is included in the pay proposal as well as our organizational strategies.” – Jim Crawford

“Please heed this communication,” he said. “It is very important that members know what is included in the pay proposal as well as our organizational strategies.”

Crawford said the association, at the request of the House Education Committee, has polled every county board to obtain information regarding county board member pay-related matters. He said 48 county boards, largely through their county superintendents, responded to the survey which is being readied for House Education next week.

According the Howard O’Cull, West Virginia School Board Association Executive Director, representatives of the Barbour, Calhoun, Fayette, Pendleton, Tucker, Wirt, and Wyoming County Boards of Education did not respond to the survey.

The bill would provide county board members a $40 increase in per diem compensation, meaning pay per meeting would be set at a maximum $200. The 50 meetings per year limit for receipt of compensation would be retained, except for any county board having more than 20,000 students in net enrollment.

Other bill provisions would set pay for Regional Education Service Agency Regional Councils at $160 per meeting. The same pay would apply for county board members who serve on multicounty career technical administrative councils.

Pay for county board training sessions, which has not been provided in the past, would be set at the same rate of up to $200 for a meeting. The term “sessions” would be determined by the County Board Member Training Standards Review Committee and finally considered and approved by the state Board of Education.

To receive the increase in compensation for both per-meeting pay and pay for training, a county board would have to determine “from fiscal information provided by its superintendent that compensation at the greater rate [$200 per diem] is fiscally responsible.”

There are other provisions, including sections regarding reportage of the effects of training to the Legislature’s Oversight Commission on Education Accountability.

The last increase in county board member compensation occurred in 2001.

Here are  the listing of the last several successful county board pay proposals:

  1. In 1999, House Bill 3025 amended  W. Va. Code §  18-5-4 to increase to $100 (from $60) the maximum allowable per-meeting compensation of county board members.  It also increased to 60 (from 52) the maximum number of meetings in one fiscal year for which compensation may be paid.  It was effective July 1, 1999.

    Here is a link to HB 3025 as enacted: http://www.legis.state.wv.us/Bill_Status/bills_text.cfm?billdoc=HB3025%20ENR.htm&yr=1999&sesstype=RS&i=3025.
     
  2. In 2000, House Bill 4413 amended  W. Va. Code §  18-2-16(l) to cap the compensation of county board members serving on RESA boards at $100 per meeting attended, not to exceed 15 meetings per year.  The legislation was effective from passage on March 9, 2000.

    Here is a link to HB 4413 as enacted:  http://www.legis.state.wv.us/Bill_Status/bills_text.cfm?billdoc=hb4413%20enr.htm&yr=2000&sesstype=RS&i=4413
     
  3. In 2001, House Bill 2722 amended  W. Va. Code §  18-5-4(e) to increase to $160 (from $100) the maximum allowable per-meeting compensation of county board members.  It also decreased to 50 (from 60) the maximum number of meetings in one fiscal year for which compensation may be paid.  Finally, the legislation capped the compensation of county board members as members serving on multi-county vocational center administrative councils at $160 per meeting attended, not to exceed 12 meetings per year.  The bill was effective from passage on April 13, 2001.

    Here is a link to HB 2722 as enacted:  http://www.legis.state.wv.us/Bill_Status/bills_text.cfm?billdoc=HB2722%20ENR.htm&yr=2001&sesstype=RS&i=2722

    Here is an electronic link to the bill: http://www.legis.state.wv.us/Bill_Status/bills_text.cfm?billdoc=sb562%20intr.htm&yr=2014&sesstype=RS&i=562.

The pay increase proposal was reviewed in the February 7, 2014, issue of The Legislature.

The compensation increase is one of three pieces of legislation WVSBA is promoting this year, according to President Gary M. Kable (Jefferson). The other two proposals relate to Innovation School Districts and engagement and involvement for school boards in districts in which the state school board has intervened. House Bill 4336 contains the proposal for dealing with boards in intervention counties. Membership Liaison Barbara A. Parsons, Ed.D. (Monongalia) is the contact person for that legislation. The House of Delegates has approved the bill. It has been sent to the Senate Education Committee.

WVSBA Vice President Gregory S. Prudich, Esq. (Mercer) is the lead contact for the Innovation School Districts proposal.

 

 

Based on information provided by the West Virginia School Board Association, 316 persons have filed for election to 166 county boards of education seats that will be filled during the May 13 primary election. 

Of the 316 persons seeking election in May, 128 are incumbents, including each of the three previously-elected or appointed incumbent board members in 25 counties. (Incumbents include four persons recently appointed to fill vacancies of county board members who resigned largely to seek other elective office.)  The incumbents are joined by 188 contenders. 

 Only three persons have filed for county board seats in each of these counties: Barbour, Boone, Brooke, Gilmer, Grant, Greenbrier, Jackson, Mercer, Pendleton and Wetzel. 

The number of persons seeking re-election or election to county board seats in the remaining 44 counties varies from four to 12 contenders with the Roane County race drawing the dozen contenders.

 In Monroe County, two individuals have entered the board race – a situation that has occurred there in the past.

Listed below are the incumbent county boards of education members who are seeking reelection. Counties in which the three incumbent board members are seeking re-election are designated with asterisks (*): 

Barbour:  Joanne McConnell

Berkeley: Todd M. Beckwith
            Darin L. Gilpin

*Boone:  Danny Cantley
           Mark E. Sumpter
           Joe Tagliente

Braxton:  Dave Hoover
            Kathy Parker
            Mickey Skeens

*Brooke:  Chad Haught
            James Lazear
            Frank Ujcich

Cabell: Mary Neely

Calhoun: Steve Whited

Clay:  Dave Mullins
       Morgan Triplett

*Doddridge:  Chad Evans
                Roger “Jack” Bell
                Denver L. Burnside

Fayette: Steve Bush
          Pat Gray
          James Workman (appointee seeking election)

Gilmer: Carl L. Armour
         Thomas Ratliff

Grant:  Janie Berg

Greenbrier:  Jeanie Wyatt
               Kay Smith

*Hampshire: James Breinig
                Gerald Mathias
                Jean Shoemaker

*Hancock: Laura Greathouse
             Toni Hinerman
             John Manypenny

*Hardy: Rodney Barr
         Dixie Bean
         Margaret Shriver

Harrison: Allen Gorrell
            David Sturm

*Jackson: Steve Wedge
             Carroll Staats
             Jack Wiseman

Jefferson: Mariland Dunn Lee
             Scott Sudduth

Kanawha: Becky Jordon
             Pete Thaw

*Lewis: Beth Ann Burkhart
           Paul J Derico
           Buck Probst

Lincoln: Rodney Baker II (appointee seeking election)
          Fred Curry
          Steve Priestley
          Carol Smith

Logan:  Mark McGrew
          Pat Joe White

Marion: James Saunders
          Dr. Babette Simms

*Marshall: Thomas Gilbert
             Roger Lewicki
             Beth Phillips

Mason: Greg Fowler
         Dale Shobe

*McDowell: Jimmy Copolo
              Lynda Evans
              Kevin Wade

Mercer: Gilbert “Gene” Bailey
           Gregory S. Prudich

Mineral:  Lara L. Courrier
           Kevin D. Watson

Mingo: Stephen Marcum
         Robert Adams Jr (appointee seeking election)

*Monongalia:  Dr. Clarence Harvey Jr.
                 Mike Kelly     
                 Barbara Parsons, Ed.D.

Monroe: Candy Sabol
           Charles Sams

Morgan: David Ambrose
           Aaron Close
           Laura Smith

*Nicholas: Phil Berry
             Jason Swager
             Barbara Taylor

*Ohio: Christine Carder
        Jim Jorden
        Shane Mallett

*Pendleton: Richard Gillespie
              Teresa Heavner
              J. D. Wilkins

*Pleasants:  Angela Colvin
               David Meeks
               Dr. Heather Straight

Pocahontas: Emery Grimes
                Jan McNeel

Preston: Guy Cox
           Robert McCrum

Putnam: William Legg
           Craig Spicer
           G. Robert Cunningham (appointee seeking election)

Raleigh: Larry Ford
          Cindy Jafary

*Randolph: David Kesling
              Edward Tyre
              Lisa Wamsley

Ritchie:  Carolyn Bowie
           Ed Cokeley

*Roane: Greg Boggs
          Jeff Mace
          Chris Mealey

Summers: Sue Angell
             Deborah Clark

Taylor: Melissa Knotts
         Austin Upton
         Alan DePiano

Tucker: Janet Preston

Tyler: Jimmy Wyatt

Upshur: Greenbrier Almond
           Teresa Bellamy

Webster: Harold Carpenter
            Joyce Markle

Wetzel: Michael Blair
         Robert Patterson

Wirt: Carl Brainard
       Mark Lowe

*Wood: Jim Fox
         Lawrence Hasbargen
         Tad Wilson

*Wyoming: Mike Davis
              Arnold Harless
              Tommy Knotts

 

We would like to express our gratitude to the board members who have chosen not to run for re-election for their service to the children of West Virginia. The following is a listing of those board members:

Barbour: Dr. Robert “Bob” Wilkins
           Doward Matlick

Berkeley: Richard A. “Rick” Pill

Cabell: Mary Alice Freeman
         Bennie Thomas

Calhoun: Faye L. Barnhart
           Marvin L. “Mike” Wilson II

Clay: Donna “Beth” Cercone

Grant: Angela Iman
        Joyce A. Riggleman

Greenbrier: Kathy L. King

Harrison: Charles Reider (replacement)

Jefferson: C. Larry Togans

Kanawha: Dennis Davis (replacement)

Logan: William R. “Bill” Davis

Marion: Mary “Sis” Murray

Mason: Randy Searls

Mercer: Edward “Ted” Gillespie

Mineral: Allan T. “Terry” LaRue

Mingo: Orville Messer

Monroe: Kenny W. Mann

Pocahontas: Dr. Hanna G. Sizemore

Preston: Jason Hershman

Raleigh: Richard H. Jarrell

Ritchie: Sheryll N. Jameson

Summers: David D. Ballard

Tucker: Jared Parsons
          Jerome “Jerry” DiBacco

Tyler: Kenneth R. “Ken” Hunt
       Larry L. Thomas

Upshur: Patrick W. Long

Wayne: Robert T. “Rob” Pennington
          Darik Adkins
          Christopher Dean

Webster: Paula M. Tanner

Wetzel: William D. Aberegg

Wirt: James A. “Jim” Rader

Under terms of legislation adopted in 1989, at least three county board positions – the majority of the seats on the county board - are to be filled every four years. That provision was first effective at the 1994 primary election. 

 

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.