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February 20, 2014 - Volume 34 Issue 13

 

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


By Jim Wallace

The House Education Committee is scheduled today to take up a bill that would expand the concept of Innovation Zones to include entire county school districts. The bill, which is originating in the committee and has not been assigned a number yet, is based on a proposal from the West Virginia School Board Association. Earlier this legislative session, WVSBA Vice President Greg Prudich, president of the Mercer County school board, made a pitch to the committee to support the proposal.

As drafted, the bill would authorize eight county school systems to be designated as Innovation School Districts through a competitive application process to the state school board. It would permit two school systems to be selected from each of four categories for student population density – sparse, low, medium and high.

Each district would have to develop a plan for the innovations it would seek to implement, and that plan must be approved at the local level. A district selected by the state board to participate would be authorized to seek waivers of statutes, policies, rules and interpretations over five years as the plan is implemented.

Earlier this week, the House Education Committee considered another bill that originated in the committee. The purpose of House Bill 4618 is to establish a transformative system of support for early literacy and eliminate the critical skills instructional support programs for third-graders and eighth-graders. The bill would modify the critical skills program framework to apply only to the early literacy program.

Dave Mohr, senior policy analyst for the committee, said the bill is in line with the goal established in last year’s education reform legislation for students to read at grade level by the end of third grade. He said the $6.2 million that had been allocated for the critical skills program was dropped from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year. The Education Department is to report by November on program requirements so money for it can be put into the following year’s budget.

“This is greatly needed,” Delegate Larry Williams, D-Preston, said. The state has tried for years in various ways to improve literacy and discovered that the best way is to have more time on task with instructors working directly with students who need help, whether that is done after school, on weekends or during the regular school day, he said.

“To me, it’s worth the expenditure to get all we can get on grade level by the end of third grade in order to save a lot of money in the future.” – Delegate Larry Williams

“To me, it’s worth the expenditure to get all we can get on grade level by the end of third grade in order to save a lot of money in the future,” Williams said. “Because once those students get interested in reading, and if you tie that reading to what kids like to do, that’s going to help them more.”

After the Education Committee approved House Bill 4618, it went to the full House, where it is on track to pass as early as Monday.

 

Other bills get full House approval.

The full House of Delegates has passed a bill that received the Education Committee’s approval last week. House Bill 4384 is designed help students with exceptional needs who have individualized education plans (IEPs).

As Delegate David Perry, D-Fayette, explained it to his colleagues, “This is a relatively simple, straightforward bill to ensure that all teachers who have a child with an IEP in their class – not just the regular classroom teachers – have read and understand the IEP or have participated in its development. These often include music, art, physical education or vocational teachers who may not have the child on a daily basis but are still required to make the modifications necessary for the child to succeed.”

Last week, when the Education Committee considered the bill, Delegate Denise Campbell, D-Randolph, gave a tearful explanation of how her autistic son has suffered when certain teachers have not been aware of his needs. On the House floor, she retained her composure as she emphasized statistics. A total of 48,884 students in West Virginia have IEPs, Campbell said. Out of those, there are 5,566 that are gifted students, she said, and the other 43,318 students have special needs. Those students are to be included in regular classrooms as much as possible, she said, and many of them participate in gym, art and band classes.

“Those teachers need to be familiar with what some of the needs are that the students have and the things that they need to make modifications for to be sure that these children succeed,” Campbell said.

Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha, also supported the bill. He said he had served for years as a hearing officer in special education cases in West Virginia and elsewhere.

“One of the major issues that have come up repeatedly in the hundreds of cases that I’ve handled is that some educator somewhere has not read the IEP and therefore is not implementing the modifications that are required in the IEP when they had that student in front of them. I think that it’s important, first of all, because the child needs it, [and] second of all, because it will cut down on disagreements between the parents and the group of educators who provide services to the children.” – Delegate Patrick Lane

“One of the major issues that have come up repeatedly in the hundreds of cases that I’ve handled is that some educator somewhere has not read the IEP and therefore is not implementing the modifications that are required in the IEP when they had that student in front of them,” Lane said. “I think that it’s important, first of all, because the child needs it, [and] second of all, because it will cut down on disagreements between the parents and the group of educators who provide services to the children.”

The House approved House Bill 4384 on a vote of 96-0 with four members absent.

Another bill to get unanimous approval in the House was House Bill 4302, which would affect school districts’ special elections. House Judiciary Chairman Tim Manchin, D-Marion, explained to his colleagues that there has been confusion in the law about who serves as the board of canvassers for special elections. He said the bill would make it clear that the county commission would serve as the board of canvassers. The House approved it 94-0 with six members absent.

Two other bills the House passed would clean up issues with the Teachers Retirement System. One of them, Senate Bill 452, would clarify that the TRS annuity calculation for a member with reciprocal service credit shall be based on the final average salary calculation as provided by TRS. That bill had previously passed in the Senate, so it has completed legislative action and goes to Gov. Tomblin for his signature.

The other bill, House Bill 4365, would clarify when TRS member contributions should be remitted and how TRS employers should report member contributions. It also would specify that members of the Public Employees Retirement System transferring service to TRS shall pay compounded interest on the additional employee contribution owed to TRS. That bill now goes to the Senate.

 

Bill would seek to keep jobs at district level.

In the House Education Committee this week, members spent a lot of time discussing House Bill 4516 before agreeing to send it to a subcommittee. The bill would prohibit county boards of education from using Regional Education Service Agencies for displacement or employment of service personnel positions and professional instructional personnel positions.

Delegate Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, asked whether the bill is a result of concern that districts are using RESAs to eliminate positions now or just that it might happen. Dave Mohr, senior policy analyst for the committee, said, “I think the concern is that it’s happening now.”

But state Supt. Jim Phares cautioned the committee to be careful about the bill. He said several small counties share certain teachers. He cited the example of two small counties that couldn’t each afford a fulltime music teacher, so they share one through their RESA. Speech pathologists and physical therapists also are shared among districts, he said, while in RESA 4, counties share technology integration specialists.

Referring to the education efficiency audit issued two years ago, Phares said, “I don’t think that the intent of the audit was to ever minimize those relationships. You do have to take a look if counties are using contracted services…to displace personnel.” He added that the audit suggested that the RESAs should become agencies of efficiency, particularly in shared services for counties.

When Espinosa asked if the bill would require smaller counties to hire certain people rather than share them, Phares said it would. He said that especially would be true for speech therapists, because some counties don’t have enough need for fulltime therapists, so the RESAs tend to employ them. He also told Espinosa the bill could lead to inefficiencies.

“We have had counties that have [laid off] five secretaries and replaced them with one RESA personnel and expect that person to do all those jobs.” – Jackee Long

When Delegate Perry asked whether service personnel have been displaced by people hired by RESAs, Jackee Long of the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association said it does happen. “We have had counties that have [laid off] five secretaries and replaced them with one RESA personnel and expect that person to do all those jobs and are very inefficient at doing that,” she said. “So that’s the problem we’re running into now.”

 After a little more discussion, members agreed to send House Bill 4516 to a subcommittee chaired by Delegate David Pethtel, D-Wetzel. Other members on the subcommittee are: Ted Tomblin, D-Logan; Ron Fragale, D-Harrison; George Ambler, R-Greenbrier; and Ruth Rowan, R-Hampshire.

In addition to the new bill on Innovation School Districts, the House Education Committee was scheduled to consider one other bill today, House Bill 4501. Its purpose would be to provide that law enforcement officers employed for school security would be allowed to carry firearms on school property if certain conditions are met. Those conditions include meeting all the requirements set forth by the applicable law enforcement agency regulating the handling and use of firearms.

 

Finance Committee approves two education bills.

Also this week, the House Finance Committee approved two bills previously approved by the Education Committee. One is House Bill 4137, which would provide a more equitable distribution to county school boards for reimbursement of 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 and include regularly enrolled students placed in out-of-state facilities and residential facility students with special needs who are enrolled with a county board. The reimbursement of costs over the limit is made with a combination of state and federal funds, but those reimbursements currently meet only 54 percent of the eligible requests. At less than full reimbursement, counties with higher percentages high cost/high acuity special needs students spend a disproportionate percentage of their instructional budgets on them. The bill requires a distribution formula that would equalize the budgetary effects as much as possible.

The other is House Bill 4373, which would help improve the offering of driver education courses to secondary school students by providing options for permitted instructors and allow courses outside of the regular school schedule. The bill also would remove the requirement for the state superintendent of schools to prescribe the course of instruction, as well as to license and periodically inspect commercial driver education schools. In addition, it would remove from the purposes of the program that the secondary school courses also should be offered to out-of-school youth and adults.

Delegate Richard Iaquinta, D-Harrison, said he taught driver’s education for five or six years. “One of the problems with driver’s ed. class is you could only have 24 students,” he said. “Part of that is one of the teachers was in the classroom with the students, and the other person was out on the road.”

Many school boards got rid of driver’s education, Iaquinta said, and it has affected the number of accidents students have.

Both of those bills are on track to pass in the House of Delegates as early as Monday.

 

 

By Jim Wallace

The Senate Education Committee has approved a bill that some members are not happy about. Senate Bill 477 would let teachers determine the use of time during planning periods and would define what “meeting” means. The idea is to prevent principals from assigning other tasks to teachers during what should be their planning time.

Frank Collier of the West Virginia Association of Elementary and Middle School Principals said principals have been concerned about the bill.

“What bothers me is the fact that planning periods cannot be used for any meetings, such as IEPs [individualized education plans], parent meetings, et cetera.” – Frank Collier

“Now, I’m not against planning periods for teachers,” he said. “I was one, and when I first started, I think I got one a month. But what bothers me is the fact that planning periods cannot be used for any meetings, such as IEPs [individualized education plans], parent meetings, et cetera. My concern is, first of all, those meetings are planning for kids, and if you can’t meet, when are they going to have the meetings.”

Collier suggested adding a clause to the bill to allow a teacher’s planning period to be disturbed if it is for the benefit of the student.

Senate Education Chairman Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, said the legislature last year asked the Education Department for a recommendation about planning periods but received a response that wasn’t much of a recommendation.

Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, said the bill wouldn’t prevent a teacher from agreeing to an IEP meeting or a parent meeting, and teachers will agree to do that. “What this bill says is that a principal cannot require you to have to do those things, which many times take up most of teachers’ planning periods,” he said. “That’s the big complaint.”

The planning period is supposed to start once a teacher delivers students to another teacher, Lee said, but that’s not always how it works in practice.

Asked what he would do in a perfect world, he said, “If I were in a perfect world, I would extend contracts for teachers to 205 days, so that would allow you time during the school year to actually have IEP meetings and to be able to get everyone there to talk about the things you would need.”

Lee added that West Virginia is moving toward more project-based instruction. Teachers are using not only planning periods but also hours at night and on weekends to prepare for their classes, he said.

Sen. Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, noted that last year’s education reforms were designed to provide more local flexibility. So he asked state Supt. Jim Phares how he thought the bill would affect local flexibility.

Phares said he agreed with Lee about the complexity of teaching and the need for planning periods now. But, he said, parent conferences and other factors must be considered. He called those conferences “absolutely critical.” Teachers probably still would have those meetings during planning periods, he said, but collaboration with other teachers, evaluation conferences and evaluation goal-setting also must be worked in.

“I guess if a teacher doesn’t want to be…evaluated, they could say, well, you can’t do it on my planning period. You can’t require it. I think that speaks to local autonomy.” – Supt. Jim Phares

“I guess if a teacher doesn’t want to be…evaluated, they could say, well, you can’t do it on my planning period,” Phares said. “You can’t require it. I think that speaks to local autonomy.”

Phares added that every evaluation he had or did was during a planning period.

“The majority of teacher planning time should be teacher-directed, and the majority of the restrictions outlined in the bill would unduly limit the improvement of instruction if, as Mr. Collier said, they can’t require them to do anything that’s related to their planning time,” he said. “I would hope that language could be developed that would give principals the flexibility to collaboratively work with those teachers to implement improvement, such as collaborative planning, team meetings and student conferences.”

Carmichael said, “This removes local autonomy and directives from the school administrators.”

“I think it removes a lot of autonomy from the building-level principal, but I think that localities need to continue to seek solutions to this problem,” Phares replied. With a couple of changes, the bill could provide for that, he added.

Many people complained last year about a requirement for a 40-minute planning period at the elementary level, but it worked out, Phares said, although some old schedules had to change. “No piece of legislation is as bad as it seems nor as good as it seems,” he said.

Plymale indicated that he was disappointed that the state school board provided only very generic direction to legislators about planning periods, so in the absence of something more definite, legislators had to create something. Eighteen senators are co-sponsors of the bill.

 “I know from talking with teachers what a problem this is,” Plymale said. “It is important. We felt like this is a way to address it.”

When Carmichael said there is concern at the school level and among principals about the bill, Plymale said the administrators never presented alternatives to the bill, only complaints.

Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, suggested have the bill lay over until a later meeting to provide time to bring parties to together to make it better. But the bill’s lead sponsor, Sen. Greg Tucker, D-Nicholas, disagreed.

“Frankly, I’ve had several calls from teachers who say this bill is more important to them than the pay raise bill. This is a very difficult issue for them. The planning period is essentially sacred to them. They’re getting, in many instances, compelled to do things during a planning period that they don’t feel that they should do.” – Sen. Greg Tucker

“This has gone on for a year,” he said. “We passed [Senate Bill] 359 a year ago. In that bill, it was to be studied [with] a report back [on] where all those things would have happened, and it didn’t. So we put this bill together in an effort to resolve this situation. Frankly, I’ve had several calls from teachers who say this bill is more important to them than the pay raise bill. This is a very difficult issue for them. The planning period is essentially sacred to them. They’re getting, in many instances, compelled to do things during a planning period that they don’t feel that they should do.”

Sen. Larry Edgell, D-Wetzel, suggested that districts probably have enough central office employees who could fill in for teachers when the teachers must attend meetings.

“You’re absolutely right,” Phares said, adding he knows districts are using those central office employees that way. “The big conflict this bill has is with our special education laws in which those teachers of special needs students have to be in on those IEP meetings…. Particularly at the elementary level, it is a tremendous problem.”

When Sen. Evan Jenkins, R-Cabell, asked about what the state school board did to fulfill its responsibility to report to the legislature on planning periods, Phares said the state board had a commission that worked on it. But that didn’t satisfy Jenkins.

“What I’m sensing here is a level of frustration that something was asked for and something wasn’t done,” he said. “And because something wasn’t done, there’s not a willingness to even lay this over a day or two to try to facilitate.”

Donna Peduto, director of operations for the state school board, then explained that two actions occurred since last year’s legislation. One is that the governor’s office asked for a study of planning periods, and the state board provided a full report on that, she said. The conclusion was that it wasn’t so much the number of minutes teachers had for planning as the amount of time spent in collaboration with each other that mattered, she said. “It really said it’s not about the minutes, but it’s about the quality of what the planning period consists of,” she said.

The second action, Peduto said, was that the Commission on School District Governance and Administration came up with a recommendation on professional development, which emphasized the importance of collaboration.

The discussion ended when one senator used a parliamentary procedure to call for a vote on Senate Bill 477. In favor were nine Democrats: Bob Beach, D-Monongalia; Edgell; Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming; Bill Laird, D-Fayette; Ron Stollings, D-Boone; Tucker; John Unger, D-Berkeley; Erik Wells, D-Kanawha; and Plymale. Against it were four Republicans: Barnes; Donna Boley, R-Pleasants; Carmichael; and Jenkins. The committee went on to approve the bill on a voice vote, apparently along the same partisan division.

 

Committee changes governor’s bill.

The Education Committee also discussed Senate Bill 409, one of the bills recommended by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin but put off until today any action on it.

“There is a lot in this bill,” Plymale said. The bill would do several things: align school and school system accreditation, establish critical need alternative teaching certificates, modernize the school bus fleet by adding propane as an alternative fuel for recovery of additional school transportation costs, and address the transferability of college credits.

Much of the committee’s discussion focused on alternative methods for certifying teachers. Sen. Daniel Hall wanted to know if it would allow Teach for America, a program used in other states to help college graduates and professionals who did not major in education to become teachers. Although Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin had intended to allow Teach for America to operate in West Virginia, committee counsel Hank Hagar said the committee’s revised version of the bill would not do that.

Plymale has maintained for a long time that Teach for America is not a good program for alternative certification, because people who go through it get just six weeks of training before going into classrooms. But he said Teach for America was the only alternative certification method included in the governor’s version of the bill. Whether to allow Teach for America was part of hard-fought battles over education reform last year, and Plymale said he didn’t want to go through that again.

“I think that there are things that we need to be doing in education reform, and if we got bogged down on that, that would really not allow us to do the transfer policies that I think are in this bill for higher education that are very, very good and seek some alternative certification pathways,” he said.

Phares said of the revised version of the bill, “It does increase support for local systems, as well as autonomies, and increases their options getting alternatively certified teachers.” He also said a proposed alternative teaching certificate to fill jobs in critical need areas is a good compromise.

“I think it adds another option for counties to use in filling the hard-to-staff areas in their schools. But I also think it enhances communication and coordination with institutes of higher education in order to reach that.” – Supt. Jim Phares

“I think it adds another option for counties to use in filling the hard-to-staff areas in their schools,” Phares said. “But I also think it enhances communication and coordination with institutes of higher education in order to reach that.”

Such communication and coordination would occur at both the state level and the local level, he said. Likewise, Plymale said the bill would strengthen the connections between public schools and higher education in career-technical education. “Any new program that’s started at the career and technical college level has to show a clear pathway from the middle school-high school forward,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to create here.”

Chancellor Jim Skidmore of the Community and Technical College System said, “All programs should be developed that way, but it’s in statute [if the bill becomes law] and it’ll be required to be developed that way.”

The bill also would require that credits for community college courses could be transferred over for credit at four-year colleges and universities. “I fundamentally believe that every student that goes through community college should have an opportunity to further education and [have] options to transfer if they want to do that,” Skidmore said. “This certainly puts more teeth in those transfer policies.”

That doesn’t mean that someone who takes a welding course at a community and technical college could use credits for that course at a four-year institution in a pathway to become a psychologist, he said, but a core class like English 101 would transfer.

Sen. Boley asked, “Has anyone done a diagnostic survey that would give us a sense of what degrees West Virginians are seeking and what strengths and weaknesses in secondary education may exist right now that are determining this pattern?”

Phares said the Education Department did a job skill readiness survey in 2011, and another survey was done about what job skills are needed for the expansion of Marcellus Shale drilling and related industries. In regard to weaknesses, he said, ACT test scores show that only 20 percent of students coming out of high school are ready for college or careers.

“Part of this whole initiative under [Senate Bill] 409 is to make this seamless so that we understand we’re not duplicating efforts at the secondary level and at the collegiate level,” Phares said. 

Plymale said the committee would wait until today to take any action on Senate Bill 409 to give other people the opportunity to suggest better ways to achieve the bill’s goals. Other bills the left for committee action today or later include:

  • Senate Bill 539, which would provide that law enforcement officers employed for school security would be allowed to carry firearms on school property if certain conditions are met.
  • Senate Bill 455, which would create the West Virginia Move to Improve Act. It would require students to get more physical activity.

 

Senate approves two bills.

Also this week, the full Senate approved two bills related to education. One is Senate Bill 420, which would add WorkForce West Virginia, the West Virginia Supreme Court and the Bureau for Children and Families to the existing entities that are to enter into a state data-sharing compact. Further, it would add workforce and child care information to the data that are to be included in the P-20W Longitudinal Data System and create a governing board for that system.

Some people have expressed concerns about how student data would be handled, but Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, said agreements on handling confidential information had been worked out. He then asked for support for an amendment that would add to that definition whether anyone in a student’s household owns a firearm. “The folks that are collecting data will not be able to collect anything under the category of confidential information,” he said.

Plymale added, “We, in West Virginia, have never asked for any information related to people’s firearms. Never will. So I would endorse the amendment.”

After the Senate approved the amendment, Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall, R-Putnam, also expressed support for the bill. He noted that North Carolina has a similar longitudinal data system, but many people there were offended by the data it collected. By contrast, he said, Senate Bill 420 would prevent the collection of a long list of items. They include: email addresses, religious affiliation, whether anyone in the household has been a recipient of government financial assistance, medical, psychological or behavioral diagnoses, criminal history of students or family members, IP [Internet protocol] addresses, vehicle registration numbers, driver’s license numbers, biometric information, handwriting samples, credit card numbers, consumer credit history, credit scores and genetic information.

“There is a significant difference, I think, between how this data information has been collected in the past [as] alleged in other states and what’s happening here,” Hall said.

Plymale added that the Senate approved House Bill 3340 on a unanimous vote on April 10, 2009, to set up a compact among the Higher Education Policy Commission, the Community and Technical College Council and the state school board for sharing information for the longitudinal data system. But he said, that bill did not say much about the use or collection of data and did not provide for the legislature to have oversight of the system. Senate Bill 420 would do that, he said, and provide transparency in the process.

All the data would be aggregated, Plymale said, and nothing would allow for the identification of any individual. West Virginia would exceed federal data protections, he said and both the database and its backup would be in West Virginia.

“We have been known in the state of West Virginia [as] having one of the best longitudinal data systems in the country,” Plymale said. “This only takes it and strengthens it from the standpoint that there’s going to be a process, it has to go through [the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability], there has to be rules, and the legislature will see that at all times.”

Barnes told his colleagues that a radio talk show host in Huntington had incited people to call senators’ offices with concerns about privacy issues. But he said those concerns were misplaced. 

“We already have a longitudinal data system in place that is already gathering information. This legislation therefore clarifies with the amendments that have been made what is confidential information. If we don’t pass this bill today, then the longitudinal data system moves forward without the privacy protections.” – Sen. Clark Barnes

“We already have a longitudinal data system in place that is already gathering information,” Barnes said. “This legislation therefore clarifies with the amendments that have been made what is confidential information. If we don’t pass this bill today, then the longitudinal data system moves forward without the privacy protections, which the chairman of Education has so judiciously helped us to put in.”

Further, he said, “This is a better bill than what we had two years ago.”

The Senate approved Senate Bill 420 on a 31-3 vote with the three no votes coming from Republicans: Boley, Carmichael and David Nohe, R-Wood.

 

Senator attempts to help his alma mater.

The other education-related bill the Senate approved is Senate Bill 540, which would require the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission to promulgate rules that allow a college preparatory team to elect to be recognized as a member. The bill is intended to benefit Huntington St. Joseph Prep, which has a nationally recognized boys’ basketball team and needs WVSSAC membership to participate in some national events. But Sen. Chris Walters, R-Putnam, tried to amend the bill to benefit the Linsly Institute, a private school in Wheeling that he attended. He called the amendment simple: “It basically states that the SSAC cannot deny any West Virginia private school that has a boarding program from competing in the state tournaments.”

But Sen. Larry Edgell, D-Wetzel, said he was vehemently opposed to the amendment. He said he had spoken with the SSAC and coaches about it. He added that he also had coached for 15 years.

“The SSAC has the rules. We shouldn’t be interfering in those particular rules.” – Sen. Larry Edgell

“The SSAC has the rules,” Edgell said. “We shouldn’t be interfering in those particular rules.”

Some private schools are members of the SSAC but they abide by all of its rules, he said. “Linsly was offered an opportunity to do that, and they refused to abide by the rules the SSAC.”

Walters conceded that was correct. But he said the SSAC wanted to prevent Linsly’s boarding students from playing. He explained that Linsly has 440 students with 80 percent of them local to the Wheeling area, while the others are from around the state and from other countries.

“Currently, because they have a boarding program, we are telling West Virginians, those 80 percent Wheeling [students], that you don’t have a right to play in your state tournament – to play basketball, football on a state level and compete for that prize,” Walters said, adding that many other private schools are allowed to compete in state tournaments. “But because Linsly wants to bring in an international flavor to their classrooms, to expand cultural education for international cultures, they’re unable to compete in the state tournament.”

Not using the boarding students would result in Linsly’s teams not having enough members to compete in tournaments, he said.

The Senate rejected the amendment on a voice vote.

Plymale then explained that, while the bill would allow a college preparatory team to elect to be recognized as a member of the SSAC, it would prohibit the team from competing for league, regional or state championships. The team would be allowed to play a limited schedule in each sport against SSAC teams, he said.

The Senate approved Senate Bill 540 on a 31-3 vote with the no votes coming from three Eastern Panhandle senators: Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkeley; Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson; and Craig Blair, R-Berkeley.

Another bill, Senate Bill 252, is on second reading in the Senate today. The Senate could pass it as early as Friday. The bill would authorize school boards, superintendents and principals to allow certain expelled students the opportunity to return to school through completion of a juvenile drug court program.

 

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.