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Perform Criminal Background Checks at Your Peril

The Gilmer Free Press

A federal policy intended to help minorities is likely to have the opposite effect.

Should it be a federal crime for businesses to refuse to hire ex-convicts? Yes, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which recently released 20,000 convoluted words of regulatory “guidance” to direct businesses to hire more felons and other ex-offenders.

In the late 1970s, the EEOC began stretching Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to sue businesses for practically any hiring practice that adversely affected minorities. In 1989, the agency sued Carolina Freight Carrier Corp. of Hollywood, Fla., for refusing to hire as a truck driver a Hispanic man who had multiple arrests and had served 18 months in prison for larceny. The EEOC argued that the only legitimate qualification for the job was the ability to operate a tractor trailer.

U.S. District Judge Jose Alejandro Gonzalez Jr., in ruling against the agency, said: “EEOC’s position that minorities should be held to lower standards is an insult to millions of honest Hispanics. Obviously a rule refusing honest employment to convicted applicants is going to have a disparate impact upon thieves.“

The EEOC ignored that judicial thrashing and pressed on. Last April, the agency unveiled its “Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions,“ declaring that “criminal record exclusions have a disparate impact based on race and national origin.“

Though blacks make up only 13% of the U.S. population, more blacks were arrested nationwide for robbery, murder and manslaughter in 2009 than whites, according to the FBI. The imprisonment rate for black men “was nearly 7 times higher than White men and almost 3 times higher than Hispanic men,“ notes the EEOC. These statistical disparities inspired the EEOC to rewrite the corporate hiring handbook to level the playing field between “protected groups” and the rest of the workforce.

Most businesses perform criminal background checks on job applicants, but the EEOC guidance frowns on such checks and creates new legal tripwires that could spark federal lawsuits. One EEOC commissioner who opposed the new policy, Constance Barker, warned in April that “the only real impact the new Guidance will have will be to scare business owners from ever conducting criminal background checks. . . . The Guidance tells them that they are taking a tremendous risk if they do.”

If a background check discloses a criminal offense, the EEOC expects a company to do an intricate “individualized assessment” that will somehow prove that it has a “business necessity” not to hire the ex-offender (or that his offense disqualifies him for a specific job). Former EEOC General Counsel Donald Livingston, in testimony in December to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, warned that employers could be considered guilty of “race discrimination if they choose law abiding applicants over applicants with criminal convictions” unless they conduct a comprehensive analysis of the ex-offender’s recent life history.

It is difficult to overstate the EEOC’s zealotry on this issue. The agency is demanding that one of Mr. Livingston’s clients—the Freeman Companies, a convention and corporate events planner— pay compensation to rejected job applicants who lied about their criminal records.

The biggest bombshell in the new guidelines is that businesses complying with state or local laws that require employee background checks can still be targeted for EEOC lawsuits. This is a key issue in a case the EEOC commenced in 2010 against G4S Secure Solutions after the company refused to hire a twice-convicted Pennsylvania thief as a security guard.

G4S provides guards for nuclear power plants, chemical plants, government buildings and other sensitive sites, and it is prohibited by state law from hiring people with felony convictions as security officers. But, as G4S counsel Julie Payne testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights this past December, the EEOC insists “that state and local laws are pre-empted by Title VII” and is pressuring the company “to defend the use of background checks in every hiring decision we have made over a period of decades.“

The EEOC’s new regime leaves businesses in a Catch-22. As Todd McCracken of the National Small Business Association recently warned: “State and federal courts will allow potentially devastating tort lawsuits against businesses that hire felons who commit crimes at the workplace or in customers’ homes. Yet the EEOC is threatening to launch lawsuits if they do not hire those same felons.“

At the same time that the EEOC is practically rewriting the law to add “criminal offender” to the list of protected groups under civil-rights statutes, the agency refuses to disclose whether it uses criminal background checks for its own hiring. When EEOC Assistant Legal Counsel Carol Miaskoff was challenged on this point in a recent federal case in Maryland, the agency insisted that revealing its hiring policies would violate the “governmental deliberative process privilege.“

The EEOC is confident that its guidance will boost minority hiring, but studies published in the University of Chicago Legal Forum and the Journal of Law and Economics have found that businesses are much less likely to hire minority applicants when background checks are banned. As the majority of black and Hispanic job applicants have clean legal records, the new EEOC mandate may harm the very groups it purports to help.

Naturally, the EEOC will have no liability for any workplace trouble that results from its new hiring policy. But Americans can treat ex-offenders humanely without giving them legal advantages over similar individuals without criminal records. The EEOC’s new regulatory regime is likely to chill hiring across the board and decrease opportunities for minority applicants.

~~  James Bovard – WSJ ~~

GSC Theater Group Members Performing “Robin Hood” - 02.20.13 - 02.22.13 -This Week

Rehearsals are underway for the Glenville State College Theatre production ‘Robin Hood.’ The play will run Wednesday, February 20, 2013 through Friday, February 22, 2013 at 7:00 PM each night in the GSC Administration Building Presidents Auditorium.

The Gilmer Free Press


•  The lead role of Robin Hood will be played by Shane Lehman, a junior English major from Fostoria, Ohio.

•  Freshman biology major Vincent Nolte from Buckhannon (Upshur County), West Virginia will play Will Scarlet.

•  Friar Tuck will be played by freshmen music education major Travis Pierson of Milton (Cabell County), West Virginia.

•  Logan Carpenter, a sophomore elementary education major from Hacker Valley (Webster County), West Virginia will play Much Miller.

•  The role of Little John will be filled by Brandon Nelson, a junior computer and information systems major from Glenville (Gilmer County), West Virginia.

•  Marion will be played by GSC 2011 graduate and Hidden Promise Scholar Consortium Coordinator Whitney Stalnaker of Glenville (Gilmer County) West Virginia.

•  Samantha Wolford, a junior mathematics education major from Buckhannon (Upshur County), West Virginia, will play the role of Gwendolyn.

•  Cecily will be played by Jamie Stanley, a junior psychology major from Point Pleasant (Mason County), West Virginia.

•  Junior natural resource management Brittany Ferguson of Glenville (Gilmer County), West Virginia will portray Alice.

•  Kayla Jarvis, a freshman elementary education and early education major from Buckhannon (Upshur County), West Virginia, will play Gillian.

•  Traci Kelley, a freshman criminal justice major from Buckhannon (Upshur County), West Virginia will perform as both Mathilda and Mrs. Aristocrat.

•  The role of Peter will be played by Patrick Montgomery, a theater volunteer from Sand Fork (Gilmer County), West Virginia.

•  Robert Hensley, a general studies freshman from Dundalk, Maryland, will play the role of both William Makepeace and Mr. Aristocrat.

•  Jonathan and Jenny Summers will be played by Sebastian and Isabel Morris, theater volunteers and children of GSC Assistant Professor of Biology and Department Chair Dr. Gary Morris who is also in the production. All three are residents of Glenville (Gilmer County), West Virginia.

•  Dr. Morris plays the role of Robert Summers and the Bishop of York.

•  Prince John will be played by Elderied McKinney, a senior management major from West Bloomfield, Michigan.

•  The Sheriff of Nottingham will be played by Eric W. Jones of Weston (Lewis County), West Virginia, a freshman management major.

•  Jace Parker, a sophomore English education major from Weston (Lewis County), West Virginia will play the role of Bad Friar.


GSC Professor of Communications Dennis Wemm said, “The play will be presented in two formats. A longer version will take place in the evenings that will include the entire show and be geared toward college students and community members. A shorter free version will also take place for elementary school students during the daytime.”

Wemm says the story is about one of the greatest characters of English folk legend. It has been made into endless legends, story collections, plays, movies, ballets and operas. The performance is recommended for ages 13 to adult.

General admission is $3.00, and GSC students with IDs get in for free.

For more information, contact Wemm at “Dennis.Wemm@glenville.edu” or call 304.462.6323.

Empowering Parents to Help Children Read Like Rock Stars

The Gilmer Free Press

You do not have to be a certified educator to help your child read like a rock star. In fact, it might even be easier to pull it off if you are not an educator.

Why? Because the classroom can be a stressful, evaluative reading environment for children, and struggling readers can feel even more pressure when they know they will be tested.

There is, however, a way to help your child relax, read, and actually comprehend what is being read at home.
Parents who come to me feeling intimidated and daunted by the task of helping their children with reading comprehension often walk away feeling a great sense of relief by the time I am done talking.

Why? Because I suggest a shockingly simple initial starting point for parents:


DO NOT WORRY ABOUT TEACHING READING. JUST READ

If you just read with your child and have normal conversations from time to time, without ever interrupting or interfering with the natural reading process, and without asking question after question, both you and your child will realize how easy, rewarding, and beneficial this process actually is.


Here are some basic steps to make that happen:


EMPATHIZE WITH YOUR CHILD’S STRUGGLE WHILE PROVIDING SOME BASIC GUIDANCE BEFORE OPENING THE BOOK

Reading is not easy. Even adults find themselves “reading,“ with eyes following along the lines of text, flipping page after page while the minutes pass, only to realize they have no idea what happened on the pages they were supposedly reading. I call this the passive eye shift. Our fingers and eyes are moving, but either our brains are off in La La Land or we are too busy visualizing something we read earlier in the book to actually focus on the text we’re trying to read. This is completely normal. Everyone experiences it. I want you to talk about these little blips with your children. Let them know that not only do lots of kids experience these struggles when reading, but adults do as well.

Your child does not need to feel like a failure, but chances are, if he or she is failing those reading comprehension questions at school, that ship has already sailed. You can reverse course by empathizing with your child’s struggle, and providing some guidance before you open the book in the first place.


IMPLEMENT A HANDS-OFF PLAN OF ACTION FOR DEALING WITH CHALLENGING WORDS.

There is no point constantly correcting a child or explaining things while he or she is reading. It is extremely distracting. Adults do not like to be interrupted while reading, so what makes us think kids are cool with it? And we wonder why kids cannot answer comprehension questions after we have interrupted them 386 times while reading the passage in the first place.

Start by making sure your child plays a major role in choosing an engaging book to read with you. If your child thinks the book is too challenging or boring, do not argue about it; just let him or her choose a new book. Then, let your child know that when encountering a really tough word, he or she should just say “blank” instead of trying to say the tricky word, and you will deal with the pronunciation and definition together later. Once the child has finished the chapter or is at a good stopping point in the story, you two can start sounding out the word and using context clues or the dictionary or internet to figure out its meaning.


LET YOUR CHILD KNOW THAT IT IMPRESSES YOU WHEN HE OR SHE VOLUNTARILY REREADS A PARTICULAR SECTION.

There are plenty of times when kids (and adults) need to reread a sentence, paragraph, or in my case, an entire chapter, if we engage in the passive eye shift or the section is boring or challenging. A tremendous amount of our comprehension comes not from our initial reading of a passage, but from the times we have to reread sections that we believed were important but that we didn’t quite focus on hard enough.

Teachers often have to force kids to reread; kids tend not to do it voluntarily. If you let your child know that voluntary rereading impresses you and you express joy when they do so, you will see wild growth in their comprehension skills. The fact is that kids want to impress the adults in their lives. It is just downright unfair that the primary way kids think they can impress adults is through great performance on tests. Make it easier for your child to impress you. Show your excitement during little victories (like small improvements, a smoothly-read sentence, or voluntary rereading), but do not go overboard. Compliments should be just enough to reinforce the action to the child, but not so much that the child thinks the only reason to perform the action is for the reward or parental excitement that follows.

Struggling readers need instruction, empathy, and engaging reading materials. You can provide a safe, assessment-free reading environment at home. The laid-back, hands-off, empathetic approach in this article will ensure that your child starts to feel some success with reading, a fundamental step in boosting comprehension and nurturing great readers.

~~  Kumar Sathy - An educator and author of “Attack of the Chicken Nugget Man: A National Test Prep Adventure,“ winner of the 2010 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award.  ~~

See www.KumarSathy.com.

G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - GOP Gains Advantage in Straight Ticket Voting

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A Republican strategist working on the 2014 election, who asked that his name not be used, has forwarded me a county-by-county list of straight ticket voting by party from the 2012 General Election.

The list includes 52 of the 55 counties. Summers County is still out, as are Braxton and Wyoming, which use paper ballots and do not count straight ticket ballots.

Still for the 52 that have checked in, the numbers show 87,323 Republican straight ticket ballots compared with 82,539 Democrat.  3,765 voted straight ticket either Mountain Party or Libertarian.  So Republicans held a 50.3% to 47.5% advantage in straight ticket voting in 2012 in those counties.

What’s perhaps more interesting is the number of counties that switched from having a majority of Democratic straight ticket voters to Republican.

According to the figures I’ve seen, 26 of the 53 reporting counties had a higher%age of straight ticket Republican voters.  In 2010, only 16 of those 53 counties had more Republican straight ticket ballots.

Twelve counties (Barbour, Greenbrier, Marshall, Mercer, Nicholas, Pendleton, Pleasants, Raleigh, Roane, Taylor, Tucker and Wirt) flipped from D to R on straight ticket ballots.  One county, Jefferson, went the other way.

One of the most notable switches was Raleigh County.  In 2010, 53% of the straight ticket ballots were Democrat and 46% Republican, but in the last election 57% were Republican and 42% we Democrat.

Republicans are also buoyed by some of the other figures.

For example, Harrison County, a traditional Democratic stronghold, still held an advantage in straight ticket voting in 2012 (50.7% to 46.8%), but the gap was significantly narrower than just two years before (58.5% to 40.2%).

In Mercer County, there appears to have been a stunning shift.  In 2010, straight ticket votes were evenly split with a slight advantage going to the Democrats (49.8% to 48.3%).  But in 2012, the Republican Party received 60% of the straight ticket votes.

These numbers should worry down ballot Democratic candidates, who have benefited substantially over the years from a significant registration advantage and a strong vote getter at the top of the ticket.

Consider for example, that in the 2006 General Election, with Senator Robert Byrd on the ballot, Democrats collected 105,000 straight ticket votes, compared with just 50,000 for the Republicans.

Now, the number of straight ticket votes is essentially a split between the two parties with a slight edge going to the Republicans, even though Democrats continue to hold a 52% to 29% advantage in registration.

As a general rule, Democratic candidates in West Virginia still begin with a distinct advantage.  However, Republicans, who historically have faced mountainous obstacles, are now finding the challenge is more of a manageable hill.

G-otcha™: Second “Buckwild” Cast Member Arrested

Imprisonment Status:  Misdemeanor
Full Name: Burford,  Michael Douglas
Height: 6’  3"
Weight: 240 lbs.
Birth Date: 03.22.1991
Gender: Male
Booking Date: 02.15.2013
Facility: South Central Regional Jail
Imprisonment Status: Misdemeanor

Offender Court Order Information

Booking ID Issuing Agency Location
999169812 Kanawha County - Bail: $0.00

 

A second cast member of the popular MTV show “Buckwild” is arrested in a week’s time.

Michael Douglas Burford was arrested Thursday night on a charge of aggravated DUI.

He is free on bond after he was booked at the South Central Regional Jail.

Burford, known on the show as “Bluefoot” is the second member of the cast to be arrested this week.

Last Sunday 24-year old Salwa Amin was arrested on charges of possession with intent to distribute heroin and oxycodone in Nicholas County.

Amin was released on bond from the Central Regional Jail in Flatwoods.

On Friday, she took to her Twitter page to address the situation.

“I appreciate all my supporters and those that weren’t quick to jump to judgment throughout this difficult time,” Amin wrote.  ”Don’t believe everything you see and read PERIOD. Full story in details will be out soon.”

A Minute with Jay: Protecting Our Libraries

G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - Router-Gate

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The mismanagement of the multi-million dollar purchase of Internet routers from Cisco by the state of West Virginia has struck a chord under the state Capitol Dome.

Everyone wants to talk, either publicly or privately, about just how bad this deal was and how much money was squandered. Most conversations end with a lot of head shaking and the question, “how could this happen?”

That’s not just a hindsighted lament.  Surely at some point in 2010 during the purchase of 1,164 high-powered Internet routers for $24 million in federal stimulus money, somebody would have questioned the legitimacy of the deal.

Lt. Colonel Mike Todorovich, a member of the Grant Implementation Team that oversaw the project, told the Legislative Auditor, “Those making the decisions on how to spend the money did not consult with individuals with technical knowledge on the best methods to utilize the funds.”

That’s a polite way of labeling what was either incompetence, or worse, a willful disregard for best business practices and the waste of millions of dollars of taxpayer money.

The audit concludes that Cisco up-sold the state and the state Office of Technology and the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program Grant Implementation Team whiffed on a decision that could have been made by anyone who bothered to read the recommendations in Cisco’s own literature.

The deal came when Senator Joe Manchin was Governor.  Manchin, who is not mentioned in the audit, defended the purchases in a statement emailed to me.

“The routers were a long-term investment for West Virginia,” Manchin said.  “We were planning for future growth and wanted to be able to educate our children, create jobs, grow our economy and keep our communities safe well into the 21st century.”

But the audit concluded the high-end routers that have been installed in or are planned for schools, libraries and State Police barracks, wildly exceeded future needs in most cases.  The tiny Marmet Public Library with its lone Internet connection will never need a $22,600 router that could handle a medium-sized business.

The heat is now coming down on the current Tomblin Administration, which has so far also defended the router deal.  It’s hard to imagine why, unless the current Governor fears the wrath of the former Governor if he calls out this pig in a poke.

Still, here’s what Governor Tomblin should do:

–Accept the the audit’s findings as proof that the router deal was botched and pledge to get to the bottom of it.

–Find out who signed off on the router purchase and, if he or she still works for the state, fire them.

–Tell Cisco that if it wants to continue doing business with the state the company will revisit the contract, take back the unused routers and refund the state (or the federal government, since it was federal stimulus money).

–Introduce legislation to prevent the kind of no-bid contract that led to the fiasco.

–Turn over the audit’s findings to the Kanawha County Prosecutor’s Office to determine if any laws were broken.

Just last Wednesday, Governor Tomblin recognized “Digital Learning Day” to emphasize the effective use of technology in the classroom.  Router-gate shows that state government could use some lessons of its own.

GSC Music Department Receives New Guitars

Thanks to a grant from the Fender Music Foundation, the Glenville State College Department of Fine Arts now has more instruments to enhance musical enrichment for students, faculty, staff, and members of the community.

GSC Director of Bluegrass Music Megan Darby (GSC ‘11) has been awarded a grant from the Fender Music Foundation that has provided nine new Fender acoustic guitars to the GSC Music Department.

Darby wrote the grant as a project for a grant writing class she is taking at Marshall University where she is pursuing her Master’s Degree in Education with an emphasis in Instructional Technology. Her goal was to find a grant that she could write that would have a positive impact on the GSC Bluegrass program. The grant from the Fender Music Foundation was a perfect match and has provided well over $3,000 worth of guitars to GSC.

The Gilmer Free Press
GSC Bluegrass Music Program Director Megan Darby (left),
GSC junior Music major Sara Rollins of Smithville (Ritchie County), WV,
and GSC Associate Professor of Music John McKinney
show off some of the new guitars.


“With tight budgets across the board-the special grant from the Fender Guitar Company has guaranteed to give excellent quality and support to the students at Glenville State College. In addition, it offers staff and faculty the opportunity to teach not only our music students but others outside of the college too. It’s exciting and motivating that such a well-respected guitar company is supporting our unique bluegrass degree, college as a whole, and the community around us,“ said Darby.

The Fender Music Foundation, founded in 2005, is a music charity funded by people who want to change the state of music education, believe music is an integral part of society, and want to make music more accessible to everyone. Grants are awarded to programs that are in need of funds, ongoing, sustainable, and give more people the opportunity to make music.

The grant has provided GSC with: six full-bodied guitars with strings, stands, tuners, picks, and cases as well as one twelve-string guitar, one dobro, and one left-handed acoustic guitar.

The instruments will be used by GSC students within the music department and for guitar lessons for the general student population, and members of the community.

“We are very appreciative of the hard work and efforts of Megan Darby to seek out this grant and to have it awarded to our department. These instruments will be a major resource for our bluegrass musicians and for our methods classes. These instruments will help in the process of some much needed curriculum changes and education improvements at GSC,“ said GSC Assistant Professor of Music and Fine Arts Department Chair Lloyd Bone.

Darby’s grant from the Fender Music Foundation has the potential to be renewed for the 2013-2014 academic year which would provide other stringed instruments to GSC.

To learn more about the GSC Bluegrass Program or Music Department, visit www.glenville.edu or call 304.462.6340.

WVEA and WV-AFT Leaders Say True Reform Cannot Come without Increasing Teacher Pay

The Gilmer Free Press

The presidents of the teachers unions in West Virginia praised Governor Earl Ray Tomblin for some of his education reform ideas introduced Wednesday night during Tomblin’s State of the State Address but both say there’s one key piece missing.

West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee and West Virginia American Federation of Teachers President Judy Hale say there cannot be true reform unless there’s money for teacher pay raises.

“Many people don’t want to hear it, but we have to address that if we want to attract teachers into the profession,” Lee said.

The union presidents maintain more qualified teachers are needed in West Virginia and that will only come if teachers are paid more. AFT-WV President Hale says the teachers currently rank near the bottom in the U.S. in pay.

“The governor said that a good teacher is the most important to academic achievement but we can’t get that in West Virginia because we’re 48th in the country and our pay is not competitive,” Hale said.

Hale and Lee said they like many things the governor talked about including increasing four-year-old education and backing the career technical program into middle school.

But Hale says you can’t get too excited or too disappointed over what you hear in the State of the State Address.

“I’ve been around a long time and there are some red flags in there but it’s not what you start with but what you end up with in the end of the session. So I’m looking forwarded to working on it,” Hale said.

WEST FORK CONSERVATION DISTRICT: 2013 Speech and Poster Contest

The Gilmer Free Press

“Where Does Your Water Shed?” will be the theme for the West Fork Conservation District’s Annual Speech and Poster Contests.

These contests give youth a voice to express their thoughts and feelings about our environment and the effects, good and/or bad, that we as a society have on it.

The theme is taken from the National Association of Conservation Districts Annual Soil Stewardship week.

The public speaking contest is open to all students in grades 4th through 12th. Students will compete in school, county and District levels. All school winners receive $10.00. County winners receive $25.00. District first place winners will receive either a savings bond for $200.00 or a scholarship to a conservation camp.

The poster contest is open to all students in kindergarten through 12th grades. Students compete in school, county and District levels. All school winners receive $10.00. County winners receive $25.00. District first place winners will receive either a savings bond for $100.00 or a scholarship to a conservation camp.

Teachers of county first place winners will be given $50.00 to be used towards classroom enhancement.

Both contests are open to public and private schools as well as students who are home schooled.


The dates are as follows:

•  School Contests – before March 08, 2013

•  County Contests – March 15, 2013

•  District Contest – March 22, 2013


If you have a student that wishes to participate in these worthwhile contests please contact your local school for materials or Robin Ward, Education Outreach Coordinator for the West Fork Conservation District at 304.627.2160 or “robinward.wfcd@gmail.com”.

G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - Tomblin Calls Out Public Education

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Governor Tomblin made it clear in his State of the State address last night that public education is THE top priority this legislative session.

Tomblin cut back on the laundry list approach to accomplishments and challenges that normally make-up the State of the State and instead used five of the 13 pages of the speech to talk about education reform.

It’s difficult to get an exact read on just how far his reform plan reaches.  We won’t see all the specifics until the bill is ready in about a week, but Tomblin did outline some of the key elements.

–Increased accountability for schools, teachers and principals for outcomes.

–Revised hiring rules that make it easier to hire the most qualified teacher rather than simply the person with the most seniority.

–Alternative qualification programs to help fill critical need positions in science, math and foreign languages.

–A retooling of the school calendar to try to ensure that students have 180 days of instruction as recommended by the state Constitution.

–Shifting more responsibility from Charleston back to communities so local school boards have more decision-making authority.

–A renewed emphasis on reading by guaranteeing that new elementary school teachers are specially trained in the discipline.

–Enrolling all four-year-olds in kindergarten.

And by the way, Tomblin plans to accomplish these goals by shifting around money within the education budget, not adding any new spending or tax increases.

This is a defining moment for public education in West Virginia.   Our low standardized test scores and high drop out rate show we’re falling behind.  School administrators are frustrated by all the red tape. Teachers, the most important variable in the education equation, are relegated to the end of the decision-making process.

The Governor, while detailing several of our education shortcomings last night, repeated the line, “This is not acceptable.”

And he’s right.

Last year’s comprehensive audit found we have one of the most inefficient school systems in the country.  The state Board of Education has embraced the audit and recommended reforms based on it.

And now in the State of the State–the most high-profile setting any politician has in West Virginia–the Governor has pledged to break up the tired old ways of public education, while reminding policy makers, “it is not about the adults, it is about the kids.”

Frankly, I doubt the Governor has gone far enough.   For example, he’s apparently going to pass on merit pay.  Rewarding teachers based on performance makes sense, but perhaps the Governor thought that was one battle he didn’t want to have with the teacher unions.

As for the unions, they need to realize that a convergence of forces has created a wave of momentum for change.  The Governor and key lawmakers appear to be onboard.

Movies This Week - 02.14.13

The Gilmer Free Press

A Good Day to Die Hard

Opens Thursday, February 14, 2013 | Runtime: 1 hr. 38 min.

R - Violence and Language

New York City cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) arrives in Moscow to track down his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney). McClane thinks his son is a criminal, so it comes as a shock when he learns that Jack is actually working undercover to protect Komarov (Sebastian Koch), a Russian government whistleblower. With their own lives on the line, McClane and Jack must overcome their differences in order to get Komarov to safety and thwart a potentially disastrous crime in the Chernobyl region.

Cast: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Yulia Snigir, Cole Hauser

Director: John Moore

Genres: Action/Adventure, Suspense/Thriller

 

 

 

The Gilmer Free Press

Safe Haven

Opens Thursday, February 14, 2013 | Runtime: 1 hr. 55 min.

PG-13 - Thematic material involving threatening behavior, and for violence and sexuality

An affirming and suspenseful story about a young woman’s struggle to love again, Safe Haven is based on the novel from Nicholas Sparks, the best-selling author behind the hit films The Notebook and Dear John. When a mysterious young woman arrives in a small North Carolina town, her reluctance to join the tight knit community raises questions about her past. Slowly, she begins putting down roots, and gains the courage to start a relationship with Alex, a widowed store owner with two young children. But dark secrets intrude on her new life with such terror that she is forced to rediscover the meaning of sacrifice and rely on the power of love in this deeply moving romantic thriller.

Cast: Josh Duhamel, Julianne Hough, David Lyons, Cobie Smulders, Noah Lomax

Director: Lasse Hallström

Genres: Drama, Romance

 

 

 

The Gilmer Free Press

Beautiful Creatures

Opens Thursday, February 14, 2013 | Runtime: 2 hrs. 3 min.

PG-13 - Violence, scary images and some sexual material

A supernatural love story set in the South which tells the tale of two star-crossed lovers: Ethan, a young man longing to escape his small town, and Lena, a mysterious new girl. Together, they uncover dark secrets about their respective families, their history and their town. The film is based on the first novel in the best-selling series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Alice Englert, Emma Thompson, Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum, Jeremy Irons

Director: Richard LaGravenese

Genres: Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

 

The Gilmer Free Press

Escape from Planet Earth

Opens Friday, February 15, 2013 | Runtime: 1 hr. 29 min.

PG - Some Mild Rude Humor and Action

On the planet Baab, dashing astronaut Scorch Supernova (Brendan Fraser) is a national hero and master of daring rescues. However, Scorch does not work alone; his nerdy brother, Gary (Rob Corddry), head of mission control at BASA, often lends quiet, behind-the-scenes support. When a distress signal arrives from a dangerous planet, Scorch ignores Gary’s warnings and sets out on a rescue mission. Scorch soon finds himself caught in a trap set by an evil enemy, and it’s up to Gary to save him.

Cast: Brendan Fraser, Rob Corddry, Ricky Gervais, Jonathan Morgan Heit, Jessica Alba, Sofía Vergara

Director: Cal Brunker

Genres: Action/Adventure, Animated, Comedy, Family, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

 

Sustainable Schools Summit Scheduled for April 28-29, 2013

The Gilmer Free Press

Registration is open for the second Sustainable Schools West Virginia Summit, scheduled for April 28-29 at the Ramada Inn in Charleston.

Sponsored by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and ZMM Architects and Engineers, the Summit is designed to bring together educational leaders in primary, secondary and post-secondary education to discuss the important roles schools, colleges and universities have in creating sustainable campuses across West Virginia.

The Summit’s goal is to lay the foundation for networking and sharing ideas and resources. It hopes to bridge the gap among primary, secondary, and post-secondary schools and curricula and contribute to growing Sustainable Schools in West Virginia.

The Summit is free and is open to fiscal and financial officers; facilities, maintenance or operations professionals; civic engagement or community volunteer coordinators; and, sustainability directors from all levels of education.

A reception is scheduled from 6:00 to 9:00 PM on April 28, 2013.

The Summit will run from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM on April 29, 2013.

The Summit agenda will be available soon. The registration deadline is April 01, 2013.

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Is West Virginia Education System Ready to Change?

The Gilmer Free Press

It may not have been formally called that but West Virginia State School Superintendent Jim Phares essentially gave a State of Education Address to members of the House and Senate education committees Tuesday on the eve of the beginning of the 60-day regular legislative session.

Education reform is expected to be one of the major topics of discussion during the session and Phares told lawmakers he was not about to “sugarcoat” the problems.

He shared some numbers from the 2011 national assessment tests.

“Grade 4 mathematics, West Virginia was 45th in the nation. In Grade 4 reading, West Virginia was 43rd in the nation. In 2011, Grade 8 mathematics and reading, West Virginia was 47th in the nation,” Phares said.

The superintendent told lawmakers he has been traveling the state for the past month meeting with county school boards and hearing from teachers and principals.

He says they know change is needed. Phares says it is unfair to put all of the blame on teachers for the achievement issues.

“It’s time for all of us to stop beating them down,” he said. “It’s time for all of us to start lifting them up”

Phares says teachers want to teach and principals want to lead but bureaucracy has held many of them back.

“We have a myriad of statues and policies that are embedded throughout our educational structures in West Virginia and there are barriers for educators to be able to do their jobs as we expect them to do. They tell us this each day,” Phares said.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin is expected to lay out several educational reforms during his State of the State Address Wednesday night.

Lawmakers will have those and others to consider. Superintendent Phares urged the delegates and senators to “channel the debate” while being ” both wise and courageous.”

“We must do better,” Phares said.

~~  Jeff Jenkins ~~

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