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West Virginia Scholar Application Now Available

The Free Press WV

West Virginia Wesleyan College, in conjunction with MetroNews, announces the beginning of the 11th annual West Virginia Scholar Program for high school juniors in West Virginia. 

The top student will win a four-year scholarship to Wesleyan, valued at more than $160,000.

A second place prize of $5,000 and third place prize of $2,500 will also be awarded. 

All awards begin with the 2019 fall semester.

“We are thrilled to enter our eleventh year of partnership on the West Virginia Scholar program,” said John Waltz ’01, vice president for enrollment management. “Every year we are privileged to read each application and meet the absolute best and brightest students in West Virginia. These scholars not only excel in the classroom but also in athletics, creative arts, and service and leadership.  Applicants and finalists enrolling at Wesleyan have been among our 21 international scholarship winners in the last 7 years.  We cannot wait to see how these students change our state and the world.”

Students can apply at wvmetronews.com

An essay detailing how the applicant plans, through their studies and continuing education, to make West Virginia a better place to live.

The application deadline is April 15. 

Online voting at wvmetronews.com will be held directly after, and the winner will be announced at the 2018 WV Scholar Award Luncheon at Wesleyan in June.

In addition to MetroNews and Wesleyan, sponsors include the West Virginia Hospital Association, ZMM Architects and Engineers, the West Virginia Forestry Association, the West Virginia Farm Bureau, RBC Wealth Management, Komax Business Systems, and Friends of Coal.

Please contact the Office of Admissions at 800.722.9933 for more information.

WV documentary “Heroin(e)” nominated for Oscar

“Heroin(e),“ the Netflix documentary that highlighted Huntington’s weaknesses as well as its strengths, has been nominated for an Oscar in the Documentary Short Subject category.

The film was released in September, giving the world an inside look at how the city is fighting back against its drug problem.

The film is up against four other documentaries: “Edith and Eddie,“ “Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405,“ “Knife Skills” and “Traffic Stop.“

The documentary follows the lives of three women — Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader, Cabell County Family Court Judge Patricia Keller and Necia Freeman, a Realtor who organizes a ministry for sex workers — as they work to aid their community that has been forever altered by the opioid epidemic.

While the drug crisis is not unique to Huntington, the film has highlighted Huntington’s distinctive response, which is shown through the compassion of the three women.

It is because of their different approach on a relatable issue that the film has garnered national attention.

The film is directed by West Virginia native Elaine McMillion Sheldon.

The 2018 Oscars, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, will be awarded Sunday, March 04, with the ceremony airing live at 8:30 p.m. Eastern on ABC.

Looking ahead to 2018

The Free Press WV

I’m not much on making New Year’s resolutions.  The history of failure to keep them weighs heavily and who needs more of that?

Still, the idea of a fresh start speaks to me.  There is the inherent desire to discard all the mistakes of the previous year and at least consider the possibility of not making them again in 2018.

That’s not exactly the definition of optimism, but then again, I’m not an optimist.

President Ronald Reagan surely was an optimist.  He loved the story about the boy who was shown a pile of horse manure in a stable. Instead of showing disgust, the boy jumped on the pile and started digging.  “With all this manure, there must be a pony in there somewhere!”

Now that’s optimism.  I would have looked at the pile and thought about the smelly job of hauling it away, but then got busy with my pitchfork. In that way, I am my father’s son.

My late father was a man who lived his life by always doing what had to be done, while keeping the complaining to a minimum.  But in taking on the task at hand he was always moving forward… sometimes at an imperceptibly slow pace or with setbacks, but still the motion was decidedly positive.

With his head down, his gaze was more toward the steps in front of him than the horizon.  The goal may not have been lofty, but it was practical and, yes, even hopeful.

In the “pony” scenario my father would have quietly cleaned away the pile of manure and then felt reasonably accomplished by finishing the task.  He would not have been disappointed because there was no pony, because he would have never expected one.

I doubt any of this sounds very inspiring, especially to you who have set goals for the New Year and plan to keep them.  I’m always impressed when I meet people who have lost weight, committed to a better diet and exercise or taken that trip that’s been on their bucket list.  You have overcome lethargy and routine and improved your lives.  That’s impressive.

My plans for 2018 lack specifics, but I am nevertheless hopeful.  Benjamin Franklin said, “Be at war with your vices, peace with your neighbors and let every New Year find you a better man.”  That’s good counsel.  Just try to be better.

My father’s journey resulted in a life well lived. It was not one of great accomplishment and he did not leave behind a box-checked bucket list.  But he left the horse stall clean, if you know what I mean, and did 10,000 other things that just needed to be done.

That’s progress, and progress is linked with hope.  If you are hopeful you will not be cynical. I have no specific resolutions for 2018, but I’m excited to find what the year will bring.

Let’s go forward and see what happens.

My top ten West Virginia news stories of 2017

The Free Press WV

It’s time for my top ten West Virginia news stories of 2017.  I asked the MetroNews staff for their input and then put together my list.  See if you agree or disagree and tell me what you think I missed!


10)  Mountaineer sports is always big news in West Virginia and no sports story was bigger than Florida transfer quarterback Will Grier finally taking his first snaps.  Grier demonstrated pinpoint accuracy and uncanny escapability as he passed for nearly 3,500 yards and 34 touchdowns, leading the Mountaineers to seven victories before a season-ending injury against Texas. His favorite end zone target was David Sills, whose 18 touchdown catches led the nation.  Despite a disappointing bowl loss to Utah, optimism is running high for next season because Grier and Sills are both returning for their senior season.


9)  School consolidation issues are nearly always contentious, but none more so than in Nicholas County in 2017.  The flood of 2016 destroyed Richwood High School, Richwood Middle School and Summersville Middle School. The Nicholas County School Board approved a controversial plan to consolidate those schools, along with the Nicholas County High School and the Career and Technical Education Facility at one campus near Summersville. That decision divided the community and prompted a legal fight.  The year ended with a conflict resolution specialist from the Federal Emergency Management Agency trying to help the two sides find common ground. That effort is expected to continue into 2018.


8) West Virginia is rich in coal and natural gas so energy is always a significant story. The beleaguered coal industry began to come back in 2017.  Prices for metallurgical coal increased and the steam coal market improved.  President Trump’s decision to scrap the Clean Power Plan sparked optimism within the industry as some companies began calling miners back to work.  Meanwhile, work to build several major natural gas pipelines through West Virginia continued, often over the objections of property owners and environmentalists.


7) Donald Trump captured 68 percent of the vote in West Virginia on his way to the presidency, so he knew that he would get a warm reception in the Mountain State.  Trump visited West Virginia twice last summer. On August 3, Trump spoke to a huge rally in Huntington where the surprise guest was West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, who announced that day he was switching from the Democratic to the Republican Party. Just two weeks before, Trump spoke to thousands of Boy Scouts at the National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve.  However, Trump triggered controversy by talking politics in what was expected to be a non-political appearance.


6)  West Virginia continued to struggle with the drug epidemic in 2017.  The Centers for Disease Control released new figures showing that the state’s overdose death rate in 2016 reached 52 per 100,000 people, more than twice as high as the national average.  Dr. Rahul Gupta, the State Health Officer, said someone dies in West Virginia from a drug overdose every ten hours.   Many of the overdose deaths were linked to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that has 50 times the potency of morphine. Elaine Sheldon’s documentary Heroin(e) provided a first-hand account of three women in Huntington who are fighting back against the drug epidemic. Her film is under consideration for an Academy Award.


5)  The Justice administration announced in November a memorandum of understanding with China Energy for $84 billion in investments in West Virginia over the next two decades.  The agreement was the largest among an estimated $250 million in deals signed by President Trump during his visit to Beijing.  The West Virginia projects are expected to include natural gas power generation, chemical manufacturing and underground storage.  Governor Justice said the pledged investment is so big that “it absolutely takes your breath away.”  However, the announcement has been tempered somewhat by a lack of details on specific projects.


4)  We learned last month about previously undisclosed extravagant spending by the West Virginia Supreme Court on office remodeling and furnishings.  The most talked about examples were a $32,000 couch and $7,500 for a specially designed inlaid wooden floor in the shape of the state in the office of Chief Justice Allen Loughry, and $28,000 for two luxury rugs as part of a $500,000 tab for remodeling Justice Robin Davis’s office.  But all the Justices had expensive furnishings that focused attention on the fact that the Legislature does not have oversight of the Judiciary’s budget. Legislative leaders say they will try to change that in 2018.


3)  Many of West Virginia’s roads are so bad that a couple of years ago, I started an on-air campaign called #FTDR—Fix the Damn Roads.  Finally in 2017 the state did something about the crumbling infrastructure.  Governor Justice proposed a $1.6 billion dollar road bond, and he crisscrossed the state to push for passage, calling it “the biggest election in the history of the state.”  Voters bought in, with 73 percent voting for passage. Combined with a leveraging of federal dollars and a planned increase in turnpike tolls, West Virginia will undertake one of the largest road and bridge building and repair efforts ever starting in 2018.


2)  West Virginia’s finances were tight in 2017.  Governor Justice and legislative leaders quarreled for weeks about the budget. The debate continued throughout the regular session and then carried over into a 20-day-long special session. At one point, a frustrated Justice even dramatically unveiled a platter of bull manure that he said represented one of the budget proposals. The debate was often acrimonious, straining relationships and triggering name calling, particularly by the Governor. Finally on June 16, the House and Senate agreed on a $4.225 billion budget, which Justice allowed to go into law without his signature.


1)  Jim Justice ran for Governor in 2016 as a non-traditional candidate.  He repeatedly cited his business experience over his political acumen.  He won the election and on January 16th was sworn in as the state’s 36th Governor.  Justice brought his cheerleading can-do style to the Governor’s office, as well as a rejection of any action he deemed as political.  His candid “with-me-or-against-me” approach won converts, but also ran afoul of a number of Legislators who saw Justice as hard-headed and uncompromising. Justice then turned the political structure of the state on its head later in the year when he switched from the Democratic to Republican Party.  “Like it or not, but the Democrats walked away from me,” Justice said.  “… West Virginia, I can’t help you anymore by being a Democratic Governor.”   We’ll see how the change of heart, and party, plays out in 2018.

The Christmas when the fighting stopped

The Free Press WV

Has there ever been a Christmas when there was no war, no fighting in any corner of our planet?  It’s difficult to imagine since the world’s history has been a series of conquests and defenses.

But there was once a Christmas when the fighting did stop, when enemies shook hands and laughed and even sang Christmas carols together.

The First World War had been underway just a few months in December 1914, but it was clear a long, bloody fight was ahead.  The Germans and the English were dug in their muddy trenches separated sometimes by just 60 yards.

Between them was a No-Man’s land of mud, debris and the casualties of both sides, left unburied for weeks.

But something remarkable happened along the battle lines on Christmas 103 years ago; the German and British soldiers stopped fighting.

It wasn’t that they were afraid to fight. The trenches of both sides were filled with brave men who faced death each day.  No, the peace began as an informal truce casually agreed to by the officers in the field, but not the generals safely in the rear.

At night the English first saw the lights of Christmas decorations in the German trenches, and then heard the sounds of the German soldiers singing Christmas carols.  The British soldiers responded in kind.

All along the Western Front the scene repeated itself.  The impromptu truce spread.  In some places along the lines the warring soldiers emerged from their trenches, leaving their guns behind, and met in No-Man’s land where they exchanged food and conversed as best they could.  One group of soldiers played a game of soccer.

Percy Jones of the Queen’s Westminster Regiment said, “Altogether we had a great day with our enemies, and parted with much hand-shaking and mutual goodwill.”  Corporal John Ferguson of the Seaforth Highlanders remarked, “Here we were, laughing and chatting to men whom only a few hours before we were trying to kill.”

Well behind the trenches the British High Command was distressed, fearing it might not be able to get the men to start fighting again.  The war might grind to a halt. Headquarters issued a statement blaming the lack of fighting at the front on “stormy weather.”

Eventually, the soldiers at the front drifted back to their positions.  At some locations along the front the Christmas Spirit carried to the New Year before fighting resumed.  The fighting of course did start again and continued for nearly four more bloody years.

This Christmas as we search for good news in a troubled world we can remember that Christmas 103 years ago when the spirit of peace on earth and good will toward men was strong enough to—for a time at least—stop a world war.

The Republican gamble on tax reform

The Free Press WV

In 2010, Democratic California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi famously said of the Affordable Care Act, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it away from the fog of the controversy.”

The statement was taken by Obamacare opponents as an indication of how Democrats crafted a complicated bill remaking the nation’s healthcare delivery system without a full understanding of its impact.

Now Republicans are passing, and President Trump will sign, the biggest tax reform plan since the Reagan tax cuts of 1981.  Certainly more details are known about the tax bill than the ACA.  There are numerous websites where you can enter your tax information and see how you will be affected.

However, that does not mean the tax bill is widely understood by Americans or, even if they understand it, they may not want it.

The New York Times did a survey of people that could expect a tax cut.  It found that “even among people with more than 90 percent chance of getting a cut, about half said they did not expect to get one.”

That helps explain why the tax cuts are not popular. The statistical website FiveThirtyEight reports, “According to an average of nine surveys taken this month, 33 percent of Americans are in favor of it, and 52 percent are opposed.”  Contrast that with the Reagan tax cuts when a Gallup Poll found 51 percent approved, while 26 percent were opposed.

These numbers and others put Republicans in a precarious position heading into 2018. The GOP is already bracing for losses often suffered by the party in power in midterm elections, especially when the President is of the same party and has low approval ratings.

West Virginia’s three Republican members of the House of  Representatives—David McKinley (R-WV1), Alex Mooney (R-WV2) and Evan Jenkins (R-WV3)–along with Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito all supported the tax bill.

Capito is not up for re-election until 2020. However, McKinley and Mooney have to defend their seats next year, and Jenkins is running for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate.  They have to own the tax bill during the 2018 election cycle.

They are banking on that working out for them. Their best arguments are that more than 80 percent of West Virginia taxpayers use the standard deduction rather than itemizing and those folks all get a tax break. Additionally, small businesses, which dominate the state’s economy, will also see a lower tax liability.

But a lot of things could go wrong. There could be a massive correction in the stock market.  The economy could hit one of its cyclical downturns.  What if big corporations, which stand to benefit most from the tax bill, see profits surge, but wages do not follow?  What if the deficit explodes?

The political fallout could be dramatic.  Americans, who according to surveys never saw taxes as their top issue, will take out their frustrations on the party in power, giving Democrats in West Virginia and across the country a foothold to try to regain their majorities.

Republicans said they needed the tax bill; they and President Trump had to have a legislative victory to carry them through the midterms.  We will know in a few months whether that was the correct calculus.

A Republican version of the Pelosi blunder might be, “Let’s pass the tax bill and see what happens.”

West Virginia has more regulations that you can count… almost

The Free Press WV

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University has launched State RegData, “a first-of-its-kind project to quantify the level of regulation across the 50 states.”  It would be impossible to read all those regs so Mercatus is using a text analysis that identifies key words in state codes such as shall, must, may not, prohibited and required.

These are the key words and phrases that give regulations their power, and our state has a lot of them.  “West Virginia has 125,700 regulatory restrictions in its administrative code,” according to the Mercatus study. That’s fewer than Pennsylvania, Virginia and Kentucky, but more than Maryland and North Carolina.  The Tar Heel State has 16,000 fewer restrictions that West Virginia.

Clearly, some (or perhaps many) of the restrictions are important public health and safety measures, but consider the following: The state Code’s rules for acupuncture has 344 restrictions.  Barbers and cosmetologists face a labyrinth of 302 restrictions, while dietitians have 191 do’s and don’t’s. The Division of Water and Waste Management and the Division of Air Quality have a total of 9,087 restrictions!

The Mercatus report says all of these regulations have compliance costs.  Individually they may not be that significant, but “The body of regulations in a state, taken together, has an effect on the economy that is greater than the sum of the effects of each individual regulation.”

Mercatus cites several major studies showing that collectively the profusion of regulations creates a drag on economic growth.  A 2013 study in the Journal of Economic Growth estimated that federal regulation has slowed U.S. growth by an average of two percent a year since 1949.

This is especially relevant in West Virginia, which has been trying to climb out of the economic doldrums for the last decade.

“From 2006 to 2016, West Virginia real GDP growth averaged just 0.7 percent per year,” Mercatus reports. “If this trend continues, it will take 100 years for the state economy to double in size.”  However, if the economy grew at three percent annually, the economy would double in just 24 years.

Last year, the state legislature passed a sunset provision triggering the expiration of all new regulations after five years unless lawmakers reauthorize them. That’s a start, but more needs to be done.

Mercatus suggests a cap limiting regulatory accumulation. It’s working in Canada where a 2015 law requires at least one regulation to be removed for every new one that is adopted. The federal law was modeled after British Columbia’s 2001 measure, which has reduced that province’s regulatory requirements 43 percent.

Our political culture has perpetuated the regulation creation craze by expecting our elected representatives and government agencies to “do something” about every real and potential problem.  The result is a clogged code that inhibits growth and assigns an ever increasing amount of power to the bureaucracy.

The Mercatus report makes clear that a priority for our politicians in West Virginia should be to get rid of regulations before adding new ones.

WV Supreme Court: Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget

Justice Robin Davis’s office renovation cost one-half million dollars
The Free Press WV

West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha) is the latest legislative leader to express outrage over excessive spending by the West Virginia Supreme Court on office renovations and furnishings.

The Court has spent $3.7 million in office repairs, redecorating and refurbishing over the last several years, and some of the spending is more in keeping with the tastes of a millionaire than of a poor state that struggles to balance a tight budget.

“These things that have come to light are alarming,” Armstead told me earlier this week on Talkline.

Much of the attention has focused on the $32,000 couch in Chief Justice Allen Loughry’s office.  He says former court administrator Steve Canterbury is to blame and that he fired Canterbury the first chance he got.  Canterbury says Loughry knew what the couch cost and approved it.

But one of the largest of the controversial expenses was the renovation of Justice Robin Davis’s office. That cost $500,278.23.  According to Realtor.com, the median listing price for a house in Charleston is $150,000.

Davis’s office work included over $23,000 for “design services” by Ed Weber Architects.  The glass countertops, glass door and floor cost $90,000.  Stainless steel cabinets and shelves cost $40,000. Two Edward Fields rugs priced out at over $28,000.

Davis, in an interview with WCHS TV’s Kennie Bass, who broke the original story, owned up to the expenses.  “I wanted the people of West Virginia to hear about my office from me,” she told Bass. “Anything that is done in this office is on me.”

Lawmakers may well take that to heart.  “No one can justify spending that kind of money… it’s incredibly excessive spending,” Armstead said.

The controversy expanded this week with the revelations that Justice Loughry had a sofa left behind by the late Justice Joe Albright and a Cass Gilbert desk at his home office.  Loughry, who is increasingly frustrated by the controversy, had the couch and desk removed and taken to storage.

“The desk was not returned because its use was inappropriate, but because issues such as this are becoming an obstacle to the Court completing its important work,” Loughry said.  Supreme Court spokeswoman Jennifer Bundy said, “The Court has a longstanding practice of providing the justices an opportunity to establish a home office, with Court-provided technology equipment and furniture to suit their respective needs.”

The Supreme Court spending issue has the West Virginia Bar buzzing. The legal community is a small, close-knit group and what happens at the high court is of significant interest. However, neither of the two main legal organizations in the state—the West Virginia State Bar and the West Virginia Association for Justice (trial attorneys)—is willing to be publicly critical of the court.

Sometime next month, Loughry will appear before the House and Senate Finance Committees to explain the Judiciary’s budget for next year. It is normally a perfunctory exercise since by law the legislature has no control over the budget.

However, the committee rooms will be packed for these hearings and lawmakers will have plenty of questions about how taxpayer dollars are spent on the third floor in the East wing of the Capitol.

~~  Hoppy Kercheval ~~

Men Behaving Badly

The Free Press WV

The stories about sexual harassment, abuse and assault of women by men in power will fade because every story has a shelf-life.  The staying power of the story is of undetermined length, but we know from experience that the media will move on.

The question is whether the revelations of the past two months will have had an impact that goes beyond the headlines or will we fall back into what we now know is the familiar pattern of some men in positions of power taking advantage of women, while the women are reluctant to come forward.

A good friend of mine, who is a professional woman, told me, “Every woman I know, and I mean everyone, has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace or sexual assault including being groped, kissed, fondled and touched in inappropriate ways.”

So why didn’t they say something?  My friend wrote, “When this happens, most women do not turn around, haul off and wallop the offender; they look at themselves to see what they did wrong—acted too friendly, went into the room alone?  They (and many others) blame themselves.”

If nothing else, that appears to be changing because abused and harassed women, through the power of their collective voices, are now coming forward.  The message is that no abuser, no matter how powerful, is off limits.

CBS This Morning anchor Nora O’Donnell, following the allegations of harassment against her co-host Charlie Rose, said “This is a moment that demands a frank and honest assessment about where we stand and more generally the safety of women.” She said the revelations are producing a reckoning.

That suggests a settling of accounts for abuses that have occurred. Maybe that happens, but care is advised.  Not all bad behavior is created equal.  There’s a significant difference between boorish behavior and sexual assault. Each case must be judged on its own merit.

National Review Editor Rich Lowery wrote that we are undergoing a low-grade cultural revolution. “A model of predation practiced by scruple-less powerful men is getting destroyed before our eyes and it’s a very good thing.”

As men, we have held the most power in society for the longest and, until very recently, women could only accrue power through men. That’s changing for the better, but as has become evident in recent weeks, we still have a ways to go.

What we have learned most recently has been painful, particularly for the victims, but also necessary to bring about change.

Legislators Turn Focus on Supreme Court Spending Following Report on Luxury Purchases

The Free Press WV

The issue of the lack of legislative review of the judiciary’s budget has been simmering at the State Capitol for a few years now.  Some lawmakers object to the State Supreme Court’s power to determine its own budget with no oversight from lawmakers.

The judiciary’s budget autonomy is written into the state Constitution. Article VI, Section 51, Subsection A(5) actually states that the legislature does not have the authority to decrease the judiciary’s budget.

In theory, the court could ask for significant budget increases every year and there’s nothing the legislature could do about it.  In practice, however, the court has generally worked with lawmakers to craft a reasonable budget that is in line with state spending.  That shows restraint.

The General Revenue portion of the judiciary’s budget this fiscal year is $141,759,670.  That’s a lot of money, but it has increased less than two percent over the last three budget years.

In 2016, the legislature considered a joint resolution to amend the state Constitution by eliminating the judiciary’s budget protection, but it didn’t go anywhere.  There was no groundswell of support or particular constituency motivated enough to take on the State Supreme Court.

However, that changed this week with the revelation by WCHS TV of excessive spending and waste on Supreme Court office furnishings—a $32,000 couch and $7,500 for an inlaid wooden floor in the state’s design in Chief Justice Allen Loughry’s office; $28,000 rugs and an $8,000 chair in Justice Robin Davis’s office; a $9,000 sofa in Justice Margaret Workman’s chambers, to name a few.

All paid for with taxpayer dollars.

The luxury furnishings were part of a general renovation of the Supreme Court’s Capitol offices.  The initial estimate was $900,000 back in 2009, but that ballooned to $3.7 million with changes, additions and, yes, fancy furniture.

Legislative leaders say the luxury spending has renewed interest in the constitutional amendment.  “This just isn’t right,” said Senate President Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson) on MetroNews Talkline.  “We’re going to make an effort to change that.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Shott said he has no issue with upgrades to the historic Capitol building that are “appropriate and necessary,” but he adds that he “was stunned and angered by the amount that was spent for some of the furnishings that are more temporary.”

Changing the Constitution is not easy.  It requires a two-thirds vote by both chambers of the legislature and then approval by the voters.  Additionally there will be compelling arguments against it.  Would legislative oversight inject more politics in to the judiciary?  Would justices and judges feel compelled to craft decisions that meet approval of those who control the purse strings?

Those are rational questions that will need to be debated during the upcoming session. However, it’s going to be hard for lawmakers and the public to get the image out of their minds of a $32,000 couch.

“We’ve had some very difficult financial times.  We have state employees at nearly every agency that are not well paid,” Shott said.  “The thought that someone would spend that kind of money on a piece of furniture in view of those situations is just really troubling.”

Jobs Are Opening, But You Need The Training

The Free Press WV

The image of a shuttered factory representing the decline of blue collar jobs has been etched in our minds, and for good reason.  Since 1991 the U.S. economy has lost three million good paying jobs that did not require a college degree and all but 500,000 of them have been in manufacturing.

The days of getting a high school degree and turning that into career in a blue collar industry are rapidly disappearing. However, the economy is not static.  As those traditional jobs are disappearing, new jobs are opening up, according to a new report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce and JPMorgan Chase & Company.

The U.S. has approximately 123 million workers in the economy and 30 million of those are workers without a BA who have good jobs, and that sector has expanded by three million since 1991.  These are new skilled-services jobs in business, health care, hospitality, construction, education services, natural resources, wholesale and retail and government services.

The Center defines a good job as a salary of at least $35,000 a year ($17 an hour) for those under age 45 and at least $45,000 ($22 an hour) for workers age 45 and older.

The biggest difference between these new jobs and traditional blue collar jobs is the level of education necessary to perform the work. “Among good jobs, employers favor those with Associate’s Degrees or some college,” the report said.

“There are millions of good jobs in our economy for workers who have graduated from high school and completed some post-secondary education or training,” said Chauncy Lennon, Head of Workforce Initiatives with JPMorgan Chase.  “We need to connect this workforce with these opportunities.”

Community and technical colleges are playing a more vital role in the economy. They can adapt more quickly to the needs of the local economy and provide the necessary training over a shorter time period than traditional four-year liberal arts schools.

The new jobs at the Procter & Gamble facility near Martinsburg are a good example. The company partnered with Blue Ridge Community and Technical College on job training for potential workers even before they broke ground.

None of this should be seen as devaluing a four-year degree.  The report said workers with BAs have gained 8.4 million good paying jobs since the Great Recession (2007-2009) compared with 3.2 million workers with less education.

However, there is still a place—and a growing need—in our economy for dependable workers without a BA who have a particular skill, can communicate well and problem solve.  Many of the old factory doors have closed, but new doors are opening.

West Virginia’s Big Deal with China

The Free Press WV

The announcement was stunning if, for no other reason, than the size of the number.  China Energy says it will invest $83.7 billion in natural gas-related projects in West Virginia.  As a comparison, that’s larger that the state’s entire economic output for 2016 ($73.4 billion).

The projects are a significant portion of the quarter-trillion dollars worth of deals announced by the Trump administration during a meeting in Beijing with Chinese leaders as part of the President’s attempt to correct the trade imbalance.

West Virginia Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher, who was in Beijing for the announcement, explained that the investment will be over 20 years in power generation, chemical manufacturing and the construction of an underground storage hub for natural gas liquids.

Two natural gas power plants are already planned, tentatively one in Brooke County and another in Harrison, but Thrasher stresses that the site selection process is ongoing.

“This is the beautiful thing about this project,” Thrasher told me in an interview from Beijing.  “These are raw products from West Virginia, and they are going to stay in West Virginia.”

The news is almost too good to be true, which does trigger a reasonable amount of caution. West Virginia’s road to economic doldrums is littered with announcements about the next big thing, so much so that the phrase “game changer” should be stricken from our vocabulary.

It was almost four years ago to the day (Nov. 11) that Governor Earl Ray Tomblin announced the planned development of an ethane cracker and associated petrochemical plants at Parkersburg. However, Odebrecht, later pulled out.  Braskem, a subsidiary of Odebrecht, has taken over the project, but it has not proceeded with construction.

Additionally, the business publication Bloomberg raised caution flags about the U.S.-China deal. “The reality, however, is that the roughly 15 agreements unveiled on Thursday are mostly non-binding memorandums of understanding and could take years to materialize, if they do at all,” Bloomberg reported.

But there are reasons to have more optimism about at least the initial portions of the West Virginia deal.  Thrasher reports that the Chinese have already been to the state scouting out sites for the power plants.  Also, China Energy has a long-established research and development relationship with West Virginia University.

Brian Anderson, director of WVU’s Energy Institute, predicted the deal will have a dramatic impact on the state’s economy.  “Instead of sending jobs offshore, we are bringing hundreds of thousands of jobs statewide and directly into the state,” he said.

We all hope so. Some of the largest deposits of natural gas are right below us and accessible through hydraulic fracturing. Utilizing the gas here through power generation and petrochemical production will create wealth and opportunity.

Certainly the memorandum of understanding with China Energy is a reason for optimism. This could be the start of what we have been waiting for ever since the first person uttered the “game changer” phrase about natural gas.

But we’ve been stood up enough times over the years to be cautious.

WV Revenues Match Expenditures, Keeping The Budget In Balance

The Free Press WV

West Virginia state government’s budget looks decidedly better four months into the new fiscal year than at the same time the two previous years.

Figures released Monday by the State Department of Revenue show the state collected $354 million in October, matching almost exactly the projections.  It’s critical to meet the monthly projections because the budget is based on the expected collections. If revenue falls too far short, mid-year cuts have to be made.

So far this fiscal year revenue collections are just slightly below estimates, by $8 million, but that’s not much considering the General Revenue budget is over $4 billion.  The collections-to-expenditures match is positive news for the state.

“We are in a much better place,” said State Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy. “Because the revenue projections are spot-on we don’t have to make the painful decision about recommending mid-year budget cuts.”

That has not been the case in the last couple of years, when a significant slowdown in the coal industry and a drop in natural gas prices wrecked the state’s economy and caused tax collections to spiral downward, well below projections.

Last year at this time revenue collections trailed estimates by $87 million.  That hole was serious enough for then-Governor Earl Ray Tomblin to impose a two-percent midyear spending cut. The state faced a similar shortfall in 2015, forcing Tomblin to cut four percent from most state agencies and one percent from public education.

But now the state’s economy is showing some improvement.

For example, for the first four months of the year the state has collected $80.7 million in severance taxes—the taxes on coal, gas and timber—for the General Fund.  While that figure is $13 million below projections, it is still 68 percent higher than the same period last year.

Personal Income Tax collections are up, due in part to a slight rise in employment.  However, sales tax collections are running behind projections because West Virginians are not spending as much as expected on taxable goods and services.

“We are keeping an eye on sluggish sales tax numbers, but we aren’t worried at this point,” Hardy said.  “And we are excited to see marked improvement in our Personal Income Tax and energy industry revenues.”

The revenue projections and collections are indicators of the strength or weakness of the state’s economy.  The most recent numbers show some positives, but more importantly they indicate the worst of the state’s economic downturn is behind us.

What Does the Virginia Election Say about West Virginia?

The Free Press WV

Democrats are understandably pumped after Tuesday’s elections.  Democrats won the governor’s races in Virginia and New Jersey and scored additional victories across the country.  The Dems erased a 32-seat Republican advantage in the Virginia House of Delegates and, depending upon recounts, could become the majority in the House.

Democrats are crediting their victories to energized voters response to Donald Trump’s presidency.  Virginia Governor-elect Ralph Northam capitalized on Trump’s unpopularity among a majority of the voters of the Commonwealth to defeat Republican Ed Gillespie.

“Virginia has told us to end the divisiveness, that we will not condone hatred and bigotry—and to end the politics that have torn this country apart,” Northam said in his victory speech Tuesday night.

So do the Virginia results provide any early signs of what might happen in West Virginia next year, especially in the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin and, on the Republican side, either Congressman Evan Jenkins or Attorney General Patrick Morrisey?

Virginia had been more of a purple state, although it is clearly bluer after Tuesday.  Hillary Clinton won by five points in Virginia, the only southern state to back the Democratic nominee. By contrast, Trump carried West Virginia by a whopping 42 points over Clinton.

Clinton won the Washington, D.C. suburbs and urban areas while Trump won rural areas of Virginia, including every county that borders West Virginia (except Loudoun County, which is just outside of D.C.).

The Trump counties in Virginia, especially those in Appalachia, are demographically similar to West Virginia—largely rural, white and poorer.  Gillespie carried nearly every county Trump won last November.

Gillespie was particularly strong in counties that border West Virginia. He captured an average of 71 percent of the vote in 13 of the 14 counties. The lone exception, just like last year, was Loudoun County, where Northam won with 60 percent.

Here’s another way to look at the results:

Twenty-five of Virginia’s counties are considered Appalachian.  Trump won all but one of those counties (Montgomery) last year with an average of 74 percent of the vote.  Gillespie’s results were identical. He won 24 of the 25 Appalachian counties with 74 percent.

All 55 counties in West Virginia are considered part of Appalachia and Trump won every county in the state in 2016.

Nationally Democrats need something to build on after 2016, and they should be energized after Tuesday.  However, the Virginia vote also showed Trump’s base remains strong. That’s a positive sign for Republican candidates in West Virginia next year and an area of concern for Senator Joe Manchin and the rest of the Democrats in the state.

The Power of Incumbency

The Free Press WV

We hear a lot about a deeply divided country and fissures within the two main parties.

The division among the Democrats was evident in the last election when liberal Bernie Sanders mounted a formidable challenge against Hillary Clinton, the party establishment’s choice.

Now there is a highly publicized split within the Republican Party.  Former Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon announced earlier this month he is “declaring war on the Republican establishment” by recruiting primary challengers for more moderate Republicans.

But do primary challenges work?   Historically, incumbent members of the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives have been able to survive contested primaries.

Sabato Crystal Ball Managing Editor Kyle Kondik looked back at the re-nomination rate of members of Congress for the last 70 years and found that incumbents almost always survive the primary.

Kondik reports that since 1946, just 233 of 14,309 members of the House seeking re-election have failed to win re-nomination. That’s a re-nomination rate of 98 percent.  On the Senate side, only 46 of 1,026 incumbents lost a primary challenge, for a 96 percent re-nomination rate.

Incumbents have had even higher success rates over the last 30 years, with a 99 percent re-nomination rate.

West Virginia has followed a similar track.  I didn’t go as far back as Kondik, but I came up with just two Congressional incumbents losing in the primary in recent memory.  In 2010, Mike Oliverio knocked off long-time 1st District Congressman Alan Mollohan in the Democratic primary.

In 1992, Bob Wise defeated Harley Staggers, Jr., in the 2nd District Democratic primary. However, that race has an important caveat; Wise and Staggers, both incumbents, were matched against each other after redistricting eliminated one of the state’s Congressional districts. There was a similar circumstance in 1972 when the merging of two districts caused incumbent Congressmen Ken Hechler and James Kee to run against each other in the Democratic Primary, which Hechler won.

For the most part, during the modern political history of West Virginia, politicians like Robert Byrd, Jay Rockefeller, Jennings Randolph, Bob Wise, Nick Rahall and Shelley Moore Capito maintained unblemished primary records, often winning by wide margins.

“As is clear, those who want to be re-nominated almost always win re-nomination,” Kondik wrote, “and despite the oft-cited primary unrest on the GOP side, that has not really translated into more incumbents losing.”

True, former House Majority leader Eric Cantor (R, VA-7) lost his primary in 2014, but his race has been the exception and not the rule. Also, Senator Jeff Flake’s (R, AZ) decision not to run for re-election may be counted as a loss since he was lagging in the polls and Trump had backed one of his primary opponents, former state Senator Kelli Ward.

Political incumbency is a stubborn thing.  The past suggests that the two political parties tend to rally around the incumbent on Election Day, but as the Trump nomination and election showed, the past may not be prologue.

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Readers' Recent Comments

Good to see this program return after having it gone missing under the state appointed superintendent.

It was reported there was no place for it to take place.

Thank you Gilmer County Board of Education for making it happen.

By Some remember on 05.21.2018

From the entry: 'FREE breakfast and lunch this summer for Gilmer County Kids'.

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Pam,
Sorry to read of your mom’s passing. I remember may times spent in your home with your parents and brothers. Sending love and prayers to you and your brothers.
Sherry Broggi

By Sherry Straley Broggi and Rita Straley on 05.17.2018

From the entry: 'Lora Faye Tomblin'.

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Really cool project to all who volunteered and those helping financially as well!

Where’s DR? He never misses these events?

By Very nice project - great volunteers! on 05.17.2018

From the entry: 'CommunityImprovement™: Pavilion'.

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The GSC retention post must relate to those beginning in 2014 who planned for 4 year degrees and they dropped out. There probably were students who began in 2014 and they earned 2 year degrees before 2018 so they were not drop outs.

By GSC RETENTION? on 05.15.2018

From the entry: 'Education system perpetuates fraud at every level'.

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Congratulations kids!  Setting up a scholarship fund is a GREAT idea! Where can we get information on who to contact and what local needs are?

By Reader on 05.14.2018

From the entry: 'Calhoun-Gilmer Career Center Celebrates Seniors'.

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How large was GSC’s graduating class of 2018 last week and what was its original size the fall of 2014?

Accurate information should be available to indicate retention. One news source reported that 100 graduated in the class of 2018.

By Alumni on 05.13.2018

From the entry: 'Education system perpetuates fraud at every level'.

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Some interesting results.  Should shake the trees a little.

By Spring cleaning! on 05.09.2018

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Local Election Results - May 2018'.

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So sorry for your loss.  Prayers.

By Betty Woofter on 05.07.2018

From the entry: 'Ina Mae (Foster) Clem'.

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Anyone interested in facts for graduation rates after four years of college can access information on WV’s Education Policy Commission web site.

The last time information was reported WV State was listed at 13.6% compared to WVU’s at 35.9%. GSC was at 25.1%.

Comments submitted so far flag a serious problem in WV. Student achievement information is scattered all over with it being reported by the State, the federal government, and testing organizations including ACT.

Because WV lacks an effective State clearing house to sort through the information and to interpret it for practical application in improving our pubic school systems, too much important quality control material is neglected.

When citizens take initiative to obtain the information and they cite it they are often berated to be a form of “attack the messenger”.

Then too there are the perennial apologists who say that everything is “just fine” to help confuse the issue even more to detract from school improvements.

By WVDE Career Employees on 05.06.2018

From the entry: 'Education system perpetuates fraud at every level'.

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Too often students have to go an extra year or longer to graduate from college with under graduate degrees because they were not prepared when they got there to enable them to complete on time.

The 35% graduation rate includes incoming freshmen who do not finish in four years, and it is factual that some of our public colleges have worse records than others.

WVU does above average, but it has large numbers of-out-of state better prepared students.

By R. Page on 05.06.2018

From the entry: 'Education system perpetuates fraud at every level'.

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Rex Page claims we have a college graduation rate of approximately 35%.

In essence that is a FAILURE rate of 65% !

Think of how many dollars are wasted, and how many students are burdened with student loans, that basically will do them little good in life.

Oh yes.  It does pump money into the flawed system.

By Wv Has a FLAWED educational system ! on 05.05.2018

From the entry: 'Education system perpetuates fraud at every level'.

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Even with enrolling in colleges where acceptance is noncompetitive, meaning that all applicants with at least C averages are accepted, the graduation rate to get a degree is around 35%.

This fact is more evidence for WV’s failed public education system and solid proof that a major top to bottom over haul is needed.

If we accept the often cited excuse that there is a problem with kids and their families to cause under achievement in school that line of reasoning suggests that West Virginians are inherently flawed. This is untrue and the problem lies with WV’s under performing education system.

By Rex Page on 05.03.2018

From the entry: 'Education system perpetuates fraud at every level'.

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Disgraceful that WV lacks a top quality education system to prepare more high school graduates to be eligible for acceptance into the best colleges where there is competition for acceptance.

The deficiency forces students to attend lower tier places where everyone is accepted.

Why does WV fail to make improvements? It is because education delivery in our State is designed to be void of meaningful accountability for administrators.

By WVDE Watcher on 05.03.2018

From the entry: 'Education system perpetuates fraud at every level'.

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Little doubt the block schedule system at the high school gives GC lower scores.

This has been proven over and over in other school systems.

Its an out dated and antiquated system.  Our board of education needs to get rid of it.

Gilmer County Board of Education….are you up to the job?

By Block Schedule Supported By Blockheads on 05.02.2018

From the entry: 'Education system perpetuates fraud at every level'.

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Hopefully this is the beginning of doing better with getting out school news to Gilmer. It is far better to read timely news than to have to go to the Cornerstone to get it.

We wish Mr. Shuff the best in improving learning results at the HS. If he tackles problems like he engaged in athletics the HS will be put on the map for academic excellence.

When he gets his school improvement plan together everyone in the County will pitch in to help him succeed. Thank you GCBOE.

By Pleased Parents on 05.02.2018

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Board of Education News'.

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Mr. Williams has it nailed down.  Solid.

America’s entire education system is a farce.
Education administrators worry about their job than worry about the children.

Youth is our future.
By creating dummies, do not expect much of a future.

The children are being short changed, robbed.
America is being short changed, robbed.

But the failed administrators keep their jobs.

By Time To Clean the Education House! on 05.01.2018

From the entry: 'Education system perpetuates fraud at every level'.

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Is this article some sort of a joke ?
Certainly would seem so!

We are almost daily bombarded with chemical spraying from above.
We rarely actually have that clear, deep blue sky that God gave us.

If it happens we do get a clear(?) day, we will have the light blue, almost whispy white cloud sky.

Set a white bowl out in the rains.  Check to see what color the water is after a rain.  You will be
surprised.  Color will vary depending what is being sprayed on a given day.

If it were winter, I’d tell you to look at the snowflakes.  No more are all snowflakes different.  Watch what falls on your clothing, you will see 1,000’s of flakes all the same shape.  Again, depends what toxic material we are being blasted with.

Asthma attacks, ER visits are on the rise.
Do some web searching, plenty of websites report this travesty.  You tax dollars at ‘work’.

By WHERE ARE THE ENVIRONMENTALISTS ? ? on 05.01.2018

From the entry: 'Air Quality Awareness Week is April 30 – May 04'.

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Fraud is not only rampant in education, it consumes Gilmer County..  Those who Have want to keep it any and all costs, and those that don’t, want.  Gilmer needs a good house cleaning of court and legal ‘authorities’ as well if anything is Ever going to change.

By Spring cleaning! on 05.01.2018

From the entry: 'Education system perpetuates fraud at every level'.

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Fraud is committed in Gilmer County when citizens are told that our high school grads are prepared to be highly competitive for entry into the modern world.

The misinformation conflicts with verification that our grads lag when it comes to being college and career ready.

By being disadvantaged academically too many students drop out of college when they cannot compete and they often must go an extra year at a greater expense to catch-up.

There is another type of fraud not pointed out in the posting. It relates to bragging about the “fine” ACT test scores made by students at the GCHS.

For the ACT the average GCHS score as touted by school officials is close to 20. This may be slightly higher than average State scores, but here is the rub.

Our kids could not get accepted into top quality colleges and universities with stringent academic requirements to include those for ACT scores higher than most made at the GCHS.

What do they do? They attend institutions with relaxed acceptance criteria with some not having any basic requirements for ACT or SAT scores.

As a parent with a son at the Career Center I know that there must be remedial instruction in math and English for success in chosen career fields. It is called embedded instruction.

Because teachers must be hired at the Center for the catch-up it means that tax payers are paying twice (more fraud) for instruction that should have been done at the GCHS!

What can we do? Gilmer County must determine what must be done in our schools to make necessary improvements for the better to enable our kids to be the best they can be after HS. Simple isn’t it?

By We Want Better Schools on 04.30.2018

From the entry: 'Education system perpetuates fraud at every level'.

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It is easy to see through the motive for avoiding application of the same assessment approach in all of WV’s school systems.

The powerful in control do not want to make achievement results available for voters to compare academic results among districts!

That way opportunities for more accountability in ways school systems are administered will be nipped in the bud.

Interesting isn’t it that for sports minute attention is paid to comparing performances of all kinds of teams throughout WV.

Unfortunately the strategy will be to keep voters keenly focused on sports so they will not ask questions about education spending and how children are doing in mastering subjects in our school systems.

By WVDOE Disgusted on 04.20.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: State might let counties switch standardized test from SAT to ACT'.

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The West Virginia State Board of Education has operated as a “pin the tail on the donkey” bureaucratic nightmare for over a generation.

Currently, it is hard to envision any positive change in their SOP?

Try this, try that.  Change this, change that.
Continual evidence that all is being run as an experiment?
The WVBOE has no real clue what to actually do, in order to fix anything.

Money wasted. Children cheated of a good education.
Parents and taxpayers cheated.  Opportunities missed.

This is the WVBOE legacy.

By State BOE - dysfunctional is an understatement? on 04.16.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: State might let counties switch standardized test from SAT to ACT'.

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Maybe Jimmy can pay some of his tax bills now?

By Justice, pay your tax bills! on 04.15.2018

From the entry: 'City to purchase club owned by the governor’s company'.

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Reread the article and see what a wonderful set of excuses have been set forward.

Taxpayers give the state the funds for education.  It is then properly squandered leaving students with substandard educations.

These people have the audacity to blame the teachers on top of it.

State BOE, suck it up, fix the problem you and your previous board members have created. 

Make President Truman’s desk saying your motto:  “The buck stops here.“

That is, if you are up to it.

By Kanawha Reader on 04.15.2018

From the entry: 'State board members react to national test results'.

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West Virginia made national news again with its spending per student to be in the top third among the 55 states.

We spend more than $11,000 on average per pupil in our public schools. For comparison Utah spends about $6,500 per pupil and it ranks in the top third for the quality of its education system.

It would be interesting to know how much Gilmer County spends per pupil counting total funding from all sources.

WV is certainly no way near the top third with getting students college, career, and jobs ready right out of high school. Where is all our money going? What could we learn from rural states similar to Utah?

The worst culprit seems to be too many high paid people on WV payrolls who are non-contributers to making better lives for our kids.

By Economist on 04.14.2018

From the entry: 'State board members react to national test results'.

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Those of us who keep close tabs on student achievement want to know reasons for unacceptable reading, science, and math scores in Gilmer County and what is being done to correct them. For something this important the problems and solutions surely have been looked into.

By R. A. Beasley on 04.14.2018

From the entry: 'State board members react to national test results'.

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HaHaHaHaHaHaHa!

By Don't bring them to Gilmer! on 04.13.2018

From the entry: 'NEW “ALMOST HEAVEN” CAMPAIGN'.

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No matter what is going on in the State our concern is Gilmer County. The State reports on Zoom that 10th graders at the GCHS perform at the 35.9% proficiency rate for science.

Proficiency for 11th graders is 37% in math and it is commendable that the rate for them for reading is 64%.

What is being done to make improvements for science and math when students are about ready to graduate from HS? We hope that scores for reading hold up and even improve.

Why do we fail to receive updates for plans for proficiency improvements in the County’s schools?

In other WV counties superintendents provide that type of information on a routine basis.

By GCHS Parents on 04.12.2018

From the entry: 'State board members react to national test results'.

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This well written article makes is clear what actually a businessman can do.

Businessman turned politician.  Can actually make an entire state look like idiots.  Idiots for electing him at the minimum.

Looks like we have to find the patience to tolerate this bs two more years…...and hope he turns into a one term disaster.

Congratulations to the WV state employees giving him a good lesson. Nice job folks.

By Makin Arch Look Good on 04.09.2018

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: A 'billionaire' should be embarrassed to let schools, local governments, vendor bills'.

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Why is important school system improvement news of the type addressed in the other comment not on the County’s school system’s web site?

Someone in the board office should be assigned to write up news to keep citizens informed.

We are expected to vote in more tax money to run the schools and we deserve to be informed of positive improvements being made with our money instead of taking our support for granted. It works both ways.

By R. Curry on 04.06.2018

From the entry: 'Howard O'Cull: School 'work action' a teachable moment'.

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This is a suggestion for getting breaking news out to the community concerning important new improvements in the County’s school system.

We hear that improvements are being made to increase student performances in mathematics, reading, and other areas. The changes include getting back to basics for math teaching to eliminate achievement gaps.

Would someone write up something to explain the new changes to keep the community informed? One improvement I know is that progress reports come home regularly so families can track how kids are doing.

There is nothing wrong with positive news getting out to demonstrate that Gilmer County is positioning itself to become a leader in public education. The County deserves all the positive press it can get.

By Appreciative Parent on 04.05.2018

From the entry: 'Howard O'Cull: School 'work action' a teachable moment'.

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The Governors and the elected Legislators made the time ripe for the “educators revolt”.

The past 20 years, state employees, all who work outside the ‘capitol complex’ have been dissed.

Put off.  Put down.  Worked around.
That was clearly understood by our state employees.

That dissention was completely ignored by our failed state leadership.

Clearly it was time for action.  Social media was a major player….for the good.

The Governor, the Legislators, have now been put on notice to not ignore state issues, while they feather their own nests.

Now, lets see social media swing into action,  straighten out the Public Service Commission, and their gross failure to hold Frontier Communications lack of customer service to the fore. Some leader needs to step forward and make it happen.

We see what can happen with some leadership.  Social media is the citizens friend.  The election is just a few weeks away.  Its time to build a fire under the Public Service Commission.  Governor Justice you might even give it a shot to fire them…...up?

By J.P. on 03.30.2018

From the entry: 'Howard O'Cull: School 'work action' a teachable moment'.

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We want the County to become WV’s star performer known throughout the State for producing the highest achievement students.

How can this be done? Simple. Establish goals for math, science, and other subjects and aggressively manage the school system accordingly.

This will require establishment of a clearly written, professionally done holistic plan containing specific goals to achieve, establishment of personal accountability at different levels in the school system, accurate and timely reporting of achievement results as we proceed, and applying improved approaches when necessary to keep the plan on track.

We have heard for too long that everything is “just fine” in the County, and we continue to hear it today from some quarters.

Folks, things are not ‘just fine’ when too many of our students leave high school unprepared for college and careers. Where we go from here is the primary responsibility of the elected school board.

Teachers and staffs are more than ready to deal with obstacles confronting them and all they need is to be enabled to do their jobs.

The time is over for continuing to be hampered with lame excuses for why major improvements cannot be made i.e., Gilmer County is too poor, too many kids lack family support they deserve, and keen focus on public education is foreign to the community’s culture.

By Gilmer County Teacher on 03.30.2018

From the entry: 'Howard O'Cull: School 'work action' a teachable moment'.

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Public Service Commission is a joke.  Sorry.

They are the regulatory agency that is basically letting FRONTIER COMMUNICATIONS run unregulated for all landline customers.

Frontier customers wait days and days for landline service.  Many in our state live where there is no cell coverage, so no other choice for service.

Our elected reps need to pressure the Public Service Commission to get their chit together, do their job, and stop giving in to the Frontier lobby crew.

West Virginians deserve better!

By West Virginia resident on 03.30.2018

From the entry: 'PSC and GHSP Join Forces to Emphasize Seat Belt Safety Message'.

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Nice information. I think CANADA is also a very good place to live.

By Rahul on 03.22.2018

From the entry: 'The 10 Best Cities to Live In on Planet Earth'.

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I am so sorry and shocked to learn of Mike’s passing.  I think he would have liked he words printed here about him. Always a good man with a smile on his face and it didn’t take much to tickle him. West Virginia lost another good one. RIP Mike.

By Marlea Cottrill on 03.19.2018

From the entry: 'John Michael “Mike” Peters'.

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Yes, it would appear that Gayle M. has lost some of her ‘luster’ ?

The question now.  Will she pop back up somewhere else like that Whack-a-Mole game?

By Charleston Reader on 03.18.2018

From the entry: 'Justice names acting Secretary for Education and Arts'.

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Brian and Montie send their condolences to Gary’s family, especially to Nancy and Sharon for the death of a husband and father.  Nothing can really prepare us for such a loss as this. We are thinking about you at this sad time.

By Brian and Montie VanNostrand on 03.17.2018

From the entry: 'Gary Don Williams'.

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The centerpiece of nationally reported fake news pertained to Gayle Manchin’s plan for making WV’s southern coal field area a model for school system turn-a-rounds.

After the intense trail of high profile TV appearances to tout Manchin’s plan and pouring in money down there, nothing worked out as promised. 

The lesson from this sad saga is to focus on facts instead of what politicians try to pull over on voters.

The chronic problem in WV is that facts are routinely hidden by some politicians to keep voters misinformed.

By Bill Williams on 03.16.2018

From the entry: 'Justice names acting Secretary for Education and Arts'.

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Gilmer County has long memories. We recall the hill crest fund raiser out along Mineral Road to raise money for the Manchin political machine.

That was followed by Gayle’s insulting rant against the County leading to the damage of our school system and outlying communities during the State’s six years of iron rule intervention.

The good news is that Gayle is gone along with all other members of the WV State Board of Education responsible for our County’s intervention and the waste and mismanagement it wrought. Karma is alive and well WV!

By B. Jones on 03.16.2018

From the entry: 'Justice names acting Secretary for Education and Arts'.

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Brad got it all mixed up.
Gayle Manchin’s *resignation*....?

T-V, radio, newspapers across the state and beyond, even national news sources, all reported
that Governor Justice FIRED Gayle Manchin.

Brad, your effort to smooth that puts you squarely in concert with the rest of the BS fake news world.

By Brad got it mixed on 03.15.2018

From the entry: 'Justice names acting Secretary for Education and Arts'.

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Interesting.  Yet not so long ago, Gilmer local police weren’t interested when informed an out of state convicted felon was in possession of a trunk full of stolen guns.

By BangBang on 02.14.2018

From the entry: 'Gilmer County man sentenced for illegal possession of a firearm'.

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Great guy, who would do anything to help you. He would have probably got a kick out of having some strange woman’s face plaistered on his obituary. He would have had something smart to say about it I’m sure. smile

He had a great sense of humor. I saw him a little while back. I stopped by his house and visited with him a couple hours and as I went in I told him I stopped by to see if I could borrow his fancy car parked out front, expecting to meet with some resistance to that idea. Without missing a beat he said “Sure, just don’t let any of my kids drive it!“ We had a really nice visit that day - talking about cars and reminscing.

Our prayers are with the family.

By Connie Turner on 02.10.2018

From the entry: 'Kenneth Lee Page Jr.'.

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Justice, do you lay awake at night thinking up this stuff?

Can’t we West Virginian’s have some woodland that has not been molested by humans?

Keep the saws out of our state forests!

West Virginians are being raped once again.  The new generation of robber barons have bought off the governor and elected.

By Another Clueless Politician's Scheme on 02.10.2018

From the entry: 'Former Administrator: State Park Logging Plan Numbers Don’t Add Up'.

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so sorry to hear this news.  He took over Steve Grossmann’s mail route and we sure did appreciate his getting the mail delivered in all kinds of weather.  Slipping and sliding all the way. I loved his little dog that would look for snakes in the Normantown P.O.

By Cookie Setty on 02.09.2018

From the entry: 'Kenneth Lee Page Jr.'.

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Would it be possible for our new college president to involve Mr. Gallagher and student Evan Merical to attempt a revival of the defunct GSC Main Street Small Business Center? 

The community sure could benefit from it.  New management might just be what it needs?

By Question for Pres. Pellett on 02.07.2018

From the entry: 'GSC Student Speaks at One Stop Business Center Grand Opening'.

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Not surprised the Board of Ed supporting employees for raises and insurance. These people show they care about good employees over and over.
Just after they got our school system out from under state control they stood unanimously against the state appointed superintendent and his hand picked lawyer who tried to take away jobs from 8 professionals including Teachers and 4 service personnel. Can’t even count the number of transfers.  Gilmer’s Board of Ed just said no to that hit list. They stand up for this county and the kids..

By And we Appreciate It on 02.02.2018

From the entry: 'ATTENTION ALL EMPLOYEES OF THE GILMER COUNTY SCHOOL SYSTEM'.

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The state of WV overall has a dismal record of salaries and finance.

The jail system has issues.  Has for years.
The highway department.  Yup, them too.
The school system.  Ditto.

One per cent per year for 5 years?  That’s a real insult to any employee.

Teachers.  If you don’t get something that’s good, wait until warmer weather and strike.  Stand your ground !

The legislature and governor seem to have plenty $$$ to spread around Kanawha County.  Make sure they spread some towards teachers and staff salaries!!

By Give 'em some $$$ ! on 02.01.2018

From the entry: 'ATTENTION ALL EMPLOYEES OF THE GILMER COUNTY SCHOOL SYSTEM'.

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Rumor mill is saying that teachers and possibly other state employees will have to wear a wrist bracelet to track their lifestyles? 

Or pay higher insurance premiums?

True/false?

By is it true? on 02.01.2018

From the entry: 'West Virginia board revises high school requirement, grading'.

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Sorry to hear. He was a classmate at Sutton High School class of 1956.

By Nancy Rose Westfall on 01.31.2018

From the entry: 'Franklin D. “Frank” Conley'.

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A call to all candidates for all seats:  You can submit the information about yourself to us and it will be published at NO COST.

By Free Press on 01.31.2018

From the entry: 'Gilmer County: List of Candidates for 2018 Election'.

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Long list of candidates for the School Board. It would help voters decide if each candidate would publish a write-up of their personal backgrounds to include special qualifications for serving on the school board, and to include detailed goals for what they would like to achieve as a board member. The information would be far more useful to voters than signs plastered all over the County.

By Active Voter on 01.31.2018

From the entry: 'Gilmer County: List of Candidates for 2018 Election'.

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How about the new superintendent of Gilmer’s schools giving a progress report on her accomplishments so far in improving the quality of our schools to produce better prepared HS graduates for college and careers, plans for continual upgrading of academic achievements by our students, and how results will be accurately measured and reported to be convincing that our County is moving ahead? Doesn’t sound too much to ask for by bill paying citizens.

By Gilmer Parents For Accountability on 01.29.2018

From the entry: 'West Virginia board revises high school requirement, grading'.

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Gilmer County must set its own standards for student learning and to do what is necessary to achieve them with full involvement of highly motivated teachers.

We know that major improvements are needed to make our kids more competitive, but we have not heard details for what is planned in our school system to make critically needed changes.

Ignore what the State does with is long history of failure and let’s go ahead on our own.

Top down management in education has never worked in WV with its crippling grip of politics to emphasize the importance of making improvements through local initiatives.

By Glenville Teachers on 01.29.2018

From the entry: 'West Virginia board revises high school requirement, grading'.

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This is just another failure by the West Virginia State Board of Education!

It does NOTHING to improve education!

Just one more attempt to make everything “look nice”.

The State Board members are too far removed from the classroom.

That board needs populated with 4 or 5 of our better teachers who are not afraid to speak up.

By Troy Parent on 01.28.2018

From the entry: 'West Virginia board revises high school requirement, grading'.

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The question for the County’s sitting School Board is what is being done with corrective actions to get the County’s HS graduates out of the worst prepared bottom group for college and career preparedness as the State has reported?

Because more students graduate it does not mean that they mastered key subjects to promote success in the modern work place. Can anyone say grade inflation?

By B. Beckett on 01.26.2018

From the entry: 'West Virginia board revises high school requirement, grading'.

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Reduce requirements.
Lower teacher standards.

Produce less educated students.
Continue WV’s downward education spiral.

The current State Board of Education is less prepared to lead than back in the Gayle Manchin
days of failure.

Do not fool yourselves. Realize Paine is pain.
Do not expect WV educational leaders to improve education.

They have been showing us for years that goal is
out of their reach.

By Failed State BOE on 01.18.2018

From the entry: 'West Virginia board revises high school requirement, grading'.

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Does anyone know the County’s plan for getting us out of the State’s bottom group for college and trades ready after high school?

What are the causes for our being at the bottom for being ready and what is being done to solve them?

Causes never cease by themselves and the only solution is top quality leadership pushing a highly focused corrective program.

By Rusty Moore on 01.16.2018

From the entry: 'West Virginia board revises high school requirement, grading'.

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Example of a yes/but situation. Just because kids are pushed through does not mean that they are college and career ready. Read past comments about Gilmer’s being in the failing category for academic preparation. The way WV info is reported allows selective use of results to bloat up claims of how well a high school does in preparing students for the real world.

By R. Wells on 01.16.2018

From the entry: 'WEST VIRGINIA HIGH SCHOOLS RECOGNIZED FOR EXEMPLARY GRADUATION RATES'.

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Sunday’s Charleston Gazette-Mail had a warning that just because a high school has a high graduation rate that does not mean that its students are college ready. Gilmer County is one of them to put us in the State’s bottom category for readiness, but you won’t hear about it locally. Kids call it dumbing down.

By Give Citizens The Facts on 01.14.2018

From the entry: 'West Virginia board revises high school requirement, grading'.

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What about all the septic in the hollers that is draining into the creeks??

By Ugly on 01.10.2018

From the entry: 'PSC Investigates Impact of New Corporate Tax Law on Utilities'.

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This point should be kept in mind i.e. “The Commission has directed all privately owned electric, gas, water, sewer and solid waste facilities to track the tax savings resulting from the 2017 Federal Tax Act on a monthly basis beginning January 01, 2018. “.

By Michell J. Hill on 01.07.2018

From the entry: 'PSC Investigates Impact of New Corporate Tax Law on Utilities'.

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Troyan advocates for competition among schools with survival of the top performers. Her point is that the lack of accountability for county school system administrators must change to be similar to the way corporate America functions. Failure must have consequences!

By Accountabilty Needed on 01.03.2018

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Board of Education Minutes of Regular Meeting - 11.27.17'.

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Gilmer singled out again in article by Jessi Troyan for our being at the bottom for preparing high school grads for college. We know we have a serious problem. We await on top school system leadership to devise a workable remedial plan for the County. Denial of having problems cannot be used anymore to cover up

By B. Post on 01.02.2018

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Board of Education Minutes of Regular Meeting - 11.27.17'.

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You were in my life for what seemed like a short time but will be in my heart forever. I’ll see you at the family reunion one day again.

By Dana Linger on 12.29.2017

From the entry: 'Kathern Fay (Cogar) Linger'.

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Concerns about urgent need to upgrade student learning have persisted for too long in the County. 

We are tired of hearing lame excuses that under-achievement is caused by uncaring parents who do not emphasize the importance of education.

Parents are keenly important for contributing to student learning, but they cannot compensate for school “culture” deficiencies linked to leadership short comings.

By Parents For Better Leadership on 12.29.2017

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Board of Education Minutes of Regular Meeting - 11.27.17'.

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Those who go to college perform down at the bottom in comparison to high school graduates in other WV counties. This evidence suggests that Gilmer’s students who don’t go to college are short changed too. Immediate leadership changes to straighten out under achievement are in order!

By E. Moore on 12.28.2017

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Board of Education Minutes of Regular Meeting - 11.27.17'.

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Jeanette,
I am so sorry for your loss.

By Margie Shook on 12.18.2017

From the entry: 'Warren Curtis Pierce'.

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The whole child concept is admirable, but with GCHS grads being behind in proficiency for academic subjects we need to make changes to drastically improve learning to enable our kids to compete in the highly competitive modern world.

Our being the 52nd worse off among 55 WV counties for college remediation rates is undeniable proof.

Administrators must determine legitimate causes of our bottom ranking for use in improving learning instead of applying usual low payoff tinkering to be passed off as progress.

By B. K. Brooks on 12.15.2017

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Board of Education Minutes of Regular Meeting - 11.27.17'.

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That’s the #### dems new ploy, they can’t win on policy so they charge sexual harassment.

By The Silent Majority on 12.15.2017

From the entry: 'Meet the Miss USA Contestant from Gilmer County, WV Accusing Trump of Sexual Misconduct'.

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Why was there no outrage like this when Billy Boy was doing his deed in the White House? and other places?

Oh, I forgot.  He was the media’s boy?

By HOW COME NOW ? on 12.14.2017

From the entry: 'Meet the Miss USA Contestant from Gilmer County, WV Accusing Trump of Sexual Misconduct'.

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Wanna bet that in green counties when results sag there is no hesitancy to make administrative changes when needed? In Gilmer County the approach has been to hide facts and to manufacture rosy ones to report to citizens.

By Moore on 12.11.2017

From the entry: 'More college-going students in WV need remedial classes'.

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This is basically the process for an improvement plan. A school board specifies student achievement standards and it assigns a superintendent to work with central office staff and school administrators to produce a comprehensive plan for making needed changes. After putting a plan in place results are closely monitored by a school board while holding a superintendent personally accountable for achieving the standards.

By School Board Member In A Top Performing County on 12.10.2017

From the entry: 'More college-going students in WV need remedial classes'.

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Did I miss the County Commission Agenda for the December meeting?  The GFP site is displaying a little differently and I can’t seem to find it.  Do they still meet on First and Third Fridays??

By Searching on 12.10.2017

From the entry: 'More college-going students in WV need remedial classes'.

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The no excuse rate for Gilmer County is 59% and there are only three other WV counties worse off. This alarming information flags dire need for the County’s school board to do its job by implementing an improvement plan.

By Gilmer Students Ripped Off on 12.08.2017

From the entry: 'More college-going students in WV need remedial classes'.

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“We’re going to see a sea change in American agriculture as the next generation gets on the land,“

Yeah, right.  That will last about as long as it takes to discover exactly how hard farming is, and the amount of work it takes to make even a minimal living.

Sincerely

Pat McGroyne

By Pat McGroyne on 11.30.2017

From the entry: 'A Growing Number Of Young Americans Are Leaving Desk Jobs To Farm'.

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