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TV & Radio

New History Channel series features West Virginia

The Free Press WV

The History Channel will premiere its new mini-series, Project Blue Book, on January 8th at 10 PM.

Based on previews, the series appears to kick-off with the story of the Flatwoods Monster sighting which took place in Braxton County, West Virginia in 1952.

Though some story details seem to have been shifted or combined in order to move the story along, the over-all series of events are true to life.

The Braxton County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) was contacted in July of 2018 by a writer for the History Channel’s website who was writing an article for History.com.

The article was on the Flatwoods Monster and acts as a companion piece to the new series.

At the time it was published it was the first companion piece written which was featured on the website.

Now it is one of many which suggests the series will cover a wide scope of incidences and subjects concerning the real-life Project Blue Book investigations which that took place in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Find those articles at history.com/shows/project-blue-book. Previews for the new series are available there as well.

The new series is produced and presented in a similar manner as History’s 2012 series, the Hatfields and McCoys.

In contrast to the documentary and reality style shows that History Channel has become known for, Project Blue Book is produced more like a high-budget film with a cinematic production and cast.

To learn more about the Flatwoods Monster stop by the Flatwoods Monster Museum located at 208 Main Street in Sutton, West Virginia.

Be sure to tune in to the premiere of Project Blue Book on the History Channel on January 8th at 10 PM.

WV House Speaker’s race is on again

The Free Press WV

This week’s election has reopened debate over who should be the Speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates.

Last summer, Kanawha County Delegate Tim Armstead resigned his seat in the Legislature to run for the State Supreme Court, opening up the Speaker’s position.  After some jockeying and a closed-door caucus, Republicans chose Roger Hanshaw from Clay County.

However, the caucus vote was close.  Hanshaw bested Kanawha County Delegate and House Finance Committee Chairman Eric Nelson by just two votes.

Republicans lost five seats in Tuesday’s election, and there are 17 new faces on the GOP side that could change the dynamic in another Speaker’s race.

Hanshaw wants to hold on to the position, while Nelson would like to try again to ascend to the Speaker’s office.  The two have a friendly relationship and they are expected to meet to try to resolve the leadership question without dividing the caucus again.

The election cost Hanshaw his wing man.  Jefferson County Republican Riley Moore lost his bid for re-election Tuesday.  Moore rounded up votes for Hanshaw in the Speaker’s race last August and was rewarded with the position of Majority Leader in the House.

Hanshaw, if he retains the Speakership, will have to choose a new Majority Leader. I’m told that Nelson is not interested in that position, but there will be no shortage of House Republicans who covet the post.

Meanwhile, some House Republicans are still stewing over outside efforts to influence the Speaker’s race the last time.  The 1863 PAC ran advertisements on broadcast media (including West Virginia Corporation stations) and on social media supporting Hanshaw for the position.

Veteran Republican Delegate John Overington said at the time, “In all my years, I cannot recall any time we had radio ads or newspaper ads in favor of one candidate over another.”

MetroNews’ Brad McElhinny reported that Bob Murray, CEO of the coal company Murray Energy, hosted a fundraiser for the 1863 PAC.  Murray is no fan of Nelson because the House Finance Committee chairman opposed a plan by Governor Jim Justice (and supported by Murray) for a sliding scale of severance taxes—lowering the tax during a soft market, but raising it during boom times.

The stakes are high in this post election scrum over the House leadership.  The Speaker appoints committee chairs and has final say on the legislative agenda. A Speakers race may be the ultimate in political inside baseball, but the outcome is significant in public policy for the state.

Paine: Plan to improve math scores to focus on algebra where a third of teachers aren’t certified

The Free Press WV

The state Department of Education has finalized a plan to address the poor scores in math and student attendance issues that showed up against on the first-ever Balanced Scorecard released earlier this school year.

Mathematics performance, particularly at the middle school and high school levels, is low system wide. Only 37 percent of students tested proficient in math, 45 percent in English/Language Arts.

“The math plan is done,” state School Superintendent Dr. Steve Paine said Wednesday during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”

The plan has been vetted by national experts on math student achievement, according to Paine.

Its emphasis is on addressing the classrooms where algebra and geometry are taught. Paine said up to 30 percent of those algebra classrooms in West Virginia are taught by non-certified teachers.

“They have not received the formal math content training to be able to teach the subject of algebra. It’s no fault of their own,” Paine said. “We try to support them but they don’t have the formal training.”

It’s all connected to the qualified teacher shortage issue in several subjects that numbers approximately 700 statewide.

According to Paine, the plan to improve math scores includes Memorandums of Understanding signed with all 55 school districts.

“For all of those folks that are not certified (in algebra or geometry), we want to get them formal training immediately, as soon as we possibly can,” Paine said. “We’re going to do that in a combination of face-to-face training or virtual training or both so immediately we can give them the support that they need.”

Paine said the additional professional development, which could also include additional training classes for non-certified teachers, will be paid for by the state.

A second part of the plan will be to contract with what Paine called “exceptional master teachers” to teach children algebra by video stream.

“I hope that we can create a network so that we find and identify these masterful teachers of algebra and we can figure out a network where we can stream the live instruction to remote areas and a I would like to do it in every non-certified classroom,” Paine said.

A separate certification for algebra and geometry is also under consideration. Currently, math teachers are certified all the way through calculus. According to Paine, 92 percent of employers say all they need is for workers to know algebraic concepts.


Attendance

The plan to address poor attendance remains in its early stages, Paine said.

It’s starting out with a survey of parents, guardians and teachers to find out why kids aren’t in school and why they are tardy.

Paine said the southern coalfields area shows the most attendance problems. He said a lot has to do with the opioid crisis. He said it’s a complex issue. A Blue Ribbon panel is working to identify the problem and propose solutions.

Paine said student achievement must improve.

“Governor Justice has placed his confidence in educators and those in the system (proposing another 5 percent pay raise). Now it’s up to us to give him something back. We have to improve results,” Paine said.

~~  Jeff Jenkins ~~

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.

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Readers' Recent Comments

Progress is being made with writing up school board meeting minutes to keep citizens better informed.

For too long the State’s information embargo kept citizens in the dark because information releases of all types were sketchy by design to prevent accountability for officials in charge.

Because more information is being released to citizens there will be enhanced community support for activities in the County’s schools to get our kids career and college ready.

Thank you Gilmer County School Board members. Keep up your good work with making information access improvements.

By Kudos To School Board on 03.21.2019

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Board of Education Special & Regular Meeting Minutes'.

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Thanks Mr. Boggs for bringing attention to the Rt 5 roller-coaster just west of Burnsville.
At least someone finally made an attempt to smooth it up a bit!  Good job that time.

By Gilmer on 03.21.2019

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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Big In-Justice Jim and his “roads to prosperity” program is high grade bs.
You all stole our money.  Fed us bs and lies.

Now Injustice Jim wants to repeat the deal he got away with once all ready!!??  That takes a lot of gall.

And the best is…..30% of road repair funds were not spent last year!!  Shame on the legislature for not being a watchdog.

Shame on Whopper Teller Jim too…for wanting more money!
Shame, shame, shame on Charleston inept management and politics.

By WV are tired of having the wool pulled over our ey on 03.21.2019

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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“All of the research tells us that the formerly incarcerated do not commit violent crimes, or more workplace-related crimes, than people who have no criminal background,” he said.“

This is a patently false statement.  Heyman does this frequently.

Sincerely

Pat McGroyne

By Pat McGroyne on 03.19.2019

From the entry: 'In Tight Labor Market, Some Major Companies to Drop Criminal Check'.

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So sorry Jerry. Would love to see you.  I am now at family farm.  Please stop by

By Phyllis Grove on 03.18.2019

From the entry: 'Doris “Geneva” Case'.

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We keep hearing exciting news about GSC’s opportunity for starting a new teacher education academy to train WV’s teachers.

The unique program would provide state-of-the-art preparation for classroom challenges WV’s teachers face.

Based on reported information the prestigious program would be designed to be a WV show piece and graduates would earn a master degrees after five years.

The program would be an Appalachian trend setter to benefit the College, Gilmer County, Central WV, the State, gifted students selected for the program, and most of all the State’s children.

What do you say GSC’s Board of Governors? Citizens want to hear from you. What does the College have to lose?

By GSC Teacher Ed. Academy Needed on 03.18.2019

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Improving teacher quality in West Virginia'.

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After the ipads were purchased what measurable benefits resulted from having them at the GCHS to improve student learning? Does anyone know?

Was a formal plan followed to maximize benefits from the equipment to include provisions for measuring before-and-after results to evaluate if the equipment did any good?

Another case of throwing money at a problem and after spending it taxpayers have no idea if there were any meaningful benefits for students?

More than likely competitive bidding was not used to purchase the ipads to add another wrinkle.

By Did The ipads Improve Learning Results? on 03.13.2019

From the entry: 'Former West Virginia school superintendent going to prison'.

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Where oh where did the 200 Gilmer County I-pads go?
Were they bought with federal money?
Attorney General Morrisey are you looking into this?
Someone should get the ball rolling?

By where oh where? on 03.12.2019

From the entry: 'Former West Virginia school superintendent going to prison'.

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They is not no flood plane there the water dont get up there i know i catch musk rats in the river

By THE TRUTH WATCHER on 03.08.2019

From the entry: 'Former West Virginia school superintendent going to prison'.

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Gilmer County’s school board has full authority to demand a comprehensive accounting for every dime spent on everything leading up to site selection and construction of the LCES and the GCES.

Where did the money go and who got it to include naming names and companies on the receiving end?

Stop hiding behind the excuse that the State “did it to us” and assemble the true facts for taxpayers!

What is the defensible rational for failure of the school board to follow up on this?

By Disclose Financial Facts on 03.07.2019

From the entry: 'Former West Virginia school superintendent going to prison'.

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What was in the school board’s 451 resolution? As important as education is more effort should be taken to flesh out what actually happens at school board meeting. Bare minimum information and lack of transparency skirt accountability. Who is responsible for writing up the minutes?

By Transparency and Accountability Needed on 03.07.2019

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

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The new Gilmer County Elementary school was built
in a flood plane.  Education fail.

By YOU FORGET on 03.04.2019

From the entry: 'Former West Virginia school superintendent going to prison'.

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Roads are a mess.
Population continues the 50+ year decrease.

But for deep gas, no new employment.

Education system total failure.
Legislature impotent.

Grand finale in Charleston.
We have a brawl in the Capitol Building.

That out-of-control delegate needs to resign!

By WV continues the slow death on 03.04.2019

From the entry: 'Major Broadband Investment in West Virginia'.

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Broadband coming?  Think we heard this before?
How many times?  I’ve lost count.  You remember?

This will be like JimmyBoys “roads to prosperity” program?
Take the citizens money?  Give ‘em nothing.

Republicans. Democrats. All the same political bs from both.
Voters believe them.  Keep bringing back the old mules so they can give us a repeat performance.

By Just More Dog n Pony Show 4 U on 03.04.2019

From the entry: 'Major Broadband Investment in West Virginia'.

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Jimmy D, Gilmer County needs a full accounting for every dime spent on school site planning and studies, site preparation, all school construction work, and purchases while the State had us intervened.

For one example of many we do not have an itemized accounting for how our funds were spent on the botched LCES project.

How much more was wasted on the auction barn site, the dropped Cedar Creek site, and the GCES in comparison to what could have been done with our money with full transparency, competent planning, competitive bidding, and proper project oversight?

The fact that the GCES was built too small and the LCES was built too large is one facet of the waste and mismanagement that occurred.

Do not expect valid investigations because WV’s standard approach is cover up when the State is involved.

By Jimmy D--Don't Expect Sunshine on 03.04.2019

From the entry: 'Former West Virginia school superintendent going to prison'.

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Saw the GFP video (citizens refer to it as the ambush video) at the school board meeting at which the pitch was made for the new computers.

The GCHS principal and staff talked about wonders to expect if the 200 computers would be purchased.

Promises were made that if the kids got them they would learn to do advanced math and to make other marvelous learning advances. Any evidence of the promises being kept?

Were the computers purchased through competitive biding? Wanna bet that they were not?

Is this another example of throwing money at technology with no meaningful plan for how to use the equipment to maximize learning benefits without evidence of any before-and-after testing to accurately determine if they did any good?

Could the 200 computers be located and what condition are they in if they could be found?

The new school board is encouraged to check on the issues and to report on the findings.

By Accountability For New GCHS Computers on 03.04.2019

From the entry: 'Former West Virginia school superintendent going to prison'.

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Since the local prosecutor is good for nothing, why doesn’t the federal prosecutors look into all the theft by Gabe DeVano and his buddies during the time Gilmer county was under state control? They stole money, equipment from schools which closed, as well as technology equipment. for example where did the 200 iPads go which gilmer county paid for?

By Jimmy D on 03.04.2019

From the entry: 'Former West Virginia school superintendent going to prison'.

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A major cause of WV’s dismal record with K-12 education is the lack of choice regarding a parent’s right to decide on the school for a child to attend.

The elite get around that by using private schools for their kids.

Under existing conditions what chance do the rest of us have? The answer is none!

Our kids are victimized because competition and accountability do not exist and that is exactly what WV’s entrenched education establishment and the unions want.

By Save WV's School Children on 03.02.2019

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: iTeam Investigation: West Virginia's 55-county education system'.

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Pennybaker is correct.
WV educators keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Whats the definition of insanity?

By Gilmer on 03.02.2019

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: iTeam Investigation: West Virginia's 55-county education system'.

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An off grid system works great if you want to live like a hippie. One can cover their entire roof and it will barely power your lighting and a few electronics, let alone our transportation and industrial needs. The humaniacs now complain that the giant windmill blades kill the little birdies, and they have never solved the overpass problem in putting windmills on out autos.

By Vern Windsong on 03.01.2019

From the entry: 'Need for Atlantic Coast Pipeline Falls'.

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It amazes me that the so-called “experts” think more and more centralization will improve anything.  Public school education is in terrible condition and doing more consolidation will only make it worse and more expensive.  With all the technology today, there is NO reason for busing children for miles and miles, spending more and more hours under the control of public schools.  The idea that parents are not capable of deciding how to educate their children is insulting.  There was never any good reason for governments to get involved in education.

By Karen Pennebaker on 02.28.2019

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: iTeam Investigation: West Virginia's 55-county education system'.

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Pat, your information is outdated. Solar and wind are increasingly outcompeting fossil fuels, despite the heavy subsidies fossil fuels (and nuclear power) get. They also are getting steadily cheaper, while fossil fuels can be expected to rise as supply diminishes—the pipelines are going in so fast because of the NEED of the gas companies to get their product out to where they HOPE to find better prices—the drillers have been steadily losing money for the whole decade of the fracking “miracle.“ Wall Street is becoming skeptical. The thing about solar and wind is that once they’re built, the fuel keeps arriving, free. Of course, there isn’t much of a wind resource in our area. But there is in the mountain heights, and off the Virginia coast. And solar works fine here—I’ve had an off-grid system for ten years, works great.

By Mary Wildfire on 02.28.2019

From the entry: 'Need for Atlantic Coast Pipeline Falls'.

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Yes, West Virginia spends a LOT of money on education.
But where does it go?  Is it wasted?  Down the drain hole of bureaucracy?

We spend 7th highest per student and what to show for it?
Being 49th or 50th in ratings?

By where does the money go? on 02.27.2019

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: iTeam Investigation: West Virginia's 55-county education system'.

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Seeing the president of the WV AFT shaking his raised clinched fist in disrespect for the WV legislature tells it all.

WV’s teacher unions are allowed to function as separate branches of government with veto power over WV’s elected officials and their only role is to get more benefits for their members.

Where is the evidence that unions have done anything recently in any WV school system to help create an educational show piece? Can anyone cite an example?

Furthermore what have unions done to develop innovative plans for moving the State’s k-12 education system forward to pry us off our bottom rung rankings? The answer is—nothing exists. 

Conditions will not change for the better until the day our legislators quit pandering to unions to end k-12 decision-making driven by mob rule and raw emotions.

By Unions Failed WV's Children on 02.26.2019

From the entry: 'In West Virginia, the Politicians Fail, and the Teachers Rise'.

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The principal reason for opposition to 451 is fear by union chiefs that public charter schools could outshine performances of non-participating schools to embarrass WV’s entrenched K-12 education establishment.

To attempt to scare the public, there were claims that the underlying motive for opposition to charter schools is the sinister plan to privatize them to permit the rich and powerful to make money off education at the expense of WV’s children.

It is alarming that unions failed to propose comprehensive plans, inclusive of meaningful accountability mechanisms, designed to improve WV’s schools.

Their objective seems to be to protect the status quo instead of being effective partners in improving education for the State’s children.

There are examples in the USA where charter schools resulted in significant K-12 education improvements. Of course some failed.

Why is it irrational to establish a limited few charter schools in WV as demonstration projects to incorporate approaches applied in highly successful charter schools while avoiding mistakes of the schools that failed?

Nothing else has worked in getting WV out of being near the bottom with K-12 education quality—-so why continue with business as usual while expecting better outcomes?

By Unions Failed WV Education on 02.21.2019

From the entry: 'In West Virginia, the Politicians Fail, and the Teachers Rise'.

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If passed when will this take effect? I’m a single mother who has a drug felony from another state. I can’t get food stamps to help me because I a drug felon. I work so my income is to much for one person. I have a son whom him and I barley survive. Cause of my record. I’ve held the job I am at now for 5 years. But since they can’t use me. They use my income. But not me and doing it that way I make to much money.

By Kayla on 02.21.2019

From the entry: 'Bill to Let Drug Felons Get Food Stamps Passes WV Senate'.

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John & Family,  Sorry to hear of Nyla’s passing!  GOD will take care of you!!  GOD BLESS EACH AND EVERYONE OF YOU IN THIS SAD TIME !!!  RIP Nyla !

By Anita L. Adams - New Concord, Ohio on 02.15.2019

From the entry: 'Nyla Leah Frymier Poole'.

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“But Cathy Kunkel, an energy analyst with the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said utility filings in those states now show the outlook has changed dramatically - in part because of competition from cheap, renewable energy.“

That is utter rubbish.  There is no “cheap, renewable energy.“  Solar and wind are more expensive, even taking subsidies into consideration.  Hydro is more expensive, nuclear is more expensive.

Claiming otherwise is at best fake news, and at worst deliberate misdirection and lying.  Merely claiming renewable energy is less expensive doesn’t make it so.

Sincerely

Pat McGroyne

By Pat McGroyne on 02.15.2019

From the entry: 'Need for Atlantic Coast Pipeline Falls'.

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It was brought to my attention there was an article published in the Gilmer Free Press under Reader’s Comments dated 2-11-19.
This was written by Tammy White which many think it was me (Tammy Foster).  Twenty years (or more) “White” was my last name.
My son does take daily medication at the high school (which somehow this is quite a coincidence).  I want to clarify that I DID NOT write that article!
Now that I have straighten this out….. please read what I have say about this situation at Gilmer County High School:
The secretary or secretaries that were mentioned have never been rude to me or my son in person or by phone.  It is actually the opposite!  They are kind, caring, professional and thorough with distributing my son’s meds.
Not only do they make sure he gets the correct dosage daily but they keep a close inventory on the meds and call me when I need to restock them.
It broke my heart to read the negative article written last week and I was appalled my (old) name was on it.
My son and I trust and depend on these wonderful ladies.  We would like to take this opportunity to THANK them for taking excellent responsibility and care of our child and other students.

By Tammy Foster (not White) on 02.13.2019

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

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I’m sorry for your loss.

By Danny Nicholson on 02.12.2019

From the entry: 'Vera Marlene Lyons'.

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There is some issues going on at GCHS. I’m starting here in Hope’s that it will be addressed and corrected.  The secretary was rude when I turned in medicine for my son to be taken on a daily basis. Nor is it her business why he takes it, or how often. Anyway, is she certified in giving meds out.  I thought that the school employed a nurse. Maybe she should answer the phone or should I say message on her cell. She had no idea how many I handed in she didnt count them. Talks about her co workers. Then she gets upset nobody talks to her. She is 2 face. Talking about them is very unprofessional.
I hope this is taken care of or my next step is to the state department. Your choice

By Tammy white on 02.11.2019

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

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It is welcomed news as reported in the Democrat that Gilmer’s GCES students are making progress in learning math and English Learning Arts.

The principal, teachers, and all staff deserve high praise for the progress. Let’s not forget efforts of students too plus their parents who encourage them at home.

In addition to rates of increase for learning progress it would be helpful to be informed of percentages of students in the different grades who are at grade level for math and ELA.

Nothing was reported about learning progress at the GCHS and the LCES bi-county school. When are reports for those schools going to be given?

By Positive School News on 02.08.2019

From the entry: 'Building A Path to Brighter Future'.

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The lights are up at the Linn school.
Often flashing nights and weekends when NO ONE is on school property.

And you expect lights to work….???
when the WVDE, the WVBE built the school with FIVE TOO MANY CLASSROOMS !!??

*** The WVBE is incapable of meaningful education.
Why do you think the WV Legislature created the current ‘education overhaul’ bill without consulting the WV State Board of Ed? ***

By you are joking I guess? on 02.07.2019

From the entry: 'Building A Path to Brighter Future'.

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“The Environmental Protection Agency issued regular updates for about 100 water pollutants almost four years ago ... “

That would have been the Obama EPA, and the intention wasn’t to provide better water, it was an attempt to control business activity through the use of regulation.

In other words, a power-grab by a politician obsessed with it.

Sincerely

Pat McGroyne

By Pay McGroyne on 02.06.2019

From the entry: 'One Charleston Manufacturer Pressing for Delay of Water Rules'.

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Would the County’s school board take action to help improve safety conditions at the LCES?

The way it is now it can be uncertain if children are present at the school to require a reduction of speed to 15 mph while on Rt. 33.

It would eliminate uncertainty if a flashing lights system were to be installed so the lights could be turned on when children are present.

By LCES Safety Concern on 01.31.2019

From the entry: 'Building A Path to Brighter Future'.

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Why is it that on Gilmer County’s school system web site biographical information including education backgrounds for all school board members and their pictures are not posted?

Other counties have the information. Why not us?

By School Board Member Backgrounds? on 01.23.2019

From the entry: 'Building A Path to Brighter Future'.

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The only reason for our not using a version of the goal-driven Kentucky method would be a veto by controlling elitists opposed to establishing meaningful accountability for Gilmer County’s school system.

Without using the method it would be easier to continue to pawn off information that cannot be used to accurately document progress with student proficiencies for reading, math, science, and college and career readiness.

By School System Accountability Needed on 01.20.2019

From the entry: 'Building A Path to Brighter Future'.

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The KY approach would be valuable to Gilmer County for use in disclosing progress of our two schools in contributing to better lives for our children.

For goals for which progress would be off schedule, the tracking approach would be an objective basis for making mid-course adjustments in our school system to get better results.

By using the approach school board members could be more effective with goal-driven governing, and getting results would be the responsibility of the County’s Superintendent of Schools and school principals.

Overall,the approach would establish meaningful accountability which is sorely lacking in WV’s school systems.

By Establish School System Accountability on 01.18.2019

From the entry: 'Building A Path to Brighter Future'.

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Accomplished communicators have a knack for reducing complex information to its simplest form for effectiveness in getting messages across.

WV’s convoluted strategic plans for schools must follow the State’s rigid guidelines. The plans are confusing and inadequately designed for establishing accountability for getting results.

Kentucky is making progress with improving K-12 education outcomes and one reason is the clarity of specific goals for its schools and the job being done with tracking results.

Google—-2018 Prichard Committee Update to glean what is being done in Kentucky. The approach could be used for Gilmer’s two schools with a single sheet of paper for each school.

The beauty of the Prichard approach is that instead of relying on confusing and lengthy written out material with undefined abbreviations, technical jargon, and head scratching generalities, specific goals and annual results in achieving them are presented graphically.

Perfect real world example of a picture being worth a thousand words.

Board of Education members why couldn’t the Prichard approach be used for Gilmer County? It would be inexpensive, it could be updated easily on an annual basis, and everyone in the County would know how the school system is being administered to achieve measurable results.

Perhaps Mr. David Ramezan could post Prichard material on the GFP to show its simplicity.

By Advocate For Clarity on 01.17.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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The scandal of the too small school?
Don’t forget…
The scandal of the too big school is half of the whole state intervention mess.  FIVE rooms more than needed at the Linn, Lewis County school.

Results are from nepotism, cronyism, and educational stupidity….as well as scoffing at those who attempted to sound the alarm.

Bloated egos was the frosting on the Litter Box Cake Mix.

By School Truth is in the Litter Box on 01.17.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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During intervention the State had dictatorial control of our school system to include all decisions related to the GCES.

One result is that the GCES was built too small.

An investigation is needed to determine who was responsible for the bad decision, and what role the no-bid architectural firm had in designing and constructing the school.

Something major happened to cause the GCES to be built too small. Was something dropped at the expense of adequate class room space as a result of having to spend extra money because a poor site was selected?

Minimally, gross incompetency on the State’s part is the explanation for the disaster foisted onto the County.

A question pertains to the new gym. Lots of effort was taken by the State to try to convince the public that a competition gym instead of a regular gym was needed.

Did the competition gym cost extra money at the expense of needed classroom space? If the answer is affirmative who was responsible for deciding on the more expensive gym?

What about the enormous pit at the GCES? Was money spent on it at the expense of classrooms because something was wrong with the school’s site that was selected by the State?

Nothing similar to the pit has been seen at other sites where new WV schools were built.

Why has there been a failure for a thorough investigation to have occurred to expose the facts?

The obvious explanation is that powerful elitists in control do not want tracks leading to them, and they have veto power over a meaningful investigation including one done by a leading newspaper.

By GCES Built Too Small Scandal on 01.15.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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Pat McGroyne is spot on.
High speed internet is simply another failure of WV state government.

If the elected in our state, were doing the job expected by voters….we should have very few problems or issues?

By Gilmer resident on 01.14.2019

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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Muddling has another distinct symptom. It is the tendency for administrators in control to emphasize processes and procedures while avoiding disclosure of progress, or the lack thereof, in achieving learning results.

The purpose is another way to avoid personal accountability for school system failures.

By Muddling Epidemic In WV School Systems on 01.14.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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West Virginia is number one!
Our politicians are the best that can be had.
They are also the lobbyers dream come true.
No one—-can out-muddle our elected reps !

By we know it on 01.13.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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Suggestion after reading strategic plans for the GCHS and the GCES.

How about the school board requiring that for each school an informative executive summary be written to include——where each school stands on reading, math, and science proficiency, what the term proficiency means to eliminate the confusion, student proficiency goals for the two school, target time to expect goals to be achieved, and a statement to commit to keeping the public informed of progress in achieving the goals at designated intervals (e.g. quarterly) during a school year.

Omit confusing abbreviations and technical terms understood only by a select few in the education field, and written for comprehension by reasonable persons.

Leave it up to the County’s professional educators to determine how to get the job done with continual laser-like focus on getting results.

By Student Learning at GCHS and GCES on 01.13.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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Muddling infects federal, state, and local government entities where personal accountability for top officials to get measurable results rarely exists.

Muddling practitioners are famous for passing off information unrelated to measurable proof that effective problem-solving has occurred. A common example is emphasizing how much public money is being spent to attempt to convince tax payers that magnitudes of expenditures are always directly correlated to levels of problem-solving successes.

Muddling by an organization is characterized by the existence of thick planning documents replete with vagueness and lack of clarity, undefined technical terms, and mysterious acronyms.

Muddling thrives on intentional ambiguity and confusion designed to protect muddlers and their organizations.

By Muddling 101 on 01.11.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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Gilmer County is not the only place in the USA that has been faced with its students failing to meet proficiency standards for science, reading, and math.

The difference here is that evidence is lacking to conclusively demonstrate that Gilmer County’s officials in control have exerted proper efforts to profit form powerful lessons learned elsewhere to use that knowledge to help solve learning deficiencies in our schools.

In fact, a convincing argument could be made that the approach in the County has been the one professional planners designate as muddling through.

Classic symptoms of muddling through include failure to thoroughly analyze categories of causes contributing to problems followed up by using the information to develop a comprehensive plan to do the most good in getting better results by treating key causes instead of symptoms.

Muddling typically involves officials assigning blame for lack of progress to outside forces e.g., the “culture”, the State did it to us, and poverty. Haven’t we heard plenty of that?

Muddling must be eliminated if we want progress in solving non-performance problems within the County’s school system. Does anyone disagree?

By End School System Muddling on 01.09.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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It is unclear after reading school board meeting minutes what progress if any is being made by GCHS and GCES principals in improving student proficiency in reading, math and science.

Why not allocate a few sentences in the minutes to summarize what the two principals reported to the school board?

All it would take to get the critical information out to citizens would be for the new school board to act on this.

Does anyone have a problem with the suggested change to keep Gilmer’s bill paying public informed?

By Need Specifics For Principal's Reports on 01.09.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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“High speed broadband – a necessity for today’s homes, businesses and other institutions – remains a huge unmet need for rural residents, despite promises by a succession of Governors from both parties (a contributing factor in why we’re losing population at a rate higher than any other state).“

I disagree with much of what Mr.Boggs believes.  That said, high-speed broadband is the single most important step the State of WV could take to improve the business climate and provide more opportunities for its citizens.

Sincerely

Pat McGroyne

By Pat McGroyne on 01.08.2019

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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Conversation at local eatery.
Shortly after election.
Individuals were educators.

‘You think we have school problems now, wait until these new folks take the steering wheel’.

‘Students, parents, staff are all going to be in the soup’.

Sounds as if Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving vacation-deer season times have all taken a big hit.  If that is true, the union teachers need to come together, stand their ground, along with parents, and hold this new board accountable.

Have a local strike if need be.
Request resignations.
Vote of no confidence.

Schools employees can win.
You have done it before.
Just stick together.

By overheard conversation on 01.08.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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Scholarship must be the most important focus in Gilmer County’s schools.

Brought up the ZOOMWV Data Dashboard site to review the most recent State achievement test results for GCHS’s 11th grade.

Folks, Gilmer is in serious trouble. Proficiency for math=24%, reading=41%, and science=24%.

On an A through F grading scales the GCHS gets an F for all three subject areas.

What does the new school board have to show for inroads it has made since last July to make critically needed proficiency improvements at the HS? Citizens deserve answers to the question.

By ZOOMWV Data Dashboard on 01.07.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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A thorough accounting for where all the public money went could be easily achieved by a competent accountant.

Isn’t there a special account at the County’s school board office for expenditures related to all bills paid and who got the money?

Following the money trail always gets results along with verification of means, motives, and access.

By Let An Accountant Dig It Out on 11.21.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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If central office financial records for all public money paid out for everything from site planning, site studies and development, and everything else to get to completion of the GCES and the LES—- what is the reason?

It is known that money was spent on the Arbuckle site and Cedar Creek, and public money was paid out for the LES too.

Were County records for the spending purged and if that happened who ordered the action? The records are either in the County’s central office or they aren’t.

By End Financial Secrecy on 11.21.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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Hasn’t the time come to finally start naming names and making people accountable?

By Get It Done on 11.21.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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How about the “BIG WV WINDFALL”....?

For 3 or 4 months now we keep hearing about the millions of dollars of tax revenue collected.

Millions and millions above ‘estimates’.  Were those ‘estimates’ honest, or fudged to begin with, so as to request higher tax rates?

Well, Justice and the Legislature now have our dollars, what will become of this windfall? Will we see tax rates lowered?  Doubt full, but we should.

Likely this windfall, created by “over-taxation”, will simply create a “party atmosphere” of legislative spending. Watch the Charleston ‘gangsters’ get their wish lists ready this coming session.

By taxpayers always lose on 11.21.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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Yes.  The blame Does seem to fall to ‘local’ people. In small places like Gilmer County, it’s just a poker game, boys, and the deep pockets win.  Money speaks volumes where ‘officials’ stay silent.  Go ask for the records, see what they’ve got.

By CheatersNeverWin on 11.20.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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Teachers and staff knew from the beginning that the GCES was going to be too small. They were ordered by the State to keep quiet about the shortfall and other serious concerns too.

A sixth grader could understood how many rooms were needed by dividing total student numbers to attend the school by how many students should be in a classroom.

Under sizing was the State’s fault and it cannot be rationalized any other way including to assign the blame to local people. Same applies to the over sized LCES.

By Corrupt State Intervention on 11.19.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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There will never be a full, public accounting of the gross mishandling of tax dollars during WVDOE intervention.
Too many local jobs and too many embarrassments of both elected and appointed bureaucrats.
These types cover dirt for each other.

Any local whistle blowers?  Doubtful.

One school built short 4 classrooms and another built with 5 too many.  Can it get more stupid than that?
Mr. Degree and Ms. Common Sense seldom travel together.

By Full accounting will never be revealed. Never. on 11.18.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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GCBOE when the two principals give reports at board meeting could the gist of what they said be summarized in minutes to keep the County informed?

It was a welcomed development by the Board to require principals to give reports particularly if there are required updates on progress designed to improve student learning for reading, math, and other subjects.

We still have not been informed about the status of science proficiency at the GCHS based on the latest testing. Why has the State failed to release the data? Were results too dismal?

By More Specifics For Principal's Reports on 11.17.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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If it is going to cost extra money to eliminate over crowding at the GCES the financial information referenced by Do It Ourselves should be presented to Charleston and the press too.

That would help frame a solid case that crowding problems were not caused by Gilmer County because all decisions related to facilities were dictated by officials over whom the County had no oversight authority during the State’s intervention.

By Follow The Money on 11.16.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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It is assumed that all records for spending to include money paid out for the LCES, dropped Arbuckle site, dropped Cedar Creek site, and all bills for the GCES are in the Gilmer Schools central office.

The new GCBOE has authority to get to the truth by demanding a thorough accounting for all the spending.

Afterwards the financial officer in the central office could easily access existing computerized records and to use the information for a report to the GCBOE and the public.

By Do It Ourselves on 11.15.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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Notice that most of the ‘officials’ in Gilmer County also hold regular day jobs - sometimes working on more than one paying ‘job’ at a time in the same office space. This common practice is concerning for many reasons, and it needs to be talked about when so many go without.

By QuestionablePractice on 11.14.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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There are two views in the County related to the under built GCES. Although the State built the school with inadequate classrooms one group believes that we should move on to let go of the past.

Isn’t this a form of advocacy for a coverup to prevent accountability for the State’s incompetence and mismanagement?

The other group believes that there should be a full accounting for all public money spent up to the time the GCES was completed to include disclosure of recipients of the public money. 

The accounting should be done for all public money spent at the LCES, the Arbuckle site, Cedar Creek, and finally the GCES.

Reasons for the under built GCES should be fully disclosed too. When the State was in control this information was kept secret from the public with loud claims that there was adequate space at the GCES.

Now it is known that there is inadequate space at the GCES and the problem is left to Gilmer County to fix. Only in WV!

By Citizens For Financial Disclosure on 11.14.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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Unprofessional issues,rude commentsand rolling eyes at the high school has become an issue. Being on cell phone talking to boyfriends,when parents etc.going into the office. Since the teachers were ask not to be on them while students in the classroom. The one in the office should not be allowed to talk personal to her boyfriend, or whoever. Also, I hope this is corrected, the personal days, etc that the board provides to staff shouldn’t be allowed to use to work or operate a second job. Let’s get the priorities straight.

By Jo Ann conrad on 11.11.2018

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

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GULMER COUNTY BOE. It is time for me to let you know some issues that is going on at the High school.  I’m hoping this will be addressed at the next board meeting. 1. It should not matter if an employee has a second job or run a business. The priority job is for the board. One should not be allowed to use any time from the board to run your business. There is going on
If they want to run your business than go but not on the boards time. I would like for all employees be treated the equal. They should not be allowed to use the time the board gives them for other jobs.

By Jo Ann conrad on 11.11.2018

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

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While at it there should be an investigation of why the LES was build with too many classrooms and the GCES was built with too few. At the very least what happened is a WV horror story example of the State’s waste and mismanagement.

By Where Is The Investigation? on 11.11.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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It is obvious that the GCES has a major space problem.

What options for dealing with the State’s mismanagement to cause the serious blunder are being considered by the Board of Education?

Could the original architectural design for the dropped Cedar Creek site be compared to what resulted at the GCES to accurately determine the extent of classroom space alterations?

If the architectural design at the GCES is different than the original plan for Cedar Creek the next step should be to determine reasons for the changes and where the money originally planned for needed classrooms went.

By INFO REQUEST TO GCBOE on 11.09.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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It’s long been known that Justice doesn’t happen in Gilmer County “because it all comes down to money”. And for those in charge of handling it and making decisions, it comes down to being competent to do the job,  keep accurate books and accounts and I’m sorry to say, that is seriously lacking in Gilmer County.

By Follow the Paycheck(s) on 11.06.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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What is GSC’s BOG’s plan for getting money for the next payment on the $38,000,000 bond loan the Gilmer County Commission approved?

Will the State pay or will the money come from private donations?

Money will have to come from somewhere to avoid a default.

By Where Is The Money? on 11.05.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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So sorry to hear of Kendall’s passing. I have fond memories of him at Uncle Paul’s store and the family reunions. I’m sure he will be missed greatly by those closest to him.
Please accept condolences from me and my family.

By Steve Lewis on 11.04.2018

From the entry: 'Kendall Goodwin'.

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GSC’s present plight is no secret and its future existence is in question.

Instead of expressing attitudes that GSC is being picked on could the Blue Ribbon Commission reveal why the College “tested out” as it did to fail to get more State money?

Was the “grading system” based on student enrollment trends, retention, time taken to get a degree, academic reputation, inept governance and administration, and other factors to block more funding? Informative specifics were not disclosed.

Teachers know that concerned students who want to do better always seek advice on what needs to be done to get better grades.

Similar to concerned students GSC’s supporters should be informed of what needs to be done to position the College for improved chances for survival to include eligibility for more State funding.

Saying that GSC is being picked on does nothing to help solve its nagging problems.

By What Was The Grading System? on 10.30.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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Well thank you, Details Please,  for asking!  So many problems in Gilmer and education is just one.  Look at the town, take a good look around.  Remember who runs unopposed at election time.  Vote.  Make a difference.  Hold authority figures responsible.  Allow videos, minutes and more to be shared on GFP again, for transparency.  Know your neighbors, help a friend.  Be good to each other. Amen.

By Reader7 on 10.29.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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I will truly miss my Uncle Stephen.  Telling me so much information about from gardening to canning. Just to listening to him talk with such passion for everything that he does… he had a sense of humor that always warms my heart.. listening to him play the banjo sometimes even when he didn’t feel good. he is always willing to share his recipes and his ways of doing things… his solar information he was always studying something ... I’m remember one time we asked him where he got his blackberries when it wasn’t Blackberry season and he go there’s a store down the road it’s called Walmart they have everything… He was so funny.  I love you.. xoxo.

By Robin Nunez on 10.28.2018

From the entry: 'Stephen Blair Marks'.

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Sorry for your loss. He sure did look like his father.

By Buck Edwards on 10.28.2018

From the entry: 'Stephen Blair Marks'.

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Reader 7, please give details for your suggested solutions to the County’s concerns you addressed.

The information would be helpful for consideration by school system administrators and the general public.

By Details Please on 10.26.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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