Justice Signs Higher Education Reform Bill

HB 2815 gives more flexibility to schools under the HEPC

The Free Press WV

Governor Jim Justice visited West Virginia University to sign House Bill 2815, legislation that will give greater freedom and flexibility to West Virginia University, including West Virginia University Potomac State College and West Virginia University Institute of Technology, Marshall University, and the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine.
The reform legislation will give more autonomy to these institutions and realign the role of the Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC). Justice was joined by WVU President Gordon Gee, Marshall University President Jerry Gilbert, and WVSOM President Dr. Michael Adelman for the bill signing. Gee, Gilbert, and Adelman voiced their strong support for the legislation. 

 “Our bigger schools need the freedom to continue to innovate and grow,” said Governor Jim Justice. “As the campuses evolve it’s clear that more decisions should be made by the boards of governors at WVU, Marshall, and the School of Osteopathic Medicine. This bill allows greater flexibility and allows HEPC to focus its efforts.”

The bill preserves the HEPC to serve its core function as a coordinating body and to oversee and undertake regional and statewide higher education policy initiatives for the public good. 

Gordon Gee, President of West Virginia University:

“We are very appreciative to the governor and the legislators for their leadership on this issue. This new governance structure will help us be nimble and innovative enough to overcome our state’s challenges, and we look forward to working together as we continue to do great things.”

Jerome A. Gilbert, President of Marshall University:  

“I applaud the governor for signing this bill. This is good legislation that will give Marshall University more opportunities to reward exemplary employee performance and productivity. It also will allow us to do strategic financial planning, and will let us spend more time on programs and services for our students and less on bureaucratic reporting requirements.

“We appreciate the legislature and Governor Justice’s support of this bill to support excellence in higher education in West Virginia.”

Michael Adelman, D.O., D.P.M., J.D., President of
WV School of Osteopathic Medicine

“I truly appreciate the work of the Governor and the legislature during this past legislative session to provide the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, West Virginia University and Marshall University with more autonomy as state institutions during the state’s difficult budget times. We are grateful for the leadership Governor Justice has taken with House Bill 2815 and the efficiency and flexibility this legislation gives to WVSOM as we continue to fulfill our mission by training well-educated osteopathic physicians to meet the health care needs of West Virginia.”

DeVos Undoes Obama Student Loan Protections

New actions withdraw protections due to “inconsistencies and shortcomings”

The Free Press WV

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has rolled back an Obama administration attempt to reform how student loan servicers collect debt.

President Barack Obama issued a pair of memorandums last year requiring that the government’s Federal Student Aid office, which services $1.1 trillion in government-owned student loans, do more to help borrowers manage, or even discharge, their debt. But in a memorandum to the department’s student aid office, DeVos formally withdrew the Obama memos.

The previous administration’s approach, DeVos said, was inconsistent and full of shortcomings. She didn’t detail how the moves fell short, and her spokesmen, Jim Bradshaw and Matthew Frendewey, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

DeVos’ move comes a week after one of the student loan industry’s main lobbies asked for Congress’ help in delaying or substantially changing the Education Department’s loan servicing plans. In a pair of April 4 letters to leaders of the House and Senate appropriations committees, the National Council of Higher Education Resources said there were too many unanswered questions, including whether the Obama administration’s approach would be unnecessarily expensive.

A recent epidemic of student loan defaults and what authorities describe as systematic mistreatment of borrowers prompted the Obama administration, in its waning days, to force the FSA office to emphasize how debtors are treated, rather than maximize the amount of cash they can stump up to meet their obligations.

Obama’s team also sought to reduce the possibility that new contracts would be given to companies that mislead or otherwise harm debtors. The current round of contracts will terminate in 2019, and among three finalists for a new contract is Navient Corp. In January, state attorneys general in Illinois and Washington, along with the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, sued Navient over allegations the company abused borrowers by taking shortcuts to boost its own bottom line. Navient has denied the allegations.

The withdrawal of the Obama administration guidelines could make Navient a more likely contender for that contract, government officials said. Navient shares moved higher after the government released DeVos’ decision around 11:30 a.m. New York time. Navient stock ended up almost 2 percent.

The Obama administration vision for how federal loans would be serviced almost certainly meant the feds would have to increase how much they pay loan contractors to collect monthly payments from borrowers and counsel them on repayment options. Already, the government annually spends around $800 million to collect on almost $1.1 trillion of debt. DeVos, however, made clear that her department would focus on curbing costs.

“We must create a student loan servicing environment that provides the highest quality customer service and increases accountability and transparency for all borrowers, while also limiting the cost to taxpayers,” DeVos said.

With her memo, DeVos has taken control of the complex and widely derided system in which the federal government collects monthly payments from tens of millions of Americans with government-owned student loans. The CFPB said in 2015 that the manner in which student loans are collected has been marred by “widespread failures.”

DeVos’ move “will certainly increase the likelihood of default,” said David Bergeron, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank with close ties to Democrats. Bergeron worked under Democratic and Republican administrations over more than 30 years at the Education Department. He retired as the head of postsecondary education.

During Obama’s eight years in office, some 8.7 million Americans defaulted on their student loans, for a rate of one default roughly every 29 seconds.

Former Deputy Treasury Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin worked on student loan policy during the latter years of the Obama administration, in part over concern that borrowers’ struggles were affecting the management of U.S. debt. DeVos’ decision to reverse some of her work “with no coherent explanation or substitute” effectively means that the Trump administration is placing the welfare of loan contractors above those of student debtors, she said.

In a statement, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who is suing Navient, agreed: “The Department of Education has decided it does not need to protect student loan borrowers.”

~~  Shahien Nasiripour, Bloomberg News ~~


The Free Press WV

There has been considerable angst in the County because of proposed riffs and transfers of school system employees by the Superintendent and Personnel Director.

It is understood that ten employees were on a riff list and ten were slated for transfers.

At a special meeting at 4:00 PM, Monday evening, April 24, 2017, the Gilmer County Board Of Education refused to approve any riffs and transfers, and jobs believed to have been lost were restored.

Members of the school board made it evident that with full authority restored they will watch out for the County’s children and school system employees too.

Thank you GCBOE members.

You gave a highly-needed morale boost to employees after all we have suffered through during the long years of the State’s intervention.

It is a proven fact that high morale is one of the most important ingredients for having high performance schools, and that is what the County’s children deserve.

Employees at all levels will continue to look to the GCBOE to set exemplary leadership standards as demonstrated at the special meeting.

With all of us working together as a dedicated team, from the GCBOE on down, Gilmer County can be a trend setter to have one of the best school systems in WV.

~~  An Observer in the Meeting (Identity on File)  ~~

EducationNewsWest VirginiaRegionGilmer CountyGlenvilleOpinions | Commentary | G-LtE™ | G-Comm™ | G-OpEd™(5) Comments

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~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~

I like to thank all the board members for keeping our job. I could not believe that Mr. DeVano had the guts to get the teachers in a circle telling us that he had saved our positions.

By Thankful  on  04.25.2017

He must think the people are dumb. HE was the one recommending the riffs and transfers.

By Jimmy D.  on  04.25.2017

A game changer is about to happen.  New blood as Superintendent, backed by our elected board members, who are our friends and neighbors, and have the best interest of students, staff, and community in their heart.

Yes, our elected board members will correct six years of intervention.  They will need some time to access and repair issues, but they will do their job.

Many of us have faith that issues like this will be dealt with in a fair and professional manner.

By 67 days = no Devano  on  04.25.2017

All I can say their hidden agenda did not work. Now he has to answer the ones they were catering to.

By Ed Watcher  on  04.25.2017

Gabe Devono was ready to stab the employees on his personally hand picked RIFF and transfer list in the back. That was all too clear. 
Then when he gets in a Board meeting and sees he won’t get his way he flips.  Trying to tell the ones he was fine with hurting that he was really on their side all along. Who on earth would be fool enough to fall for that?
The Devono script has always read he’ll do what he pleases when he pleases and if you don’t agree with him you don’t matter to him.
This time, it didn’t happen. Thank heaven Charleston BOE had the good sense to give back control.  Professionals and Service personnel alike have reason to feel their hard work is appreciated.

By Come On June 30  on  04.25.2017

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G-FYI™: Reminder from State Superintendent to Schools Boards and Superintendents

The Free Press WV

Dear West Virginia County Board Members, Superintendents and Chief School Business Officials, As county boards of education work on their budgets for the upcoming school year, I wanted to take this opportunity to stress the importance of making sound financial decisions on behalf of the county boards of education that you represent. During these times of decreasing student enrollment and declining revenue, it is very important that county boards of education make the necessary adjustments to their budgets in order to keep the school system financially solvent. 

The West Virginia Department of Education has historically recommended that every county board of education have a general current expense unrestricted fund balance of at least three to five percent of the county’s approved budget.  The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA)  recommends a carryover balance of two months of operating revenues or expenditures which equates to a 16.67% carryover balance.    As of June 30,  2016, only 10 county boards of education in West Virginia met the national recommended carryover percentage.  Without sufficient carryover reserves, county boards of education would be unable to react in the event of an emergency. 

As student enrollment declines, county boards of education are funded for fewer positions through the state aid funding formula.  It is important that county boards of education monitor their staffing levels to ensure that they are in line with available resources and funding sources.   On average,  personnel related costs comprise approximately 80% of a county’s overall budget.  County boards of education that do not adjust their staffing levels can therefore quickly find themselves in financial distress, as there are very few non-personnel cuts that can be made to absorb declines in revenue.  I recognize that eliminating positions is very difficult, as it is never easy to make decisions that will negatively impact the lives of our valued employees.  Unfortunately,  in our current financial climate,  making such difficult decisions has become a necessity for most county boards of education. 

As State Superintendent of Schools,  I am charged under West Virginia Code §18-9B-7 and §18-9B-8 to review the budgets of county boards of education to ensure that they will maintain the educational program of the county as well as meet the county’s financial obligations.  If a budget does not meet the criteria set forth in statute, I have the authority to direct the county board to make certain adjustments to the budget.    While I take this charge very seriously,  it is my hope that all local county boards of education make these difficult decisions on their own.

Please be reminded that West Virginia Code §11-8-26 indicates that county boards of education should not expend funds in excess of those available. As you have been taught by the West Virginia School Board Association, under West Virginia Code §11-8-29, county board members can be held personally liable for the amount illegally expended and under §11-8-31, county board members can even be held criminally liable for such overspending. While it is rare that these statutory provisions are utilized, the potential consequences for overspending are significant and not to be taken lightly.

My staff in the Office of School Finance stands ready to assist all county boards of education with financial questions.  That office already maintains a Financial Watch List where monthly budget to actual analysis is performed for 13 county boards of education that have been identified as being financially at-risk.  However, just because a county may not currently be on the Financial Watch List does not mean that a county shouldn’t be closely monitoring their own finances and making the necessary adjustments to their spending. If you have financial questions regarding your county board of education,  please do not hesitate to contact Amy Willard,  Executive Director of School Finance at 304.558.6300 or at

Thank you for your commitment to ensuring the financial stability of your county board of education in order to best serve the students of West Virginia.

Steven L Paine, Ed. D.
State Superintendent of Schools

EducationFeaturesG-FYI™NewsWest Virginia(3) Comments

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~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~

It is about time that Charleston came out with clear language about seriousness of school boards and individuals on them being legally liable for overspending.

Nothing like it went to the public during intervention while the GCBOE was stripped of all its power.

No wonder now why all along some GCBOE members have asked probing questions about finances and they were not answered. More power to those conscientious individuals who tried hard to do their jobs and we support them 100%.

There must be a full accounting of every dollar spent during intervention with no local oversight and no accountability at all for State-appointed superintendents.

We need a complete accounting of spending for the Linn school, the loss of public money at the top of the hill on Arbuckle property, spending at Cedar Creek, unplanned spending at the GCES, the BOE office move to the Minnie Hamilton building, the scandal from the new GCES being built too small, and much more. Citizens have tracked the waste and mismanagement for years and we are outraged. 

Unless a full accounting is done for public disclosure another excess levy will never pass in the County although we understand that there will be a major reset on July 1.

Thank you GFP for getting Paine’s letter out to Gilmer County.

By GCBOE Observer  on  04.24.2017

Now it is clear why some board members always probed for answers and their questions were ignored. The members were simply trying to do their jobs. 

During intervention while the board was stripped of power it is understood that if overspending occurred individual members could still have been sued.

What a travesty!!!!

By Cannot Wait Until July 1  on  04.24.2017

For SIX years we have heard from our local board members, watched videos request for financial information, only to be STONEWALLED by the West Virginia State Board of Education.

Now this gent wants to tell us how important finance is?  We are well aware, the WVBOE provided little to no oversight of *anything* that happened under their 6 year run with lack of leadership.

Over built school in Lewis County.  Wasted funds in Gilmer County.  Undersized school in Gilmer.

WVBOE.  All politics.  No common sense.  Crummy leadership.

By INEPT WVBOE  on  04.24.2017

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Could the Education Department’s Days Be Numbered?

If this congresswoman gets her way, the days of federal education regulations are over.
The Free Press WV

U.S. Representative Virginia Foxx wants the federal Department of Education to disappear. She wants Washington to stop passing down rules and regulations schools have to follow.

As the new chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee, the seven-term North Carolina congresswoman has a powerful forum to talk about all that.

Trouble is, she probably doesn’t have the votes to do much of what she wants. It takes 60 to get most legislation through the Senate, where Republicans control only 52 seats, and she’s up against a powerful education lobby that resists sweeping change in federal policy.

She’s trying. Foxx, who helped lead the writing of the 2016 Republican Party platform and served in House leadership, figures she’ll have to dilute Education Department power bit by bit. Already, she’s championing the use of a rare legislative tactic in Congress to eliminate some Obama administration regulations.

And Foxx is putting pressure on her colleagues in Congress to write the sort of legislation she wants, contending that some past laws were written sloppily and left too much leeway for federal departments to fill in gaps with rules and regulations.

Any federal educational policies, she told McClatchy in an interview, should come from lawmakers–not bureaucrats.

“We’ve got some good laws in place–let Congress do its oversight,” she said. “Sometimes doing nothing from the federal level is good.”

Foxx and her Republican congressional allies have a new favored tool for walking back regulations: the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to overturn specific federal rules and regulations and prevent them from coming back up.

This year was the first time a Congressional Review Act was used to override an education regulation, and Congress has already overturned two of them.

One imposed a template on states under a requirement to submit detailed school-accountability plans to the federal Education Department. The other required states to build a rating system for local teacher education programs, including judging teacher preparation based on student performance.

Sure enough, Foxx stood beside President Donald Trump in March as he signed those Congressional Review Acts into law, repealing both regulations.

Democrats dislike tearing up Obama-era education regulations.

“The federal government needs to require certain things. … If you don’t have some (regulations), the law won’t get implemented,” said Representative Alma Adams, D-N.C., who sits on the House education committee.

Specifically, Adams says the Congressional Review Act rolling back regulations associated with the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act inhibits the Education Department’s ability to make sure states help low-performing schools–something the state accountability plans would address.

Representative Bobby Scott of Virginia, the top Democrat on the House education committee, has also criticized the swift repeal of the accountability rule, saying it creates confusion for local education officials, who had been working on their state plans since last year.

But Foxx, who served on Watauga County’s school board for 12 years before joining Congress in 2005, wants decision-making left to states and local school districts.

“The closer you are to what’s happening, the more likely there is to be self-correction,” she said. “I want to devolve as much as possible to the localities and to the states.”

The National Governors Association–which has 33 Republican governors on its membership roll this year–supported Republicans in Congress using Congressional Review Acts to roll back education rules, saying the federal regulations attempt to usurp local power.

Others, like U.S. Representative David Price, D-N.C., worry that Congressional Review Acts move too quickly through Congress without much debate.

“It’s a scattershot process that so far, anyway, has not been accompanied by very much in the way of hearings or getting input from stakeholders,” he said.

Democrats in Congress will have limited power as Foxx and other conservatives look for a reset at the Education Department. Foxx said she’d found an ally in Secretary Betsy DeVos.

As things unfold, Foxx’s simple advice to DeVos has been: “You can start with: Don’t do anything.”

Rules, regulations and “dear colleague” letters from the department in the past incensed Foxx. Too often, she said, federal departments use regulations or executive power to distort legislative intent.

“We’re gonna stop this foolishness of letters and then people saying, ‘I’ve got to do this.’ Where is the authority for that? There’s no authority, but the school systems are scared,” she said.

With DeVos, it’s unlikely the Education Department needs Foxx’s urging to lay off the rules and regulations. Before DeVos was confirmed, Trump invoked a government-wide regulatory freeze and DeVos herself has said she plans to run a limited-government department.

Still, Foxx promises she’ll scrutinize executive actions and department-level authority in Trump’s administration.

“I want to show our Democrat colleagues we’re just as concerned about that in a Republican administration as in a Democrat administration,” she said.

Chances are, though, Foxx won’t reach her most cherished goal: to abolish the Education Department.

The conservative drumbeat to get rid of the department or strip its power has been around for decades, starting with President Ronald Reagan, who campaigned on eliminating the department just a year after it was created.

This spring, Congress will consider Trump’s pitch to cut the Education Department’s funding by $3 billion, or 13.5 percent. The decision on spending, though, is not up to Foxx’s committee, but to the House and Senate Appropriations panels.

“It seems unlikely there will be cuts at the magnitude he proposed,” said Ed Lorenzen, a senior adviser at the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget who’s a former Capitol Hill staffer for two House Democrats.

Any shift of money away from traditional public schools will be met with resistance from powerful groups like the American Federation of Teachers, a labor union for educators and school employees that supports Democratic campaigns and candidates.

Federation President Randi Weingarten said Trump’s 2018 budget proposal “eviscerates public education.” Trump looks to cut money for after-school programs, professional development for teachers and college-prep programs for low-income students.

“This is taking a meat cleaver to the investments that are done to level the playing field for Americans who are not rich. This is not about giving locals more control,” Weingarten said.

Conservatives in North Carolina say there’s an appetite for reducing the federal role in the classroom.

“The primacy of federal influence and authority seems out of proportion, especially when you consider only 11 percent of all public school funds in North Carolina are provided by the federal government,” said Bob Luebke, a senior policy analyst with Civitas, a N.C.-based conservative think tank.

Foxx’s big idea? Which is highly unlikely to happen: Stop collecting federal taxes for education.

“I’d get rid of the Department of Education if I could,” she said. “But we cannot just devolve things without allowing (states) to have the money. … If we’re still hauling that money in up here, we haven’t solved the problem.”

~~  Anna Douglas,  McClatchy ~~

Gilmer County Schools March-April 2017 Newsletter

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Society of American Foresters Holds Meeting at GSC

Glenville State College recently hosted a two-day meeting of the West Virginia Division of the Society of American Foresters (SAF). The West Virginia group is part of the Allegheny Chapter, which also includes members from Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The Allegheny Chapter has around 1,100 professional foresters as members in those five states. The theme of the meeting was technology.

As part of the schedule, the meeting included a field trip for participants where timber sale preparation, stiltgrass control, and non-timber forest products were discussed. Presentations on various forest technology applications and research findings were conducted. The group also learned about activities that have been taking place throughout the West Virginia Division. Glenville State College’s Forestry Program was highlighted as well.

The Free Press WV
SAF meeting attendees and GSC students watch as a drone (upper right-hand corner) takes flight outside the Waco Center

Members in attendance were able to view a drone flight demonstration. In forestry applications, drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles are used for ultra-high resolution aerial photography. These aerial photos improve all aspects of forest management and can be integrated into a geographic information system. Drones are being used in experiments to estimate forest volumes and can also monitor forest health and detect insect and disease damage. Faculty members in GSC’s Land Resources Department are working to acquire drone technology.

“The Waco Center at Glenville State College was a great place to hold the meeting since it has a large meeting room and ample parking. Of course, Glenville is also centrally located in the state. Current students and faculty were able to connect and network with alumni, foresters, researchers, and other attendees. Many alumni had not been on campus since the completion of the Waco Center and they were pleased with the new facility,” said GSC Associate Professor of Forestry and meeting host Dr. Brian Perkins.

Attendees were eligible to earn Continuing Forestry Education credits through the SAF’s Certified Forester program that encourages lifelong learning and professional development.

Since 1900, the Society of American Foresters has provided access to information and networking opportunities to prepare members for the challenges and the changes that face natural resource professionals. The mission of the Society of American Foresters is to advance the science, education, technology, and practice of forestry; to enhance the competency of its members; to establish professional excellence; and, to use the knowledge, skills, and conservation ethic of the profession to ensure the continued health and use of forest ecosystems and the present and future availability of forest resources to benefit society.

GSC last hosted the meeting in 2013.

5 Reasons Why Blended Learning Programs Fail-And How To Save Them

The Free Press WV

Too often, educators who are considering investing in blended learning pull back after hearing horror stories of good programs gone bad. Whether it’s botched rollouts, network snafus, or general apathy that kills an initiative, many telling signs can be traced back to the planning and initial support stages.

We won’t pretend that our district has everything figured out, but after seven years of blended learning, going 1:1 at our four secondary schools and all fifth grades, and having our model elementary school recognized by the International Center for Education and Learning, Meriden Public Schools has seen rising graduation and attendance rates, and we are better off than we were before our blended journey began.

As we have discovered through trial and plenty of errors, without staff and community buy-in, many otherwise well-intentioned programs hit the skids before they’ve really gotten up to speed. We are proud to share some of the challenges we’ve encountered, along with best practices for ensuring that your program remains on the road to success.

1. Some programs start too fast.

Creating a successful blended learning program isn’t a race, and ours has taken nearly a decade to achieve. When we began our foray into blended learning about seven years ago, nobody was even talking about a device program, and the thought of going 1:1 seemed light-years away from where we were. Instead of jumping in feet first, we laid the groundwork and did the small things we thought we could accomplish.

We upgraded our WiFi, making it more robust than ever, and prepared for future growth. Then we implemented a district-wide BYOD program where kids as young as kindergarten were bringing in devices to share with their class. But as a district with a large free-and-reduced meals program, we knew BYOD was leaving gaps in access that were best addressed by going 1:1.

Now, all secondary students are issued a Chromebook that is theirs to keep—even during the summer. We use Chromebook carts for K-5 students and offer iPad carts that teachers can check out on demand.

2. There’s no staff buy-in.

Teachers are understandably wary about fly-by-night initiatives that take time and attention away from their teaching and give back little appreciable benefits. We wanted to make sure our teachers would embrace the change, see its benefit, and be comfortable with what we were asking them to do.

In response, we created a tech team from among our staff to help advise the teachers and students with questions as they came up. We also used students as on-site coaches to help teachers and peers with any tech issues. Providing that on-site support allowed us to offer tiered interventions for our staff.

We were clear and upfront with sharing the data collected. We want our teachers to see the success. By sharing this information openly, we showed teachers that students really were progressing at higher levels.

3) Tools aren’t chosen strategically.

Buy-in doesn’t end with getting teachers on board at the start of a program. It impacts everything, including how they will embrace the technology and software you implement.

At Meriden, the teacher buy-in process starts early. We include teachers when we’re looking at new products, bringing teachers with us to weigh in on what they need in their classrooms. We can ask them if the product addresses a need they’re seeing, instead of asking them to make something fit after the fact.

We also make sure the digital content we use is embedded in the core curriculum. Once we look at usage, then we ask what type of supports we need to put in place to make sure our teachers and students improve.

4) Students don’t feel invested.

We never want learning to feel forced upon students, any more than we want it to feel forced upon teachers. In the same way we give teachers a voice in how a program is constructed, we also strive to give students a measure of control over their own learning.

Literacy is a big part of our blended learning program, which encourages students to engage with texts in a variety of ways to help sharpen their literacy skills, all the while providing valuable feedback in the form of data that teachers can use to target instruction.

In general, the whole process goes more smoothly when students enjoy what they’re reading. Using literacy software like myON, students are able to select from thousands of books, and best of all, they can recommend their favorites to others. With Imagine Learning also embedded into our literacy curriculum, we have forged a powerful literacy connection from which everyone benefits.

5) The org chart looks the same as before.

We believe it’s essential to make connections between the data we’re collecting and the teachers. Since blended learning is so critical to our district’s success overall, we created a staff position at Meriden called the blended learning supervisor. It’s this person’s job to analyze ways to maximize teacher use of our digital curriculum products and give assistance as needed. Our first blended learning supervisor was someone from within the teacher’s union who became an expert with our programs, and who can really work closely with teachers and technology integration specialists to make sure we’re tracking and following up on the right things.

We also combined our technology supervisor and curriculum director positions, eliminating debates about where digital content fit into the curriculum. We like our administration to be accessible to teachers so we can discover whether or not the technology is easy for them to use or gives them what they need. In the end, having one person in charge has expedited our mission.

Finally, we have used teachers as leaders to help scale up our program. When some of our teachers who have been working with the model for a while meet specific criterion, they become “I’m Charged” teachers and are recognized as pioneers in digital content. We ask them to open their classrooms and teach other teachers. Because, as we’ve found, when our teachers learn, our students learn.

~~  Mark D. Benigni and Barbara A. Haeffner   ~~

Glenville Resident Named Irene McKinney Fellow at WVWC

Rachel Receives Fifth Irene McKinney Postgraduate Teaching Fellowship
The Free Press WV

Virginia “Ginny” Rachel, a 2015 graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College’s Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program, has been awarded the fifth annual Irene McKinney Postgraduate Teaching Fellowship.  Rachel, of Princeton, WV, received her bachelor’s degree from Concord College in 2001. For the past two and a half years, Rachel has been working as a traveling adjunct instructor.

Next year, Rachel will be teaching two Composition II courses as well as Introduction to Literature.  She will be working under the supervision of Jesse van Eerden, MFA director.  During her tenure as a student in the MFA program, Rachel worked with short stories until the shape of her writing became a novel in her thesis, How Small the World.  Her characters survive together in Piney Oak, a fictional West Virginia town where they explore a sense of place through various perspectives.

Returning for the MFA’s cross-genre option in the fall of 2016, Rachel developed a new interest in creative nonfiction.  She is excited for the opportunities this fellowship will bring.

“I am extremely thankful and thrilled to have received the Irene McKinney Fellowship so I might have the experience of working with students and faculty at Wesleyan,” she said.  “I am excited to have the opportunity of a year to focus on teaching and to learn as much as I can in the process.”

The Irene McKinney Postgraduate Teaching Fellowship is available to all graduates of the College’s MFA Program for up to three years after graduation.  The fellowship honors the founding director of the College’s MFA Program, Dr. Irene McKinney, Professor Emeritus and West Virginia Poet Laureate, who passed away in 2012.

For more information on the MFA program, please contact Director van Eerden at .

West Virginia ‘GEAR UP’ to host Career Academy

More than 1,000 students expected to attend event featuring U.S. Senators, industry leaders, STEM celebrities
The Free Press WV

More than 1,000 ninth graders are visiting Charleston this week to explore career fields and gain insight from business and industry leaders. The West Virginia GEAR UP Career Academy, happening Thursday, April 13, at the Charleston Civic Center, will feature hands-on activities and interactive presentations to help students learn about career paths and plan for their futures.

The West Virginia GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) initiative is a federally funded grant program administered by the state’s Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC) in coordination with the Community and Technical College System (CTCS). The program helps students in ten high-need counties prepare for college and career success.

During Thursday’s event, students will have the opportunity to meet with more than 80 employers representing a range of careers and hear presentations from nationally recognized speakers who will discuss their work in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). U.S. Senator Joe Manchin is scheduled to make an appearance with the students, while U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito will share video greetings emphasizing the importance of early career planning and developing workforce skills for the future.

“The Career Academy showcases our communities’ commitment to supporting our students and ensuring their future success,” Dr. Paul Hill, HEPC Chancellor, said. “We will be joined by hundreds of professionals representing dozens of industries — all working together to help prepare our students for the workforce of tomorrow.”

“This event underscores the importance of career education,” Dr. Sarah Tucker, CTCS Chancellor said. “The level of engagement we’re seeing from the community to support this effort demonstrates the power of business and education partnerships and serves as a testament to the good work the GEAR UP program is accomplishing on behalf of our state’s students.”

Two nationally recognized keynote speakers will present an interactive lecture titled “STEM: Behind Hollywood.” Dr. Diane France, a forensic anthropologist and author, will discuss her work on the TV show Body of Evidence. Dr. Steve Schlozman, a scientist at Harvard Medical School, will address the real-life science behind zombie apocalypse scenarios, a constant pop-culture theme.

The event is sponsored, in part, by Texas Instruments.

The West Virginia GEAR UP program provides services in Boone, Fayette, Mason, Mercer, Mingo, Nicholas, Summers, Webster, Wirt and Wyoming counties and will offer college-planning assistance to approximately 20,000 students over the life of the seven-year grant. More information is available at

Five Technologies To Avoid In The Classroom-And What To Use Instead

In a technology-dependent education culture, are there some technologies to avoid? And if so, why, and what are better alternatives?

One of the most popular articles on eSchool Media is a surprising one to the editors: “6 apps that block social media distractions.” This story, which seemed  a bit counter-intuitive for us to write (being a tech-cheerleading publication in nature), has held the top spot by a massive margin for almost three years now; which had the editors considering the question, “Are there technologies that should simply be avoided in the classroom?”

Of course, the editors then had to ponder what would make a technology easier to avoid than try to implement, and came up with a list of broad technologies and technology trends that either A) caused, rather than eased, more problems and concerns in the classroom, and/or B) were not evolved enough to make an actual difference in teaching or learning.

And, not wanting to simply talk technology trash without offering some useful information, the editors then came up with the technology options that may be better suited for the intended classroom task.

5 Technologies to Avoid in the Classroom

1. Social Media:
This was the easiest to choose, thanks to our reigning king of articles mentioned above. Though social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are great for informal, personal use, most of education still has problems implementing these larger social media platforms for meaningful teaching and learning without running into privacy, security and cyberbullying headaches.

Better Option? Classroom-created forums. Many technology-savvy educators have deduced that perhaps the best way to mitigate social media distractions while still allowing for collaboration and discussion is to use a classroom or subject-specific forum or platform. In fact, according to EDUCAUSE, one of the core functions of the post-LMS era is to use a “next generation digital learning environment (NGDLE)” that “supports collaboration at multiple levels and make it easy to move between private and public digital spaces. The NGDLE must also include a requirement to move past a “walled garden” approach to locking down a course’s LMS, and instead enable a learning community to make choices about what parts are public and what parts are private.”

Outside of cloud-based or platform-enabled communication spaces, some apps even allow for project and assignment-only collaboration and organization, such as Slack (which Stanford uses for team communication and work management) and Trello (a project management app). Both are available for Android, as well.

2. Games
: There’s a lot to be said for gaming in specific areas of education, like for learning how to code or applying mathematical concepts to real-life technology. In fact, eSchool News recently wrote an article touting the benefits of game-based learning and describing how schools are effectively using game-based learning with great results. However, for the average non-STEM heavy course, using actual games to learn is still in its research infancy as to whether or not games provide any major benefits to learning. Compound this with the unfortunate reality that most gaming is still male-centric, doesn’t usually allow for multi-player experiences, and is new to many educators, the time it takes to vet and properly implement games may be more of a hassle than it’s worth.

Better Option? Augmented Reality (AR)/Virtual Reality (VR). With AR or VR, educators can still boost student engagement while incorporating some of the best characteristics of visual technology: interaction and visual learning. With AR and VR, teachers can help students better understand abstract or difficult concepts, take learning outside the classroom while still incorporating technology, and strengthen emotional engagement in course material–all while incorporating the traditional gaming characteristics of play and humor. Read more about AR in K-12  HERE , as well as apps for AR HERE . Read more about VR in education HERE , as well as how some schools are seeing massive STEM gains with VR  HERE .

3. Untested Apps and Online Tools
: Thanks to the explosive growth of mobile technology and its use in education, apps and digital resources and tools across a host of platforms are also available…perhaps dizzyingly so. Checking education apps and tools on any large platform, like the Apple Store, for educator-based comments and reviews is tedious; and often challenges like apps and tools that are never updated, or apps and tools that don’t actually perform as promised cause more headaches then they’re worth.

Better Option? Vetted apps and tools. Because of the overwhelming choice of apps and digital tools and resources that currently exist for education, some notable industry companies and organizations have taken the time to vet these tools for educators, using a selection process based on their own experience as well as feedback from teachers and administrators. For example, Common Sense Media reviews apps, digital tools and much more, providing feedback from educators when applicable. You can find their vetted apps here on eSchool News, as well as their “EdTech Eleven” monthly tool and resource picks HERE .

4. Anything That’s Not Accessible
: With the growth of online and blended education options, as well as digital tools and technologies, accessibility has become a hot-button issue in education. Accessibility not only applies to technology hardware and software, but to school websites, classroom content, and literally anything on the cloud.

Better Option? Consult IT First. During an EDUCAUSE 2015 conference, a panel of education IT experts were asked to discuss accessibility issues as they related not just to overall school technology, but specifically to classroom materials and technology. EDUCAUSE even has its own IT Accessibility Constituent Group that its members can consult for accessibility advice. You can find a rundown of proactive accessibility considerations from a recent toolkit  HERE , but it’s also a good idea to consult your school or district’s IT department before implementing any kind of new technology. A step-by-step guide for making online learning accessible is available  HERE , and video accessibility compliance steps can be found  HERE .

5. Device-Specific Technology
: In the war of iPads versus Chromebooks versus Androids, honing in on apps, platforms or branded software that are only compatible with one kind of technology is usually a mistake, thanks to the quick turnover of many of these devices. Also, technology that doesn’t work well with others (think older LMS’ that refuse to integrate with other school or classroom software) is not a smart, future-looking option.

Better Option? Interoperable, Device-Agnostic TechnologyAccording to educational experts, the best approach to supporting BYOD for instruction is the “device-agnostic” class. To help smooth out some of the BYOD-related bumps in the classroom, applications like Haiku Deck (presentation software), Tackk (a multimedia scrolling poster), and Snapguide (for creating step-by-step guides) are all offered in iOS, Android, and/or web versions. The latter, for example, uses a browser-based interface to allow students to access the application from any device–regardless of operating system–and use it online without having to worry about software incompatibility issues.

One of the newer entrants to the device-agnostic BYOD market is EXO U, a platform that allows teachers to share information and collaborate with students across multiple operating systems. Shan Ahdoot, CEO of the San Francisco-based firm, says such applications help educators get “everyone on the same page” quickly and effectively without wasting classroom time or IT resources. “The goal is to create a consistent experience from phone to laptop to interactive whiteboard,” says Ahdoot.

~~  Meris Stansbury   ~~

ED Programs Set To Lose Another $3 Billion

A plan to fund defense spending would eliminate billions more from the federal education budget for the rest of this fiscal year
The Free Press WV

Donald Trump is asking Congress to cut almost $3 billion from the federal education budget for the remainder of the fiscal year, according to a document obtained by Politico.

The memo offers an in-depth look at some of the proposed cuts and program eliminations.

These latest cuts are in addition to next year’s proposed budget, which would see $9 million slashed from the U.S. Department of Education.

The cuts are intended to increase military spending and finance the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Congress must pass a plan to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year to avoid a partial government shut-down. As Bloomberg News reports, Congress is likely to reject the White House’s additional proposed budget cuts, which total nearly $18 million in all, making the prospect of a shutdown all the more real.

The proposed additional cuts would cut $1.3 billion from this year’s Pell grant surplus–this is on top of the cuts proposed for next year.

Title II, Part A funding, which helps ensure teacher and principal quality and preparedness through PD programs, would be cut in half this year. As previously reported, Trump’s FY 2018 budget would eliminate the program entirely.

“This program provides formula grants to States to improve instruction and reduce class sizes,” the document states. “Funding is poorly targeted and supports practices that are not evidence-based. Other funding at ED can be used to support improved instruction.”

The Striving Readers program, which helps fund literacy instruction in low-income schools, also faces elimination. “A recent study found that more than half of the reading interventions used by grantees had no effects on student achievement. Also, other funding at ED (e.g. Title I grants) can be used to support literacy instruction,” according to the document.

Under President Trump’s proposed FY 2018 education budget, school choice would receive a massive $1.4 billion while the Education Department undergoes a $9 billion, or 13 percent, cut.

Overall, the proposed education budget cuts the Education Department’s budget from $68 million to $59 billion.

Title I funds would receive a $1 billion increase, but the funds would follow individual students should they decide to change schools.

IDEA funding for programs that support students with special needs and disabilities would remain stable at $13 billion.

In a statement, AFT President Randi Weingarten said the proposed education budget “takes a meat cleaver to public education.”

~~  Laura Ascione ~~

Gilmer County Resident Attends Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol

Three students from Glenville State College recently traveled to the state capitol to participate in Undergraduate Research Day. The purpose of the event was to showcase current research occurring at state higher education institutions. The attending students presented a research poster in the Capitol Rotunda and had the opportunity to talk with West Virginia lawmakers and other guests.

The Free Press WV
GSC Undergraduate Research Day attendees
(l-r) Dr. Jeremy Keene, Tara Evans, Carrie Huffman, and Kelly Weaver

This year Kelly Weaver, Tara Evans, and Carrie Huffman attended with professors Dr. Kevin Evans and Dr. Jeremy Keene. Weaver and Evans presented their poster titled ‘Optimizing the Reaction Conditions for the anti-Markovnikov Hydrobromination of Alkenes.’ Huffman presented her poster titled ‘Evolutionary Analysis of Monopyle (Gesneriaceae) from Central America.’ In addition to presenting to state delegates and representatives, the GSC students also spoke about their research to high school students who attended. 

Evans is a Glenville, WV resident and a GSC senior chemistry major.

The students got involved with this event by submitting their abstracts for review to get the approval to present. GSC has been represented at Undergraduate Research Day by many talented students over the past several years. “This event was really just a great way to highlight GSC student research, plus it helps them to interact with so many people at the state level. The day was a success in my opinion,” said Keene.

State Extends Application Deadline for Higher Education Grant Program Until May 01, 2017

The Free Press WV

West Virginia’s Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC) and Community and Technical College System (CTCS) today announced that this year’s application deadline for the need-based Higher Education Grant Program has been extended until 11:59 p.m. on Monday, May 01, 2017. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is the only application required for the grant, can be completed at  

The state extended the deadline because of a technology issue at the federal level. Last month, the U.S. Department of Education and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced an outage of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which allows students and parents to electronically access, review and transfer tax information required for the FAFSA. Federal officials are working to correct the issue, but estimate the tool will be unavailable until at least next fall.  

“The Higher Education Grant is a lifeline to college for thousands of low-income students in our state, and we want to ensure that they and their families have ample time to complete the necessary steps to apply,” said Paul Hill, HEPC Chancellor.

“We still encourage completion of the FAFSA as soon as possible, but we hope this extension allows as many students as possible to be considered for the grant, which paves the way for so many of our community and technical college students,” said Sarah Tucker, CTCS Chancellor.

Like in previous years when the IRS Data Retrieval Tool was not an option, students and parents can estimate their income information on the FAFSA and correct the information later, if necessary, in order to meet financial aid deadlines.

If students or their parents do not have a paper or electronic copy of the necessary tax form available – which for this year is the 2015 tax return – they can access it online at . A hard copy can be requested by calling 1.800.908.9946 and a transcript will be delivered to the address on record within 5-10 days.

For help completing the FAFSA or applying for financial aid, West Virginia students and families can call the HEPC and CTCS financial aid office at 888-825-5707 or visit the state’s free college-planning website at

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