More college-going students in WV need remedial classes

The Free Press WV
The Free Press WV

A growing percentage of high school graduates in West Virginia who attend the state’s public colleges need to take remedial classes to be ready for entry-level college classes. That’s according to a new report presented Thursday to the board that oversees West Virginia’s two-year colleges.

About 31 percent of college-going students who graduated in the spring of 2016 had test scores low enough that required them to enroll in a remedial class when they went to college, the report showed. That rate is double in a handful of the state’s most southern counties.
“What you’re seeing is, socioeconomic conditions that students face are a strong predictor of college success,” said Chris Treadway, the interim director of research and analysis who completed the report.

He was referring to a series of maps that show low-income areas largely coincide with counties that have graduate students needing remedial classes.

The report doesn’t take into account students who went to school out of the state, nor students who went to the state’s private colleges.

Two-thirds of college-going students in some Southern West Virginia counties needed remedial classes, the report shows. In eight counties, more than half of the college-going students needed remedial classes. Those counties were Calhoun, Fayette, Gilmer, Lincoln, Logan, Mingo, McDowell and Wayne.

College-going students from North Central West Virginia and each of the panhandles had the lowest need for remedial classes. In only one county, Monongalia, were there fewer than 10 percent of college-going students needing such classes.

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The report was presented Thursday morning at a meeting of the Council for Community and Technical College Education. It includes students who graduated in the spring of 2016 and went on to study at one of the state’s public colleges within a year. It includes students who went to public and private high schools, and breaks down the need for remedial education by county and most individual schools.

“There’s been a real disconnect,” said Bob Brown, chairman of the council. “For a lot of years, public education has thought, ‘We know exactly what we need to get the kids prepared for to get them into college.’ But that isn’t necessarily the case. It’s just a lack of communication right now. We live in two separate worlds, and we need to figure out how to live in one world.”
Education quality coming into spotlight

State schools Superintendent Steve Paine said at a meeting earlier this week that he expects West Virginia’s 89.4 percent four-year public high school graduation rate for last school year to keep the state among the highest in the nation, by that measure.

“But we need to focus on quality instruction,” Paine said. “Even though we’re graduating a lot of kids, I have concerns about the quality of what we’re doing.”

Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, questioned Paine during a legislative interim meeting Monday on whether credit-recovery programs provided students with enough instruction to make sure they learn core material. Those programs, which Paine said are used in most school systems across the state, often allow students to take a shortened, online program to make up for classes they’ve failed.

“We’ve got to stop making it easy to get a high school education requirement,” said Delegate George Ambler, R-Greenbrier. “There’s a lot of reasons why graduation statistics went up, and I’d venture to say it wasn’t because of the quality of education that kids were getting, it was the programs that were offered.

“Education should have a meaning to it. That high school diploma should not be cheapened, and it seems to me . . . we’re cheapening it.”

In Kanawha County, where 759 students from the class of 2016 went on to study at a public college in West Virginia, about 35 percent enrolled in some sort of remedial class. About 28 percent enrolled in remedial math, and almost 18 percent enrolled in remedial English.

Kanawha County Developmental Education

Kanawha County Schools spokeswoman Briana Warner said she hadn’t seen this data Thursday and was reluctant to answer questions. In an emailed statement, she said the county school system is dedicated to making sure students are college- and career-ready.

“Specific to students who may need a bit of additional academic help, we’re proud of the individual programs that each high school has developed to support those students,” Warner wrote. As one such example of a program, she pointed to “Warrior Time” at Riverside High, where students get one period a day to make up class work or focus on areas of need.

Students at Riverside had the highest rate of needing remedial classes of any public high school in the county. Nearly 51 percent of Riverside’s college-going students needed some sort of remedial classes, with 45 percent needing remedial math and 23 percent needing remedial English.

Valery Harper, the former principal of Riverside who recently was hired to lead the county’s virtual-schools program, said in an emailed statement after reading the report that she worked continuously while at Riverside to improve the school’s performance and believes the school is in “good hands” with the new principal, Jane Kennedy.

Harper did not specify what changes should be made, and Kennedy did not return a request for comment.

Graduates of South Charleston High had the second-highest rate in the county for needing remedial classes. The principal of that school, Michael Arbogast, said test scores alone shouldn’t be used to determine if a student should take remedial education. He suggested other facts, like a student’s GPA and recommendations from teachers, should count toward the determination.

“I’m just telling you, some kids have to work harder than others,” Arbogast said. “I have kids here who’ve been inducted into our honors program that maybe aren’t the highest-achieving academic kids but have busted their tails and worked their rear ends off to get in there. They get in there and they maintain a high grade point average. But when it comes down to the ACT, they don’t score real well.”

College-going students of George Washington High School had the lowest rate of needing remedial classes, with a nearly 24 percent rate. The principal of that school did not return a request for comment.

Changing attitudes to remedial classes

A statewide policy dictates which students are eligible to enter college math, English and reading courses and which students need remedial education. Students can qualify for entry-level college courses only through standardized test scores, like the ACT and SAT.

Students needs to take remedial math if they score below 19 on the math section of the ACT or below 500 on the math section of the SAT. A student who scores below 18 on the English section of the ACT or below 480 on the English section of the SAT needs to take a remedial course in English.

The West Virginia Department of Education recently selected the SAT as the new statewide assessment for high school juniors.

The ACT, which historically has been the most common college entrance exam students in the Mountain State take, has higher standards for what it sees as a student ready for college math. Under that standard, a student should earn a 22 in its math section.

Only 40 percent of students included in the study met the ACT’s benchmark. About 46 percent of students going to a four-year college did so, compared to only 12 percent who go to a two-year school.

In previous years, students taking remedial classes were enrolled in a class without credit, meaning that, although they had to complete class work and exams, how they performed in the class didn’t count to their overall credits to earn a degree. As a result, many students didn’t finish the remedial course.

The state’s public colleges have largely redesigned this system in the past four years, opting to call it developmental education, instead of remedial classes. Corley Dennison, vice chancellor for academic affairs at the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, said community colleges pushed in 2013 for a change, to make sure every student needing remedial classes got that remediation in a credit-bearing course.

In practice, this means professors squeeze remedial education into an entry-level course.

“The downside is, if you’re spending time on developmental courses, you’re not spending the time you could be on regular higher education courses,” Brown said.

All of West Virginia’s public two-year colleges have implemented the co-requisite model, Dennison said, save for a handful of cases where students need extreme remediation. About 55 percent of all community college students need some sort of developmental education, the report shows.

In four-year colleges, the change hasn’t been as swift. The HEPC, which oversees four-year schools, set a goal to get 80 percent of all students needing remedial education into a co-requisite class by fall 2018. Dennison said the four-year colleges are on track to meet that goal next year, but he didn’t know Thursday afternoon exactly how close they are.

“In the long-run, the colleges actually spend less time, because they had so many students that were dropping out of the developmental course because they were getting behind or they weren’t going to pass it,” Dennison said. “Then they had to repeat the course. The success numbers with this program are so much higher, because they’re having fewer students repeating the course.”
Staff writer contributed to this report.

~~  Jake Jarvis & Ryan Quinn ~~

Glenville State board cuts tuition, adds new fee for some students

The Free Press WV
The Free Press WV

The Glenville State College Board of Governors decided Wednesday to cut tuition by 25 percent for the summer semester and, so long as there are no future budget cuts from the Legislature, to cut tuition by 2 percent for the fall semester.

To make up for the tuition decreases, President Tracy Pellett said the school will cut more than $600,000 of scholarships the school currently offers.

“Part of this, frankly, is an effort for all institutions in West Virginia to advocate that they leave us alone,” Pellett said following the meeting. “If the Legislature would invest a little more money in Glenville State and probably other colleges — I can only speak for us, but we will decrease tuition additionally.”

The summer tuition cut will come no matter what, but the 2 percent tuition cut for the fall 2018 semester will only happen if the school is spared from further cuts to its state appropriations.

If the school sees more cuts, Pellett said it would probably need to increase tuition.

This past summer, an in-state student spent more than $900 to take a single three-credit class, not including fees. The 25 percent tuition cut for the summer semester means a student will save about $230 for a class.

The 2 percent tuition cut for the fall 2018 semester will mean a savings of about $136 for every student, according to documents given to board members. The school would lose about $162,000 because of the cut, one estimate showed, but cutting scholarships will more than make up for it.

College administrators often refer to scholarships by another name — tuition discounts. That’s because when a student gets such a scholarship, there’s no actual exchange of money. The students get a discount on the bill they need to pay.

Pellett said he didn’t know Wednesday exactly how much scholarship money the school offers, but that reducing it by more than $600,000 would be a decrease of less than 10 percent.

“It’s a more focused approach in the way you give it out,” Pellett said. “In other words, right now, we do institutional scholarships not in the most strategic way. We’ve got to do a better job on focusing our efforts at the students that have the greatest need and have the best merit. Right now, we’re not doing as strategic of a job as we need to.”

Glenville State planned to announce the tuition cuts at a special news conference at the Governor’s Office on Tuesday morning. A handful of board members, including the chairman and vice chairman, could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

The board’s decision follows a move during the summer to cut tuition by $1 this year for every student and to marginally reduce the cost of a meal plan.

Also Wednesday, board members approved a new fee to charge students $300 for every credit hour they take over 17 credit hours a semester. This fee, which won’t take affect until next fall, will mean a student taking 18 credit hours will pay an extra $300, a student taking 19 credits will be pay an extra $600 and so on. Glenville State students currently need approval from an academic adviser to enroll in more than 18 credits in a semester.

“You shouldn’t have to take extra classes in the year if we’re cutting the tuition 25 percent for summer,” Pellett said. “This is another opportunity for students to get ahead or catch up, and do it in a significant way. We felt like the 25 percent would be a game-changer for a lot of students and families who are struggling to avoid the costs in that way.”

That fee sounds like a tuition increase, but Pellett insists it isn’t — “it’s an instructional support fee,” he said.

“The cost associated with the extra credits over 12 hours is not being recovered by tuition,” he said. “Tuition is just not covering it. What we’re finding is, to make sure we are providing the classes that need to be offered, to cover the additional expenses beyond a normal course of study, we thought there should be this fee.”

State law prohibits public colleges from charging students additional tuition for taking more than 12 credit hours in a semester. Schools charge students more money for every credit hour they take until they hit 12 hours — the point they become a full-time student. At that point, the student is charged a flat tuition amount no matter how many more credit hours they take.

Earlier this year, lawmakers briefly considered allowing colleges to charge students more tuition for taking more than 12 credit a semester. The House Education Committee considered adding language to different higher education bills that would have allowed colleges to do that, but the idea died.

Committee members feared at the time such a policy would discourage students from completing their degrees on time. The Higher Education Policy Commission and colleges across the state have pushed a “15 to Finish” campaign, encouraging students to take at least 15 credit hours a semester in order to graduate on time.

~~  Jake Jarvis ~~

Frontier Communication….

The Free Press WV
The Free Press WV

Frontier Won’t Return $4.7M in Broadband Funds to WV

Frontier Communications won’t give back any of the $4.7 million in stimulus funds that the federal government says the state overpaid Frontier as part of a statewide project that aimed to expand high-speed internet, the company told state officials this week.

A federal agency recently ordered the state to return the misspent funds paid to Frontier. The U.S Commerce Department’s payment demand followed an inspector general’s report that found Frontier padded hundreds of invoices with extra charges, and the state improperly reimbursed Frontier for those “unreasonable and unallowable” fees. Federal grant rules barred the state from using stimulus funds to pay such project costs.
In a letter to state Chief Technology Officer John Dunlap this week, Frontier asserts that any funds that state might return to the federal government “are, of course, not recoverable from Frontier.”

Frontier cites a “memorandum of understanding,” signed by the company and state officials, in which the state agreed to use federal funds to pay Frontier for overhead costs – the same expenses the feds now say were prohibited under the grant rules. Frontier said it only signed on to the statewide broadband project after state officials agreed to reimburse the company for all costs – “both indirect and direct,” the letter states.

Frontier also disputed the federal government’s determination that the state must return $4.7 million, urging the state to file an appeal.

“To avoid the waste of millions of West Virginia taxpayer dollars, the [state] should appeal,” wrote Mark McKenzie, a Frontier engineer who oversaw the company’s role in the project,

In 2010, the federal government awarded West Virginia $126.3 million in stimulus funds to expand high-speed internet to schools, libraries, health clinics and government buildings. The grant money included $42 million for a fiber cable network.

The state asked Frontier to install 915 miles of fiber cable to hundreds of public facilities across the state, but scaled back the project to 675 miles. Nonetheless, the state paid Frontier the entire $42 million initially set aside for the project. Frontier finished the project two years ago.

The company improperly tacked on $4.24 million in extra charges to pay for administrative costs, according to the federal report. Frontier labeled those charges as “loadings.”

Another $465,000 in improper payments went to Frontier to process invoices, the report says.

State officials have told investigators that a federal broadband grant administrator gave the state the go-ahead to pay the extra fees. But the federal administrator has denied saying that. The inspector general’s report cites a “miscommunication” between the federal broadband agency and West Virginia officials.

The feds have not directed the state – nor Frontier — to return the stimulus funds.

“As you know, the [state] agreed to pay Frontier for its indirect costs , regardless of whether those costs were eligible under the grant,” Frontier said in it letter to the state.

State officials have declined to say whether they plan to appeal.

The federal government’s $4.7 million payment demand could grow even higher.

The Commerce Department also cites findings that Frontier misled the public about the amount of unused fiber cable – called “maintenance coil” – the company installed across the state. The extra cable, which is stored at public buildings and used for repairs drove up the broadband expansion project’s cost.

Frontier placed 49 miles of spooled-up, unused fiber cable in West Virginia, four times the amount the company had disclosed to state officials.

The feds ordered state officials to find out whether the extra coil was included in the total miles of cable the state claimed that Frontier built with stimulus funds. The state also was directed to get an “explanation from Frontier for the reason it misrepresented the maintenance coil mileage to the public.”

In the letter to Dunlap, Frontier said it didn’t mislead anybody.

In 2013, at the state’s request, a Frontier employee gave an estimate of the amount of extra fiber the company planned to set aside — and bill the state — for maintenance. But the employee was “unaware of factors that often caused the proportion of maintenance coil to be higher,” the company said. Those factors include an “engineer’s judgment,” terrain, the site’s condition and the height of poles used to string the extra coil, according to Frontier’s letter. The employee also told a state official that a “more accurate estimate could be determined” by reviewing engineering maps of the project.

Frontier acknowledged the 49 miles of spooled-up, extra coil was included in its 675-mile total of fiber the company installed across the state, according to the letter to Dunlap. The state wound up paying about $240,000 more for coil compared to the employee’s initial estimate, the letter says.

Last year, Citynet sued Frontier for allegedly stifling competition in West Virginia and using the federal stimulus funds to build a broadband network that solely benefits Frontier. Frontier has disputed the allegations, characterizing Citynet as a disgruntled competitor with a six-year vendetta against Frontier, which is headquartered in Connecticut.

While the state paid Frontier $42 million in federal stimulus funds to bring high-speed fiber service to more than 1,000 public buildings across West Virginia, nobody seems to know how many facilities are using that fiber today.

On September 18, Dunlap posed that question to Frontier. The company wrote back that the state selected the sites, and Frontier doesn’t monitor which public facilities now use the federally funded fiber cable.

Eric Eyre

G-ICYMI™: WV Same-Sex Couple

The Free Press WV
The Free Press WV

Why WV same-sex couple filed lawsuit instead of complaint with state

Samantha Brookover and Amanda Abramovich wanted to prevent discrimination against other same-sex couples, so they filed a complaint with the West Virginia Human Rights Commission.

But in the end, they filed a lawsuit in federal court instead, arguing that their constitutional rights had been violated.

They felt like too much of a “burden” to the state Human Rights Commission, Brookover said.

West Virginia’s Human Rights Act protects people from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations. It says that all West Virginians — regardless of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, blindness or disability — should have equal rights in areas of public accommodation.

Public accommodations, like the Gilmer County clerk’s office, where Brookover and Abramovich applied for a marriage license and deputy clerk Debbie Allen told them, in February 2016, that what they were doing was wrong, and that God would judge them.

West Virginia’s Human Rights Act does not explicitly mention sexual orientation. But Cameron McKinney, attorney for the West Virginia Human Rights Commission, said he could have proceeded with the case anyway. The West Virginia Human Rights Commission is a state agency created by the West Virginia Human Rights Act. It is “charged with the responsibility of working to eliminate discrimination in West Virginia,” according to its website.

McKinney said he could have made the argument the women were discriminated against based on sex.

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Samantha Brookover (left) and Amanda Abramovich.

In other words, they were each doing something Allen didn’t think a woman should do — marry another woman.

After a person files a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, an investigator makes a recommendation as to whether there is probable cause. McKinney said they had received the complaint, and were investigating it, when the women asked to withdraw the case and said they planned to pursue a lawsuit instead.

“The only decision we made was that it was probably within our jurisdictional reach,” McKinney said.

Brookover and Abramovich filed a suit in April of 2017, represented by attorneys from Americans United for Separation of Church and State and cooperating counsel for Fairness West Virginia, an LGBT rights advocacy organization.

McKinney did not give names, but Brookover confirmed this week that she and Abramovich were the couple involved. A judge had dismissed the case Wednesday, after the parties agreed that Gilmer County would pay them $10,000, apologize, and Fairness West Virginia would hold a workplace sensitivity training.

“Americans United, this is a sole focus for them,” Brookover said. “Where the Human Rights Commission is, I feel, a little less in tune with the LGBT community.”

Brookover said they felt like “a burden” to the state Human Rights Commission.

“I felt like I was using up a lot of their resources and a lot of their time and effort,” she said. “Americans United took us further under their wing.”

“They were great and they were very concerned,” she said, referring to the Human Rights Commission. 

But, “we kept getting bounced around an awful lot,” she said.

Earlier this year, the West Virginia Supreme Court found that Steward Butler, who attacked a same-sex couple in Huntington after he saw the two men kissing, could not be charged with a hate crime.

West Virginia’s hate crimes code also does not mention sexual orientation, but it does protect people on the basis of sex discrimination.

Cabell prosecutors had, like McKinney, argued that discrimination against a same-sex couple could fall under sex discrimination. They argued that Butler attacked based on his own views of how men should behave. Some federal courts have found that discrimination against same-sex couples can fall under sex discrimination.

Not long after the state Supreme Court found that the criminal statute cannot be interpreted that way, McKinney noted that the West Virginia Human Rights Act — the civil statute — is to be “liberally construed to provide people as much benefit as possible.”

“I think that there is room for an opposite interpretation from what they reached in the criminal case,” he said. “I don’t know what Allen Loughry would say,” he said, referring to the chief justice who wrote the opinion in Butler’s case. 

The couple’s lawsuit, he noted, doesn’t cite West Virginia law.

“So far we just don’t have that case,” McKinney said.

McKinney said the only other person who had approached the commission about sexual orientation discrimination, whom he was aware of, was a woman from Huntington. He told her she had the option of filing with the commission, but state law “presented some risk to her.”

“The best approach is for the Legislature to amend the law,” he said. “Businesses and young, working people don’t want to go to backward places that are not open and receptive to all kinds.”

Andrew Schneider, executive director of Fairness West Virginia, said McKinney and another HRC employee have contacted him before about cases, and that “we’re in touch with each other so we make sure no one falls through the cracks.”

He added though, “I think a lot of people from the LGBT community are probably discouraged from approaching them, fearing that the law doesn’t protect them.”

As for whether any LGBT people contact the West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office with discrimination complaints, earlier this year, Steven Travis, of the attorney general’s office, said, in response to a public records request, that the office “does not receive these complaints but rather acts as legal counsel for the West Virginia Human Rights Commission who receives, investigates, and refers claims for prosecution to our office.”

~~  Erin Beck - Gazette-Mail  ~~

Study Finds Most Folks Don’t Buy Fake News

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Despite claims by some politicians, fake news, social media and search algorithms don’t sway public opinion, according to a study by a group of international researchers.

William Dutton, the report’s lead author, says if search engines did help create so-called filter bubbles – where users only get links to information with which they agree – the impacts on the democratic process could be huge.

But he says surveys in seven nations including the U.S. found it’s not as big a problem as recent media coverage suggests.

“On social media and on the Internet generally, they find a lot of viewpoints that their friends and family, that they disagree with,” he states. “And they often go to search to check the reliability, validity of what they hear on social media.“

After Donald Trump’s upset victory over Hillary Clinton, pundits and pollsters struggled to find answers and many tagged social media for hosting numerous posts that were outright lies.

Dutton says while a minority of Internet users are not skilled in vetting facts, most are not so easily fooled.

The research – commissioned and funded by Google – was conducted independently by Oxford University, Michigan State University and the University of Ottawa.

Dutton says fears of social media echo chambers also are overstated. He notes the survey of 14,000 people found users agree and disagree with political posts on platforms such as Facebook.

And Dutton says people also are exposed to a variety of perspectives on television, radio and print outlets. He adds users rarely unfriend or block people with whom they disagree.

“Most people who are very interested in politics are relying on all sorts of sources of information and not simply search, or not simply social media,“ he stresses.

Dutton adds a small percentage of Internet users are not adept at fact checking, and it’s important for schools at all levels to give people the tools they need to navigate the Internet’s resources when it comes to accepting online claims at face value.

“Every effort to create training and education around media literacy in a multimedia digital environment is still valuable,” he stresses. “But it’s not a problem for most users, but it is a problem for some users.“

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

Living in West Virginia

The Free Press WV
The Free Press WV

Why would millennials come to live in WV?

As the black hole that was the 2017 regular session imploded upon itself last week, I happened to receive a copy of a survey by the WalletHub website ranking the best and worst states for millennials.

Not surprisingly, West Virginia ranked dead last — 51st, behind all other states and Washington, D.C.

Despite ranking seventh in affordability, West Virginia ranked 42nd in education and health, 49th in quality of life, and 51st in economic health. It also ranked 50th in millennials as a percentage of the state population, and 44th in average monthly earnings for millennials.

In other words, according to the survey, there’s not much here to attract or retain young adults.

That led me to envision the state as an apartment, with a landlord trying to pitch it to a millennial:

Here we have a two-bedroom, one bath unit with lovely scenic views. Sorry that the driveway and parking lot are so torn up. We just haven’t had money to repave, but once you’re here awhile, dodging the potholes will become second nature.

Yes, it’s heated with a coal stove. We never upgraded because we kept thinking coal was coming back, but you can use space heaters, just as long as you don’t plug in more than one at a time, because the wiring is antiquated.

No, there’s no broadband, but from the bedroom facing northeast, you can get a pretty decent cellphone signal.

The neighborhood? It used to be pretty good, but now there’s a lot of drug activity and there aren’t as many cops on the streets, so you probably don’t want to be out after dark. We used to have a lot of good restaurants and entertainment venues, and the city used to host concerts and festivals, and that building at the foot of the hill once was a public library.

Our schools aren’t that good, and a lot of good teachers left over the years because of low pay, so if you have kids, you’ll probably want to ship them off to private school, if you can afford it.

Clearly, no millennial in his or her right mind would ever consider renting the place.

Imagine in this scenario that Gov. Jim Justice became a part-owner of the apartment, and being a good businessman, realized he needed to spend some bucks to fix the place up if he ever hoped to attract young professionals as tenants.

Despite Justice’s sound plan for renovating the apartment, applying this scenario, one of the co-owners just wanted to spend the bare minimum to slap a coat of paint on the place, hoping that would disguise its flaws, while the other co-owner was adamant about not spending an additional penny, instead proposing yanking out and selling the kitchen appliances and bathroom fixtures to raise some money.

During the session, Justice has focused on one question for all legislation: Will it bring people to the state, or drive more people away?

Likewise, legislative leadership came into the session with a theme of creating jobs and balancing the budget, and it is ending the session with little to show on either account.

Another question might be: Did the 2017 session do anything substantive to improve West Virginia’s ranking as the worst state for millennials?

A second straight year of budget impasse also doesn’t seem like a way to build investor confidence or encourage people to relocate to the state.

It didn’t help that holes got blown back into the budget, with the Senate’s rejection of legislation to eliminate the $9 million Racetrack Modernization Fund — a matching fund that lets out-of-state casino corporations use state money to upgrade their West Virginia casinos, freeing up funds that they can use to make improvements to their casinos in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland that compete directly with West Virginia casinos — and with Justice’s veto of legislation to finally eliminate the $15 million state subsidy of greyhound racing purse funds.

Being that I’m on Twitter as a condition of employment, I’m not in a position to delete my account, although over time, I’ve blocked most annoyances.

That House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, deleted his Twitter account at the height of the push to get the House to take up the medical marijuana bill (Senate Bill 386) does not speak well for his interest in seeking input from constituents.

Given the lack of couth on social networks, it’s not surprising that some of the many tweets sent to Armstead did not look favorably on what proponents of the measure saw as his attempts to obstruct the bill, or that some of those tweets wished upon him horrible diseases the pain of which he would not be able to ease with medical marijuana.

While we may wish that there were a higher level of public discourse, Armstead must recognize that his party, at the state and national level, and its benefactors have contributed mightily to the toxic environment that exists in politics today.

Finally, I can’t say I get to watch the evolution of a bill from creation to passage very often, but I did have that opportunity with the daily Cardinal passenger rail service compact bill (SB 2856).

Following the Amtrak-sponsored conference in Cincinnati back in September to build a coalition of support for daily Cardinal service, the Friends of the Cardinal organization (in which my participation consists mainly of showing up at meetings) was tasked with pursing legislative support for the concept of operating the Cardinal daily, perhaps through a resolution.

Lawyer, lobbyist and railfan Larry George showed up at the Friends’ November meeting, and suggested that the group pursue legislation as opposed to a resolution. (My two cents’ of input was that simple resolutions aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.)

George worked with Friends co-chairmen Chuck Riecks and Bill Bartley to come up with the draft legislation, and Riecks did the heavy lifting rounding up bill sponsors in the House.

Once Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher and state Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby endorsed the proposal, it breezed through the legislative process. (This after I suggested back in November that Friends members not get their hopes up, because even noncontroversial bills rarely pass on their first try.)

Friends now has a new assignment from Amtrak, to visit the state’s eight stations on the Cardinal route and update information for those facilities — specifications such as platform lengths, waiting area amenities and perhaps, most importantly, availability of parking.

Charleston, for instance, has five long-term parking spaces in what once was the station’s taxi stand — which is inadequate for current demand, let alone the likelihood of increasing ridership by more than double with daily service.

~~  Phil Kabler,  Gazette-Mail ~~

G-ICYMI™: Raising Property Taxes for Schools

The Free Press WV
The Free Press WV

Senate Finance amends bill to raise property taxes for schools

West Virginia’s Senate Finance Committee changed Monday the bill that would cut about $79 million in state funding to public schools next fiscal year into more of a straightforward statewide county property tax increase bill.

In the new version of Senate Bill 609, county school boards could decide to opt out of the tax increase on their residents if they’re willing to take the significant financial hit. Kanawha County would see the largest total funding loss if it chose to completely opt out of the tax increase: $9.3 million.

The bill was amended in a voice vote, then it passed out of the committee to the Senate floor on a 12-6 party-line vote, with Republicans voting yes and Democrats opposed.

The previous version of SB 609 the Senate Education Committee passed would’ve cut the $79 million and newly allowed school boards to vote to opt in to increasing their regular levy property tax rates to make up for the state funding loss.

Amy Willard, executive director of the state Office of School Finance under the Department of Education, said if school boards raised their regular levy tax rates to the maximum allowed under the previous version of SB 609, they would effectively have no funding change next fiscal year.

The new version of the bill automatically would increase the regular levy rate to the maximum in each county. Willard said the current planned rate for class 2 property next fiscal year — owner-occupied residential property and farms — is 38.8 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, and the new rate under the bill would be 45.9 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

She previously has said the change would mean a person with a home appraised at $75,000 would pay $31.95 extra on his or her annual tax bill for that home, while someone would pay $42.60 extra on a $100,000 home.

“I know that my counties in the southwest coalfields are distressed,” said Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone. “There is a lot of homes that are in bankruptcy, a lot of cars that are repossessed, a lot of people are trying to move, a lot of homes for sale, and the last thing they need is a tax increase.”

But he said he heard “optimistic news today that there are some things moving in the House that might actually raise some revenue for us, maybe a food tax, maybe a sales tax, that would pre-empt this.”
“I think we ought to have our big boy pants on and be able to do this ourselves without pushing it back to the counties,” Stollings said.

Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, noted on Saturday, Democrats and Senate Finance Chairman Mike Hall, R-Putnam, expressed concerns about the previous version of the bill possibly violating the state Constitution and the Recht decision if not all school boards agreed to raise taxes.

“How is this any different from that perspective if we’re pushing everybody up and then some back it back down?” Palumbo asked.

In the landmark 1980s Recht decision, Ohio County Circuit Judge Arthur Recht found the state’s public schools failed to meet a “thorough and efficient” standard demanded by the state Constitution and ordered an overhaul of school financing with the idea that children from high and low property value counties should receive the same education.

“There are those people who believe that if the Recht decision were revisited the outcome may be different,” Hall said after the meeting. “So it’s not unconstitutional until a judge says it is.”

“It’s obvious that this bill has not made it all the way to passage, this is its first start, it’s not its destination, should other revenue sources surface, this bill will be absolutely unnecessary,” Hall said.

He said the Democrats are “in a position to vote no on any tax increases, and they’ve got us in an odd position of trying to find revenue,” for public education and other programs.

“They’re going to vote no so they can probably say to the voters out there, ‘Hey, we didn’t raise your taxes, they did,’ but the economy didn’t fall apart under us, it fell apart under them,” Hall said.

~~  Ryan Quinn, Gazette-Mail ~~

G-ICYMI™: WV’s Broadband Ranking

The Free Press WV
The Free Press WV


Frontier Communications and cable companies like Suddenlink are opposing the West Virginia Legislature’s latest attempt to improve high-speed internet across the state.

At a public hearing Friday, lobbyists for Frontier and the cable industry skewered parts of a bill (HB3093) that would authorize a pilot project in which three cities or counties would band together to build a broadband network and offer internet service to customers.

The industry lobbyists said legislation should target areas without high-speed internet — not places that already have service.

“When you spend taxpayer dollars and resources to focus on areas that already have broadband just so you can have a third or fourth choice, you are denying and depriving service to those who have none,” said Kathy Cosco, a Frontier executive and lobbyist.

Frontier and cable internet providers also oppose a section of the bill that would allow 20 or more families or businesses to form nonprofit co-ops that would provide internet service in rural areas.

Mark Polen, who represents the cable industry, said the bill should be changed to “make it clear these pilot projects and co-ops can’t be deployed where there’s already service.”

“That would be critical to the protection of our investment,” Polen said. “Anything that’s going to result in public subsidies being given to those that are going to overbuild private investment is not the proper policy. Let’s focus on the unserved areas and not allow this program to turn into an overbuilding initiative.”

Smaller internet providers like Bridgeport-based Citynet support the legislation. Citynet CEO Jim Martin told lawmakers that Frontier and the cable industry want to shut out competitors and protect their stranglehold on broadband service across the state.

“There is a reason they’re opposed to it, and that’s because this bill is going to enable competition,” Martin said.

Frontier, which is the largest internet provider in the state, also opposes a section of the bill that bars companies from advertising maximum or “up to” speeds. That measure aims to block firms from advertising internet speeds that they seldom — or never — deliver to customers.

Cosco said the measure unfairly stops companies from touting improved service. Frontier stopped advertising an “up to” speed in 2014, she said.

“If providers aren’t allowed to promote the service that’s available, it would be detrimental to the state’s economic development,” Cosco said.

Martin said his company would have no problem whatsoever with the ban on deceptive advertising. Internet providers would still be able to advertise minimum download and upload speeds available to customers.

“If you have a network and you’re comfortable with it, you should be able to advertise your minimum speed, and then stick with it,” Martin said. “It’s fantastic we aren’t going to allow for false advertising and representations of an ‘up to’ speed.”

Speakers at the public hearing also praised the bill for establishing procedures that would give internet providers quicker access to telephone poles used to hang fiber cable. Smaller firms said they sometimes have to wait months or years to use the poles.

But Cosco said the proposed changes conflict with Federal Communication Commission rules. And a leader of a union that represents Frontier technicians said the proposed pole procedures pose a safety risk.

“It would allow unqualified personnel from third-party contractors to transfer equipment on a utility pole to make room for a new provider’s equipment,” said Elaine Harris, who represents the Communications Workers of America in West Virginia.

ORIGINAL STORY 03.16.2017 – West Virginia lawmakers unveiled comprehensive broadband legislation Thursday that aims to spur competition among internet providers in rural areas and stop deceptive advertising about internet speeds.

House Bill 3093 would allow up to three cities or counties to start a pilot project by banding together and building a broadband network that provides high-speed internet service. Twenty or more families or businesses in rural communities also could form nonprofit co-ops that would qualify for federal grants to expand internet service, according to the bill.

“This is superb,” said Ron Pearson, a retired federal bankruptcy judge and broadband expansion advocate. “We’ve got to have competition in providing internet and other services that travel over fiber to households and businesses or we’re going to be stuck in the dark ages of competition in West Virginia.”

Lobbyists for Frontier Communications and cable internet providers already are raising objections to the legislation. The bill will face tough sledding in the Senate. Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, also works as Frontier’s sales director in West Virginia.

“We believe connecting West Virginia citizens is vital to our shared success, and any legislative proposal should focus on reaching the unserved and rural markets of our state,” Frontier spokesman Andy Malinoski said. “We are, however, concerned that House Bill 3093 may not accomplish that goal.”

Delegate Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, gave a 30-minute overview of the broadband legislation Thursday in the House chamber. Lawmakers have been working on the bill for months.

One of the bill’s key selling points: It requires no state funding — welcome news as lawmakers grapple with a $500 million budget deficit.

“We need revenue-neutral solutions to problems,” Hanshaw told lobbyists and fellow lawmakers who attended his presentation. “This is such a bill.”

In addition to broadband co-ops, the legislation would forbid internet companies from falsely advertising maximum download speeds — also referred to as “up to” speeds — while providing significantly slower speeds to customers. The internet firms could still advertise minimum internet service speeds.

Frontier, West Virginia’s largest internet provider, faces a class-action lawsuit over false advertising. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey also has taken the company to task over internet speeds.

“This [section of the bill] protects consumers from deceptive advertising,” Hanshaw said.

The legislation also expands the powers of the state Broadband Enhancement Council.

The 13-member panel would be responsible for collecting data about internet speeds and broadband service across the state — and publishing the “mapping” information. Data would be collected voluntarily from internet providers and consumers.

West Virginia ranks 48th in the nation for broadband accessibility.

“More data is always better,” Hanshaw said. “It gives businesses looking to locate here a definitive tool they can use to make decisions on where to locate a facility.

” Also under the bill:

The broadband council would collect and distribute grant money. The council also would act as a “think tank” and make recommendations to the Legislature.

Internet providers could string fiber-optic cable in shallow “micro-trenches,” which are less expensive to dig than traditional utility trenches.

Companies wanting to expand broadband could place their fiber on telephone poles more quickly under new, expedited procedures.

A program would allow landowners to voluntarily grant easements for fiber lines.

~~  Eric Eyre Gazette-Mail ~~

G-ICYMI™: WV Transgender

The Free Press WV
The Free Press WV

Study: WV has nation’s highest percent of teens who identify as transgender

A study released in January estimated that West Virginia has, out of all 50 states, the highest percentage of 13- to 17-year-olds who would identify as transgender.

The Williams Institute’s study estimated that 1.04 percent of West Virginians in that age range would identify as transgender, compared to the national percentage of .73 percent. The study estimated that the Mountain State has 1,150 13- to 17-year-olds who would identify as transgender, compared with 149,750 nationally in that age group.

Hawaii was estimated to have the next-highest percentage, at 1.01 percent, followed by New Mexico at .88 and California and Minnesota, both at .85 percent. Connecticut and Iowa came in last, at .39 percent.

Along with the 50 states, the study also did an estimate for Washington, D.C., which would surpass all 50 states at 1.12 percent.

Jody L. Herman, scholar of public policy at The Williams Institute and an author of the study, said the organization is a research center whose main mission is to study law and policy issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity. She said the center was founded in 2001 and is housed within the University of California-Los Angeles’ School of Law.

The study has not yet finished being peer reviewed, and Herman said she hopes to have a description of the methods and findings published in an academic journal.

The study didn’t actually poll 13- to 17-year-olds across the nation. Instead, it estimated how many people in that age range would identify as transgender by using data on how many adults identify as transgender.

It took this data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System surveys, which are done via phone. The report, “Age of Individuals Who Identify as Transgender in the United States,” notes that not all states use the optional module of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System that contains the question “Do you consider yourself to be transgender?”

West Virginia wasn’t among the 19 states that asked that question in 2014, but it was among the 21 states that did so in 2015.

Herman said that because West Virginia didn’t ask the question in 2014, a past Williams Institute study of how many adults identify as transgender used a “predictive model” to estimate the percentage in the Mountain State based on the information available from other states and considerations like social climate and demographics.

The adult report thus estimated that .42 percent of Mountain State adults would identify as transgender, compared with a .58 percent national average. That ranked West Virginia 42nd in the nation.

But Herman said the new youth estimate study now takes into account the actual 2015 poll of West Virginia adults.

“West Virginia has a relatively high percentage of adults who identify as transgender,” Herman said. “Somewhat surprisingly so. ... When you have actual data from West Virginia, the picture looks very different.”

She said the past predictive model would’ve suggested West Virginia would have a below-national-average percentage of 13- to 17-year-olds who identify as transgender. For instance, West Virginia is overwhelmingly white, and Herman said a higher proportion of people of color identify as transgender compared to whites.

But using the 2015 poll of West Virginia adults to estimate the percentage of 13-17-year-olds who would identify as transgender changed the picture.

Herman said the study unfortunately doesn’t answer why West Virginia has the nation’s highest estimated percentage.

“West Virginia is a mystery,” she said.

“It makes it all the more important that we have to protect these teenagers because they’re a very vulnerable population,” Andrew Schneider, executive director of the LGBT rights group Fairness West Virginia, said of the study’s finding. “They experience discrimination in greater numbers than other people.”

“We need our schools to adopt policies that will make sure that transgender students feel protected and safe within the school environment,” he said. “Transgender students should be able to use a bathroom without fear of harm or harassment.”

Of the superintendents of the state’s 55 counties, each of which has a single countywide public school system, Hardy County Superintendent Matthew Dotson remained as of September the only one publicly saying his school system would comply with the Obama administration’s guidance that transgender students — while they can be offered private bathroom facilities — must be allowed to use gender-identity matching accommodations if they so desire.

The Trump administration rescinded that guidance last week, but a U.S. Supreme Court case that could set national precedent for transgender students to have that right is scheduled for oral arguments later this month.

The superintendents for Calhoun, Clay, Doddridge and Marion counties said they would deny access, and most superintendents either didn’t provide a clear answer on whether they would deny access or didn’t respond to the Gazette-Mail’s past calls.

~~  Ryan Quinn - Gazette-Mail ~~

G-ICYMI™: Two Gilmer County Board of Education Members Resign

The Free Press WV
The Free Press WV

2 Gilmer board members resign as school system freed from state control

Gilmer County’s locally elected school board will at least nominally regain control of the county’s public school system Monday, but two of the five board members have called it quits.

Board members Carl Armour, Norma Hurley and Robert Minigh voted Thursday to approve the memorandum of understanding the state Board of Education required them to sign in order to regain local control.

“It means the return of democracy to Gilmer County,” Hurley said. “It means that the elected representatives of the people will be able to do the job they were elected to do, and that’s very important.”

They then approved the resignations of the two absent board members: Tom Ratliff and Bill Simmons.

Ratliff’s wife said he wasn’t home Thursday evening.

Even though Simmons told the Gazette-Mail Thursday he disagreed with the return of local control at this time, he said it wasn’t the reason for his resignation, which he said he believes he submitted in early November.

He said his wife died in September, and he now wants to use his background in higher education — he was president of Glenville State College for 21 years, among other education roles — to help train teachers for today’s classrooms.

The board members present at Thursday’s meeting said they weren’t aware until the meeting began that Ratliff and Simmons had submitted their resignations.

The December state Office of Education Audits report that recommended returning local control to Gilmer noted that one unnamed board member said “resignation from the board is a possibility if local control is reinstated and improvements are not made.” Simmons said he wasn’t that member.

Gabe Devono, Gilmer’s state-appointed superintendent who opposed the return of local control and has fought with some Gilmer board members in the past, said Ratliff and Simmons sent him resignation letters with no explanation that were effective as of January 01, and he had held off on presenting the resignations to the board until Thursday, in hopes they would change their minds.

Devono said that to his understanding, the remaining board members will have 45 days to pick replacement board members, who will serve until the next election in May 2018, when every seat but Minigh’s will be up for election.

The memorandum of understanding requires the Gilmer board, which will see its powers returned under the agreement, to keep Devono until June 30. Devono said he plans to stay until that date, but doesn’t know whether he’ll apply for a contract extension.

He could leave before June 30 if he and the board mutually agree to part ways. He said his contract, which pays him $126,000 annually, expires June 30 anyway.

The MOU, which also wasn’t provided by state education officials to the Gazette-Mail or Gilmer board members until Thursday’s meeting, also puts Gilmer on a three-year “provisional oversight” period.

“If at any time within the three year provisional period the state board determines that intervention in the operation of the school system is again necessary, the state board shall hold a public hearing in the affected county so that the reasons for the intervention and the concerns of the citizens of the county may be heard,” the roughly two-page document states, citing a section of state law.

“However, the state board may intervene immediately in the operation of the county school system with all the powers, duties and responsibilities contained in subsection (m) of this [state law] section,” the MOU continues, “if the state board finds that the conditions precedent to intervention exist once again and that the state board had previously intervened in the operation of the same school system and had concluded that intervention within the preceding five years.”

And, even once fully freed from the special status that’s often dubbed “state control” or “state intervention” in the education world, Gilmer will still be subject to the many state laws and state school board policies all other West Virginia public school systems are subject to.

Gilmer is the state’s lowest-enrollment public school system, at only about 840 students.

Thursday’s meeting lasted about 30 minutes in a cramped conference room that Devono said was used because it had the teleconference phone where state education officials could call in to discuss the MOU.

Now, Fayette County, with a roughly 6,490 enrollment, is left as West Virginia’s only state-controlled public school system, though the state School Building Authority’s board voted last month to fund a state school board-supported plan for school consolidation.

“Historically, the board in Fayette County has been contentious, demonstrated primarily by the issue of school closures and consolidation,” read a OEPA report before the Fayette state takeover. “The [OEPA] Team observed that while many small elementary schools had been closed, the high schools remained with the exception of Gauley Bridge High School. A member or members of the board have been unwilling to deal with the very small high schools and support a plan to combine some and improve severe facility deficiencies, limited curriculum, and poorly achieving schools.”

Gilmer itself has seen consolidation while under state control. It’s closed Glenville, Normantown, Sand Fork and Troy elementaries; only a new Gilmer County Elementary, and the intercounty Leading Creek Elementary on the line between Gilmer and Lewis counties, have taken their place.

The state school board decided last month to offer the freedom deal to Gilmer, three years after the state school board voted to return partial control to Gilmer’s board.

The deal came after an Office of Education Performance Audits report on Gilmer — based upon an audit conducted on October 27 and 28 of this year — recommended for the first time that the state school board release its hold on Gilmer.

That recommendation was despite the fact that the report noted Devono and two of Gilmer’s five local school board members told the OEPA team that they opposed the return of local democracy to their county. The report didn’t name the specific Gilmer members in opposition.

“The superintendent opposed the ending of the state control, stating that the board remained dysfunctional, politicized, and incapable of functioning as a local board,” the report states. “He stated more time was needed for the treasurer and personnel staff to acclimate to their job responsibilities.”

“The Gilmer County Board of Education is operating well in spite of the still somewhat dysfunctional county board and the poor relationship between some board members and the state appointed superintendent,” the audit concludes.

“Based on evidence and interviews, the OEPA Team found the current local board and state appointed superintendent will not make significant progress in relations regardless of state or local control. Differing personalities, personal agendas, and political pressure will continue to plague the improvement in superintendent/board relations. Unused school property, personnel, and the role of the local board in operations will continue to be a problem for the county,” the audit continues.

“The intention for the initial state takeover of Gilmer County Board of Education was due to improper functioning of the county board of education office,” the audit says. “This issue has been satisfactorily corrected under the state appointed superintendent and central office staff. Therefore, it is the recommendation of the OEPA that full control be returned to Gilmer County Board of Education and allow the county to determine its future operations.”

The audit notes that the Gilmer school system’s personnel department “Stated that return to local control would most likely cause the current superintendent to be removed by the local board,” and stated that it believed “the State Board should maintain control of the local board.”

While the audit notes that workers in Gilmer’s finance and curriculum offices “stated that without a strong superintendent, the board members could revert to micro-management of the system,” these employees also said Gilmer “is capable of self-management and State control needs to end,” that “the community feels that with state control, the school system is not theirs” and “the next [excess property tax] levy vote may fail if the system remains under state control.”

“The board of education office is functioning efficiently and in compliance with State code and [state board] policy,” the audit states. “Student achievement is stable and increasing.”

~~  Ryan Quinn ~~

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Readers' Recent Comments

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

By Rahul on 03.22.2018

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

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

By Marlea Cottrill on 03.19.2018

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

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

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

By Charleston Reader on 03.18.2018

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

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

By Brian and Montie VanNostrand on 03.17.2018

From the entry: 'Gary Don Williams'.

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

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

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

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

By Bill Williams on 03.16.2018

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

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

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

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

By B. Jones on 03.16.2018

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

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

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

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

By Brad got it mixed on 03.15.2018

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

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

By BangBang on 02.14.2018

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

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

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

Our prayers are with the family.

By Connie Turner on 02.10.2018

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

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

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

Keep the saws out of our state forests!

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

By Another Clueless Politician's Scheme on 02.10.2018

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

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

By Cookie Setty on 02.09.2018

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

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

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

By Question for Pres. Pellett on 02.07.2018

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

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

By And we Appreciate It on 02.02.2018


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

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

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

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

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

By Give 'em some $$$ ! on 02.01.2018


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

Or pay higher insurance premiums?


By is it true? on 02.01.2018

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

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

By Nancy Rose Westfall on 01.31.2018

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

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

By Free Press on 01.31.2018

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

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

By Active Voter on 01.31.2018

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

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

By Gilmer Parents For Accountability on 01.29.2018

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

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

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

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

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

By Glenville Teachers on 01.29.2018

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

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

It does NOTHING to improve education!

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

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

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

By Troy Parent on 01.28.2018

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

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

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

By B. Beckett on 01.26.2018

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

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Reduce requirements.
Lower teacher standards.

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

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

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

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

By Failed State BOE on 01.18.2018

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

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

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

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

By Rusty Moore on 01.16.2018

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

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

By R. Wells on 01.16.2018


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

By Give Citizens The Facts on 01.14.2018

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

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

By Ugly on 01.10.2018

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

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

By Michell J. Hill on 01.07.2018

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

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

By Accountabilty Needed on 01.03.2018

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

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

By B. Post on 01.02.2018

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

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

By Dana Linger on 12.29.2017

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

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

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

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

By Parents For Better Leadership on 12.29.2017

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

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

By E. Moore on 12.28.2017

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

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I am so sorry for your loss.

By Margie Shook on 12.18.2017

From the entry: 'Warren Curtis Pierce'.

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

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

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

By B. K. Brooks on 12.15.2017

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

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

By The Silent Majority on 12.15.2017

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

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

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

By HOW COME NOW ? on 12.14.2017

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

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

By Moore on 12.11.2017

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

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

By School Board Member In A Top Performing County on 12.10.2017

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

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

By Searching on 12.10.2017

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

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

By Gilmer Students Ripped Off on 12.08.2017

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

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

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


Pat McGroyne

By Pat McGroyne on 11.30.2017

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

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I always thought a Harvard education was something special.  Well, I guess it is.  Just a week ago they had ‘sex week’.  One of the course offerings was analsex101.  That’s right.  Google it.  Plenty of coverage. True story.

By Harvard 'taint what it used to be? on 11.23.2017

From the entry: 'Feds Threaten To Sue Harvard Over Asian-American Admissions'.

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This is nothing new.  It has been happening for years and no attempt to stop it.  Just quiet it down when word leaks out.  The court system thumbs their noses and laughs at ‘their hillbillies’.

Remember the hub-bub about $100,000.00 bathrooms in the Capitol building a few months ago?

Think they have them all remodeled so those whom you elected can krap in style the next legislative session?  lol

By Web on 11.18.2017

From the entry: 'Legislators Turn Focus on Supreme Court Spending Following Report on Luxury Purchases'.

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The justices are part of the aristocracy. Does anybody think that they care what the peons think?

By Skip Beyer on 11.18.2017

From the entry: 'Legislators Turn Focus on Supreme Court Spending Following Report on Luxury Purchases'.

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Why are Gilmer’s voters kept in the dark about activities of the two LSICs in the County? No published agendas before meetings, no published meeting minutes, and plans with details for school improvements are not disclosed. Violation of WV’s open meeting laws? To top it off memberships of LSIC’s and who selected the individuals are kept secret from voters.

By Gilmer Voter on 11.16.2017

From the entry: 'Board of Education Takes Action on Policies to Provide Flexibility to Counties'.

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LSIC plans are short on specifics for measurable academic improvements to be achieved. That way no matter what happens extraordinary successes can be proclaimed. The strategy is designed to make meaningful accountability impossible for school system administrators.

By More Of Same For WV Schools on 11.15.2017

From the entry: 'Board of Education Takes Action on Policies to Provide Flexibility to Counties'.

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A food pantry opens at Marshall University?

For students I can understand.
But its also for faculty and staff?

Really now?  Their salaries are that poor they need access to a food pantry?

Times area really tough in West Virginia.  Really are.

By Tough Times at Marshall University on 11.14.2017

From the entry: 'West Virginia News'.

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LSIC=Local School Improvement Council. Each WV school has one. Google to learn what each one is supposed to do to improve a school. Ask for plans for your schools.

By POGO on 11.13.2017

From the entry: 'Board of Education Takes Action on Policies to Provide Flexibility to Counties'.

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What is this “LSIC” commenter speaks about?
Who and what is that all about?

By reader on 11.12.2017

From the entry: 'Board of Education Takes Action on Policies to Provide Flexibility to Counties'.

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Fellow West Virginian’s.  What is being seen here is Paine’s return to ‘power’ and the continued 20 years charade by the WVBOE.

They spend your tax dollars.  They do their best to cover their failed efforts.  They cheat our children of a good education. 

They play (think manipulate) with the grading system every couple years, making it impossible to follow students upward or downward progressions.

Don’t expect any good, any progress, any improvement to happen in West Virginia.  It’s not in the cards.  Well, that is not in the ‘administrators’.

By 20 years of WVBOE 'playing' school on 11.12.2017

From the entry: 'Board of Education Takes Action on Policies to Provide Flexibility to Counties'.

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All high schools in WV have ACT Profile Reports for each graduating class.

The only performance information typically cited in school districts is average ACT scores for graduating classes.

If you can get copies of Reports for your high schools read them to independently evaluate testing results for career and college readiness, science, technology engineering and math (STEM), and other categories.

Chances are that your local administrators gloated that average ACT scores for graduating classes are commendable to give your high schools passing marks, but other testing outcomes in the Reports may show otherwise.

It is doubtful if LSIC members for your high schools know about the Reports to be grounds for demanding academic improvement plans. Check Reports for high schools in your school district to make up your own minds.

By WVDOE Fact Checker on 11.11.2017

From the entry: 'Board of Education Takes Action on Policies to Provide Flexibility to Counties'.

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Policy 2510 is an admission by the West Virginia Board of Education of their own failure.

Dumb down the standards in order that students can get a passing grade.

You grand pooh-bahs in Charleston BOE should be ashamed of yourselves!  But you have no shame. Obviously so.

Steve Paine, leading the failure of education in West Virginia.

By # 2510 policy--WVBOE ADMITS OWN FAILURE on 11.10.2017

From the entry: 'Board of Education Takes Action on Policies to Provide Flexibility to Counties'.

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With a deal like this—WHY—are we selling road bonds and—WHY—were all the motor vehicle fees INCREASED on West Virginia’s citizens?  WHY ! ?

Thanks for nothing Jim Justice and the WV legislators.


From the entry: 'WV Signes $84 Billion Shale Gas Deal with China Energy'.

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The Rosie Bell will be a nice addition to the Park !

A thank you to Donna Waddell and her leadership and the FRN for making the Park happen !

By Thank America's Rosie's ! on 11.10.2017

From the entry: 'What This Bell Means to Gilmer County'.

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Aren’t they supposed to have agendas AND minutes for each and every meeting, by law?  They put it right there on the agendas that there were None. And months’ go by without even Seeing an Agenda.  It’s a citizen’s right to go in and ask to see them ALL.  Someone needs to look into this.  Especially with all the speculation that goes on around legal issues in the county!

By GilmerCountyCommission? on 11.03.2017

From the entry: 'Did You Know?'.

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The grade 7 spike in math in comparison to lowered performances in higher grades begs the question about reasons. What is being done to ensure that math skills will not drop by graduation time? Has anyone looked at adverse effects of block scheduling and other factors?

By Answers Needed on 11.03.2017

From the entry: 'SEEING MATH IN NEW WAYS'.

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We’ll.  It’s a step forward to see the Commission AGENDA - but what about the minutes?  The last two agendas have said “ Approve County Commission Minutes-None”      Aren’t there supposed to legally be minutes for the public to read?????  This makes NO sense unless things are going on that the Commission doesn’t want the public to know.  Obviously.  SHOW THE MINUTES Jean Butcher, do your job!

By 304 More Issues on 11.02.2017

From the entry: 'Did You Know?'.

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This posting is very informative and it documents what can be done with innovative approaches to teaching math. For too long we were fed the party line that all was well in our schools for math and everything else. That myth prevailed because facts were hidden to hold down the County’s demands for accountability. Hats are off to Kelly Barr and Traci DeWall.

During intervention it was commonly known that school board members made repeated requests for all kinds of student progress information, but it was kept from them. That era has ended and the County’s school board is expected to focus on its top priority responsibility that is to continually improve student learning in our schools. Our kids can perform if they are given the chance.

By Gilmer County Parents on 11.02.2017

From the entry: 'SEEING MATH IN NEW WAYS'.

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Gilmer look at this Did You Know. If you look at the State’s data on Zoom Dashboard to review changes in mastery of math and reading for the GCHS’s 11th grade for the 2011 and 2017 testing years it is clear the you have a problem with your math program. In 2011 the math pass rate was 36.92 compared to 37.29% in 2017. Progress with reading was truly commendable. The pass rate went from 26.98 in 2011 to 64.41% in 2017. Why the lack of progress for math? We know that your school board members are trying to get information about plans for improvements for math and science, but is full disclosure of details any better than it was under intervention? Let us know.

By B. Cummings on 10.30.2017

From the entry: 'Did You Know?'.

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Lots to learn kids. By the way,  How’s the Commission coming along with the September meeting minutes?

By 304 on 10.30.2017

From the entry: 'GSC Criminal Justice Students Take Part in Scenario-Based Training with RJA'.

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Most of America lives in denial of toll the government approved ‘life-style’ that is shortening everyone’s lives.

We are living in an era where the government has been lobbied (think bought) in approval of many, many things that are destructive to life.

This article shows the result of a cumulative toll effect that vaccines, pesticides, GMO foods, chemtrails, and other poisons are taking on the American population.

This is likely the globalists dream of “depopulation” coming true.  Enjoy what time you, your children, and grandchildren have left.

By Your Government Taking Care of You on 10.25.2017

From the entry: 'Americans Are Retiring Later, Dying Sooner and Sicker In-Between'.

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I don’t care Who or What he killed.  He shouldn’t be doing it in a West Virginia Police hat.  It sends a bad message to do it with a Police hat on.

By Hunter on 10.24.2017

From the entry: 'Special Antlerless Deer Season Opens October 21 and December 26-27'.

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Your outrage is misplaced Hunter. He killed Bambi, who will no longer will frolic through the forest.

By Democrats Against Deer Hunting on 10.23.2017

From the entry: 'Special Antlerless Deer Season Opens October 21 and December 26-27'.

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It doesn’t seem like Gilmer County Law Officials seem to care about the murders in the area. In my opinion. We don’t hear anything from the law on Any of the pertinent local situations.  Why IS that?  We know MUCH more about national news that we know about the goings on in Gilmer. Crimes, drug busts, investigations and Answers to those investigations.  Why don’t we Ever hear any news from the Sheriff’s Department??  Still wondering why Deputy Wheeler was reassigned to school patrol officer and who took over his murder investigative duties.  Can’t get anyone to pick up the phone or an answer when I call.  Maybe someone on the Gilmer Free Press can shed some light?

By Where is the Law? on 10.23.2017

From the entry: 'Governor Justice, DOT Sec. Smith Announce First GARVEE Bond Sale for Roads, Bridges'.

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“We should welcome refugees and immigrants to the United States because it’s good for our society, for our economy, and for our nation.“

WRONG - Diversity in populations has been proven to be, not helpful to society, but harmful.  Immigrant groups who refuse to assimilate are a problem not a benefit, and will remain a problem until they do assimilate.

It’s understood that not all Muslims are terrorists, but for practical purposes all terrorists are Muslims.  And please spare me the Timothy McVey arguments.  McVey and his ilk were loners.  Muslim terrorists are part of an organized movement.

I think almost all immigration should cease until the present immigrant population can be dealt with, through assimilation or otherwise.


Pat McGroyne

By Pat McGroyne on 10.22.2017

From the entry: 'Trump’s Muslim Bans Impoverish Us All'.

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Will the persons involved in Poor Fred’s murder ever be held accountable?  Ever?  Yet they walk among us every day?

Did not realize it has been 7 years since poor ol’ Willard met his fate?  There is plenty dirt kicked around there to cover the wrong doings too?

By Poor Fred is Dead on 10.21.2017

From the entry: 'Did You Know?'.

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Hold on Gub’ner Justiss….
The juery stil’ be outs on yer barrering’ game….

Ways to er’ly ta be countin’ hens an roosters….

By no chickens yet... on 10.21.2017

From the entry: 'Governor Justice, DOT Sec. Smith Announce First GARVEE Bond Sale for Roads, Bridges'.

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Wanna get votes for the school levy? Simply get truth out about where the County stands with low reading, math, and science scores and publicize a rational plan for fixing problems.

By Truth Will Win Levy Votes on 10.21.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

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I get it that it’s a pose for the camera, but should he Really be wearing a Police hat for hunting?

By Hunter on 10.20.2017

From the entry: 'Special Antlerless Deer Season Opens October 21 and December 26-27'.

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Nice to see the Gilmer County Commission finally reveal their meeting minutes after long lapses of no information.  Can’t help but wonder if this was posted specifically because of the topic -  Sheriff Gerwig being assigned to another estate case before closing out others. Memories of Willard F. Cottrill today. d. 10/20/10 R.I.P.  The minutes should be interesting.  Let freedom ring.

By MC on 10.20.2017

From the entry: 'Did You Know?'.

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From WV Zoom Dash Board. GCES 6th grade student proficiency rate=20% for math and 31% for reading. Gilmer County demands a K-12 improvement plan everyone can understand and promote!!! We have had enough of the everything is just fine claims.

By School Kids Are Cheated on 10.20.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

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It is a common occurrence for school administrators to carefully select one small piece of information to purposely give a school a rosy performance rating for student learning and to hide unflattering information from an LSIC and a local BOE. The way to prevent the censorship is for superintendents to routinely provide access to all testing results so performance evaluations for a school can be based on a full set of facts.

By WVDOE Employee For Complete Transparency on 10.19.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

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The community has observed that there is an improved way of doing business by the GCBOE and the new superintendent after the State pulled out. One problem to solve after the State’s neglect for six years of intervention is low student success at the GCHS for math and science. There is documentation on the ZoomWV Dashboard kept by the WV Education Department. The pass rate for GCHS students for M & S is in the 30s. What is the HS’s LSIC group doing to improve those scores? Does it have a detailed improvement plan for the school and if it does it should be disclosed. M and S under achievement underscores why it is important to know what the County’s LSICs are doing to improve our schools academically.

By Gilmer Business Executive on 10.19.2017

From the entry: 'New 4-H Office in Glenville'.

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Should not have to get LSIC membership from principals. The information should be published for the public record for all interested citizens including taxpayers to know. Gilmer’s secrecy has been a long time tool used to undermine accountability and it must stop!

By Stop Secrecy! on 10.19.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

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