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G-ICYMI™: Improving teacher quality in West Virginia

The Free Press WV
The Free Press WV

In a press release issued on February 23, 2017, Governor Jim Justice, after referencing West Virginia as being “50th,” commendably declared that “it’s time to restructure and rebuild our school system from the bottom up.”

I suggest the two foremost foundations upon which an exemplary public-school system should be restructured and rebuilt are teacher quality, and the learning/teaching model employed inside and outside the classroom.

By far the most important source of variation in student achievement is teacher quality.

The book “Surpassing Shanghai, An Agenda for American Education Built on the World’s Leading Systems,” by a number of contributing authors edited by Marc S. Tucker, undertakes to answer this single question:

“How would we redesign the American education system if the aim were to take advantage of everything that has been learned by the countries with the best education systems in order to build a system better than any that now exists anywhere?”

The World’s Leading Education Systems reviewed were those of Shanghai (the head of the class); Finland (superb teachers — how to get them, how to use them); Japan (perennial league leader); Singapore (a journey to the top, step by step); and Canada (looks a lot like us but gets better results).

Obviously, everyone interested in improving student academic achievements would agree that public schools should attract educators with the highest level of general intelligence as can be achieved.

The achievability of that statement depends, in large part, upon the quality of the pool of young adults from which prospective teachers are recruited. As Marc Tucker noted in the cited book, “No private firm, much less than an entire industry, would prefer to recruit its professional staff from the least-able college graduates if it could do better than that.”

And yet, the College Board reported in 2008 that when high school graduates going on to college were asked what their intended major was, those who decided on education scored in the bottom third on their SATs. Their combined scores in mathematics and reading came in at 57 points below the national average.

According to Surpassing Shanghai, “Three things directly affect the quality of the pool from which a nation recruits its teachers: (1) the status of teaching in the eyes of the potential recruit relative to the status of other occupations to which he or she aspires, (2) the compensation offered relative to other possible choices, and (3) the conditions of work, or the degree to which the way the work is organized, makes it look more like professional work or like blue-collar work.”

Tucker observes that of these five top-performing countries, most have moved teacher education out of their lower-tier institutions and into their top-tier institutions, in contrast to what Tucker describes as “teacher education in the United State [is] generally done in second- and third-tier, relatively low-status institutions, many of which were formerly normal schools.”

Relevant to the discussion of where teacher prospects should be educated is that West Virginia now has some 19 private and public colleges and universities authorized by the West Virginia Department of Education to offer one or more approved programs leading to educator licensure in the public schools of the state.

Compensation and other emoluments provided to teachers is such an important incentive to attracting top-flight students to the teaching profession and educating them in top-tier institutions that the very subject should be off the table as a consideration when able young people are making career decisions, so observed Singapore’s minister of education.

Being off the table does not mean, however, the adjustments that will have to be made to pay scale for such prospective teachers will not shock citizens who are complacent with business as usual in the state’s public school system.

Teaching is now the most popular profession among Finnish young people, attracting the top quartile of high school graduates into its highly competitive teacher training programs.

Cultural factors, such as respect for teaching as a profession, are also an important part of the Finnish success story, which add to the complexity of replicating the Finnish experience in the United States, and especially in West Virginia.

Considering that (1) by far, the most important source of variation in student achievement is teacher quality; (2) the character of the pool of young adults from which teacher-college applicants are recruited is highly relevant to the ultimate quality of the teachers graduating therefrom; (3) the quality of the teacher colleges themselves are highly pertinent to the quality of the graduating future teachers; and (4) that some of the factors that have contributed to the five high performing education systems are cultural in nature, the time is now for West Virginia to start addressing and changing its complacency in improving teacher quality in its public schools.

The Free Press WV      Charles McElwee is a Charleston lawyer and a GSC grad


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~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~

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

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

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

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

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

By GSC Teacher Ed. Academy Needed  on  03.18.2019

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GILMER LIBRARY DIRECTOR RECEIVES CERTIFICATION, HAS WORKS PUBLISHED

Gilmer Public Library Director Lisa Hayes-Minney was recently awarded her Basic Library Certification from the West Virginia Library Commission. Her coursework included 26 training sessions in the following core areas: Fundamentals of Librarianship, Collection Development, Organization of Materials, Management, Programming & Services, and Technology.

West Virginia State Code requires that all library directors in the state complete eight continuing education hours a year, but in a little over two years, Minney has completed more than fifty continuing education hours to achieve this certification.

The Free Press WV


Minney was hired as an Assistant Librarian at Gilmer Public Library in November 2016 and was promoted to Library Director in September 2018. In addition to her studies related to Library Science, Minney has an Associate Degree in Liberal Arts, a Bachelor’s Degree in English with a minor in Journalism, and a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing.

Also, Minney has three essays appearing in upcoming publications. Her essay “Shaken Foundations” will be appearing in the anthology Mountains Piled upon Mountains: Appalachian Nature Writing in the Anthropocene, to be released in April 2019 by Bartram Publishing. Her essay “Mental-pause” is included in Feminine Rising: Voices of Power & Invisibility, due out in June 2019 from Cynren Press. Her essay “Little One” was a finalist in the Recovery Contest by Memoir Magazine, and will be appearing in a special online edition to be released within the next few weeks.

Minney is the facilitator of Gilmer Public Library’s “Creative Play for Adults” sessions, which encourage adults to re-connect with and nurture their creative side, held at the library every Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.  She also leads the library Writer’s Group, which meets the first Thursday of every month at 6 p.m.

For more information about these or other programs and services available from Gilmer Public Library, visit their facebook page, their web site at gilmerpublib.org, stop in the library, or call 304.462.5620. For more information about Lisa, visit www.LHayesMinney.net.

ICYMI™: WV’s own border wall needs to tumble down

The Free Press WV
The Free Press WV

Only hours after the state’s teachers and school service personnel unions called a strike last week, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten flew in to rally striking teachers and preach the evils of school choice and charter schools.

Why would the state’s three school worker unions listen to her? She is from out of state.

That’s a ridiculous argument, but from listening to the strikers chants, comments in the news media and on social media, it appears powerful out-of-state groups are trying to ruin West Virginia’s monopolistic and bureaucratic education system with student-hurting ideas like school choice, charter schools and every other evil idea the state Senate concocted in Senate Bill 451.

But doesn’t Randi Weingarten represent a powerful monied out-of-state interest? Why didn’t the strikers run her out on a rail?

The lack of quality answers to that question goes hand in hand with the lack of quality answers for the other questions that in-state and out-of-state education reformers keep asking those who oppose education reform.

Why are education reforms that are being adopted and readily accepted in so many other states — strong Democrat and strong union states included — so “bad” for students in West Virginia? Why wouldn’t concepts that work well above the Mason-Dixon Line, west of the Ohio and Big Sandy rivers, and east of the Alleghenies not work in the Mountain State?

A Daily Mail columnist, formerly a Charleston resident, tweeted actively during the strike in favor of reforms. Those opposed to SB 451 on Twitter asked in many variations: “Why should anyone listen to her? She’s from out of state.”

But it’s not just in education-related issues that there appears to be a strong bias against people and ideas from outside West Virginia.

Publicly traded corporations with headquarters located outside the state — those that actually provide secure, high-paying jobs to many in West Virginia — are often the target of hostility, even when they have significant offices and operations in West Virginia.

The critics make it sound as if out-of-staters are coming in and “taking our jobs,” yet West Virginia has the lowest rate of entrepreneurial job creation and the lowest workforce participation rate. Anyone providing jobs in the state aren’t taking jobs, they are providing them to West Virginians willing to work.

As we all know, our state naturally ranks No. 1 in the hearts of West Virginians. Unfortunately, it ranks low in too many economic, education and cultural measures to count.

In the marketplace, companies that succeed aren’t the ones that reject what their competitors are doing. The companies that perform best watch their competitors, listen, learn, improve and become better.

Like it or not, West Virginia is competing with other states in many areas. But West Virginia won’t become better by rejecting ideas and concepts that succeed elsewhere. We need to listen and learn from smart people, wherever they are from.

G-ICYMI™: Wood County Schools exceeds state test averages

The Free Press WV
The Free Press WV

Initial scores for the West Virginia General Summative Assessment show Wood County Schools exceeding state averages in both reading and math at every grade level.

Superintendent Will Hosaflook presented a brief overview of the scores during Tuesday’s Wood County Board of Education meeting. Hosaflook said while he was given the green light on releasing the overall scores Tuesday, the state will not release a full report, including accountability scores, until noon Thursday.

“The state superintendent has embargoed those results until the state school board meets” Thursday morning, he said.

Hosaflook said the scores show Wood County Schools above state proficiency averages, but added he believed much more work needed to be done.

“There is success at every one of our schools, and it’s important to be celebrating that success,” he said. But, “I’m not satisfied, because there is always room for improvement.”

In third-grade math, 48 percent of West Virginia students were proficient, while 51 percent of Wood County Schools students were proficient. For fourth-grade, the state scored 45 percent and Wood County scored 51 percent. In fifth-grade, the state scored 40 percent and Wood County was 52 percent.

The numbers for elementary school reading were similar. In third-grade, the state scored 47 percent, while Wood County scored 52 percent. In fourth-grade, the state scored 45 percent and Wood County was 47 percent. In fifth-grade, the state scored 44 percent and Wood County was 53 percent.

Middle school proficiency rates were lower for both the state and the county. In math, sixth-graders scored 34 percent at the state level and 36 percent locally. In seventh-grade, the state scored 35 percent and Wood County scored 38 percent. In eighth-grade, the state scored 32 percent and Wood County scored 36 percent.

In sixth-grade reading, the state scored 43 percent and Wood County scored 46 percent. In seventh-grade, the state scored 44 percent and Wood County scored 46 percent. In eighth-grade, the state scored 41 percent and Wood County scored 47 percent.

“We were above the state in every category,” Hosaflook said. “Still, being above the state average is not good enough for me, nor is it good enough for the students, teachers and everyone in this room. We will improve.”

This marked the first year where the national SAT exam was used by West Virginia as a statewide exam for 11th-grade students.

Hosaflook said the county’s three high schools all scored around the state math average of 465 and exceeded the state average of 460 in reading with scores ranging from 485-493. Overall, the state SAT average was 942, and Hosaflook said the high schools were right around that average, with Parkersburg High School being the highest in the county with an overall score of 958.

Hosaflook cautioned the county’s accountability scores, which will not be made public until Thursday, would not be as good, as the test scores were only part of the formula used to determine those numbers. Hosaflook said the main area of concern is attendance, and only one school in the district met those requirements.

Hosaflook said federal changes to the state’s accountability system count almost all days missed by students, even those due to illness or death in the family, as absences, which count against the school’s overall attendance score, even if they are considered excused absences by the school system.

Hosaflook said attendance is an area of concern for Wood County Schools, with about 14 percent of the district’s students considered “chronically absent,” and will be a major part of what he will focus on in the coming months. Board members agreed.

“If kids aren’t in school, they’re not learning,” said board member Justin Raber. “I really feel we need to focus on attendance whole-heartedly. I think it really places accountability on parents and guardians to make sure their children are in school.”

Report recommends merging Bluefield, Concord, Glenville, WVSU boards

The Free Press WV
The Free Press WV 

Citing declining enrollment, and increasing reliance on that enrollment rather than the state Legislature for funding, plus competition for students from West Virginia and Marshall universities, a report recommends merging the governing boards of Bluefield State College, Concord University, Glenville State College and West Virginia State University.

The document, from the Colorado-based nonprofit National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, labels those four schools “Medium Risk to High Risk” in sustainability, saying they’re “sustainable in the short-term, but their futures are uncertain.”

The REPORT recommends this move, in the short-term for Bluefield and Concord and in the long-term for Glenville and WVSU, and suggests “initially” retaining the separate boards of governors for Fairmont State, Shepherd and West Liberty universities, “but with additional powers regarding governance of institutions explicitly delegated” to the state Higher Education Policy Commission.

The recommendations include “leaving open” that Concord and Bluefield “could become a single accredited institution” and “the potential of including New River Community and Technical College within the new structure while retaining its unique mission as a community college.”

The report, which includes several other recommendations, also lists negative effects of the state government’s decisions to separate community colleges from public 4-year schools, weaken the power of the HEPC, decentralize governance and cut higher education funding.

And at a time when the presidents of WVU, Marshall and Concord are to co-chair Gov. Jim Justice’s newly formed group to study the funding and sustainability of higher education (the HEPC was already studying a possible funding formula), the report notes that a “major obstacle to collaboration with West Virginia University or Marshall University is a fear that the larger institutions will collaborate only out of their self-interest to stifle competition or ultimately take over the smaller institutions.”

“With West Virginia University admitting more than 35 percent of high school graduates in 22 counties, it seems improbable that all these students would have been the top-performing students in their counties,” the report states. “The more selective institutions are dipping deeper into their applicant pools to the detriment of the regional institutions. ... In the absence of some external forces, this predation will continue.”

“We have not previously seen the report, so we can’t react in detail,” WVU Communications Office Senior Executive Director John Bolt said after being sent the report late Tuesday afternoon. “Nevertheless, I can say without equivocation that West Virginia University is not predatory.”

“It is not appropriate to comment until I have had an opportunity to read and thoroughly review the report,” said Bluefield President Marsha Krotseng, to whom the Gazette-Mail also sent the report late Tuesday.

In a statement, Concord President Kendra Boggess suggested that the data in the report are accurate, but said a Bluefield/Concord consolidation is “only one potential option that should be considered.”

The report says that, “in the longer-term, as suggested by the Consolidated Financial Index, all the regional institutions are at risk of failure. However, that risk varies significantly.”

The report defines “regional institutions” as all public four-year schools but WVU, Marshall, their branch campuses and the School of Osteopathic Medicine, in Lewisburg.

“NCHEMS’ observation is that for the institutions at highest risk, Bluefield State College and Concord University, the challenges are so serious that only a major restructuring will preserve postsecondary education opportunity for students in Southern West Virginia,” the report states. “Implementing this restructuring will require external pressure, leadership, and on-going facilitation to mandate and implement a consolidation of academic, student and administrative capacity of the two institutions.

“Nevertheless, forces at both institutions continue to resist needed changes,” the report states. “Bluefield State College continues to pursue construction of a residence hall, with partial support from a local foundation, with hopes that this will enable the institution to recruit and retain more students. This while Concord has empty dormitory space.”

The report goes on to state that, “Without immediate action to mandate that these two institutions pursue an integrated approach to their future, each institution will continue on its downward trajectory.”

The report, dated April 3, is labeled draft and was obtained from the HEPC by the Gazette-Mail through an open records request.

Neither NCHEMS Vice President Brian Prescott nor HEPC Communications Director Shelli Dronsfield said they’re anticipating any changes to the report. Dronsfield said it hasn’t been released because the HEPC staff is still developing an executive summary and response to the report, planned to be presented alongside the report to the HEPC board in August.

~~  Ryan Quinn ~~

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.

The Free Press WV


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.

The Free Press WV
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

The Free Press WV

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

WV RANKS 48 IN REAL BROADBAND ACCESS IN USA

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

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

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

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

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

By Kudos To School Board on 03.21.2019

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

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

By Gilmer on 03.21.2019

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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

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

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

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

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

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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

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

Sincerely

Pat McGroyne

By Pat McGroyne on 03.19.2019

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

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

By Phyllis Grove on 03.18.2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

By GSC Teacher Ed. Academy Needed on 03.18.2019

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

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

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

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

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

By Did The ipads Improve Learning Results? on 03.13.2019

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

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

By where oh where? on 03.12.2019

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

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

By THE TRUTH WATCHER on 03.08.2019

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

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

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

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

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

By Disclose Financial Facts on 03.07.2019

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

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

By Transparency and Accountability Needed on 03.07.2019

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

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

By YOU FORGET on 03.04.2019

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

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

But for deep gas, no new employment.

Education system total failure.
Legislature impotent.

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

That out-of-control delegate needs to resign!

By WV continues the slow death on 03.04.2019

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

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

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

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

By Just More Dog n Pony Show 4 U on 03.04.2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Accountability For New GCHS Computers on 03.04.2019

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

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

By Jimmy D on 03.04.2019

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

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

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

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

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

By Save WV's School Children on 03.02.2019

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

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

Whats the definition of insanity?

By Gilmer on 03.02.2019

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

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

By Vern Windsong on 03.01.2019

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

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

By Karen Pennebaker on 02.28.2019

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

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

By Mary Wildfire on 02.28.2019

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

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

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

By where does the money go? on 02.27.2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Unions Failed WV's Children on 02.26.2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Unions Failed WV Education on 02.21.2019

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

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

By Kayla on 02.21.2019

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

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

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

From the entry: 'Nyla Leah Frymier Poole'.

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

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

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

Sincerely

Pat McGroyne

By Pat McGroyne on 02.15.2019

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

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

By Tammy Foster (not White) on 02.13.2019

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

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I’m sorry for your loss.

By Danny Nicholson on 02.12.2019

From the entry: 'Vera Marlene Lyons'.

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

By Tammy white on 02.11.2019

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

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

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

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

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

By Positive School News on 02.08.2019

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

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

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

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

By you are joking I guess? on 02.07.2019

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

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

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

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

Sincerely

Pat McGroyne

By Pay McGroyne on 02.06.2019

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

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

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

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

By LCES Safety Concern on 01.31.2019

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

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

Other counties have the information. Why not us?

By School Board Member Backgrounds? on 01.23.2019

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

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

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

By School System Accountability Needed on 01.20.2019

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

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

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

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

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

By Establish School System Accountability on 01.18.2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Advocate For Clarity on 01.17.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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

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

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

By School Truth is in the Litter Box on 01.17.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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

One result is that the GCES was built too small.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By GCES Built Too Small Scandal on 01.15.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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

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

By Gilmer resident on 01.14.2019

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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

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

By Muddling Epidemic In WV School Systems on 01.14.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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

By we know it on 01.13.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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

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

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

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

By Student Learning at GCHS and GCES on 01.13.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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

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

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

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

By Muddling 101 on 01.11.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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

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

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

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

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

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

By End School System Muddling on 01.09.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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

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

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

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

By Need Specifics For Principal's Reports on 01.09.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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

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

Sincerely

Pat McGroyne

By Pat McGroyne on 01.08.2019

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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

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

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

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

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

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

By overheard conversation on 01.08.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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

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

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

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

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

By ZOOMWV Data Dashboard on 01.07.2019

From the entry: 'IOGAWV Scholarship Program'.

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

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

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

By Let An Accountant Dig It Out on 11.21.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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

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

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

By End Financial Secrecy on 11.21.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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

By Get It Done on 11.21.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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How about the “BIG WV WINDFALL”....?

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

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

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

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

By taxpayers always lose on 11.21.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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

By CheatersNeverWin on 11.20.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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

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

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

By Corrupt State Intervention on 11.19.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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

Any local whistle blowers?  Doubtful.

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

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

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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

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

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

By More Specifics For Principal's Reports on 11.17.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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

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

By Follow The Money on 11.16.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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

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

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

By Do It Ourselves on 11.15.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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

By QuestionablePractice on 11.14.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Citizens For Financial Disclosure on 11.14.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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

By Jo Ann conrad on 11.11.2018

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

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

By Jo Ann conrad on 11.11.2018

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

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

By Where Is The Investigation? on 11.11.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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

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

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

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

By INFO REQUEST TO GCBOE on 11.09.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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

By Follow the Paycheck(s) on 11.06.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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

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

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

By Where Is The Money? on 11.05.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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

By Steve Lewis on 11.04.2018

From the entry: 'Kendall Goodwin'.

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

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

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

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

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

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

By What Was The Grading System? on 10.30.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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

By Reader7 on 10.29.2018

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

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

By Robin Nunez on 10.28.2018

From the entry: 'Stephen Blair Marks'.

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

By Buck Edwards on 10.28.2018

From the entry: 'Stephen Blair Marks'.

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

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

By Details Please on 10.26.2018

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

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