GilmerFreePress.net

What Happened When Walmart Left

In West Virginia, the people of McDowell County can’t get jobs, and recently lost their biggest employer – the local Walmart store.

They describe the devastating loss of jobs, community and access to fresh food
The Free Press WV

When Walmart left town, it didn’t linger over the goodbyes. It slashed the prices on all its products, stripped the shelves bare, and vanished, leaving behind only the ghostly shadow of its famous brand name and gold star logo on the front wall of a deserted shell.

The departure was so quick that telltale signs remain of the getaway, like smoldering ashes in the fireplaces of an evacuated town. Notices still taped to the glass entranceway record with tombstone-like precision the exact moment that the supercenter was shuttered: “Store closed at 7pm, Thursday 28 January 2016.”

Ten years. That’s all the time it took for the store to rise up in a clearing of the lush forest of West Virginia’s coal country and then disappear again, as though it had never been there.
The Inequality Project: the Guardian’s in-depth look at our unequal world

But for the people of McDowell County – proud country folk laboring under the burdens of high unemployment, low income and endemic ill health – even such a fleeting visit to this rural backwater by the world’s largest retailer had a profound impact. Both in the arrival, and in the hasty leaving.

Wanda Church was present for both of these book-ends of the Walmart story – one of a few workers who helped set up the store in October 2005 and then gut it 10 years, three months and two days later. She remembers the feeling of excitement and expectation as they stocked the supercenter for the very first time, turning it in just 20 days from an empty building into a teeming cathedral of retail capitalism.

“It was amazing what we were able to do, stocking the shelves from nothing to full in such a short time,” she said, talking as she waited for her car to be repaired at a gas station over the road from the disused store. As if to underscore her enduring attachment to the corporation, she was wearing one of her old Walmart T-shirts.

She was there at the supercenter, too, on that fateful day last year when she and her fellow Walmart workers walked out of the store for the last time. “We were all crying. It was a sad day for a lot of people. It was a sad day for me – I spent more of those 10 years at Walmart than I did at my own home.”

Much has been written about what happens when the corporate giant opens up in an area, with numerous studies recording how it sucks the energy out of a locality, overpowering the competition through sheer scale and forcing the closure of mom-and-pop stores for up to 20 miles around. A more pressing, and much less-well-understood, question is what are the consequences when Walmart screeches into reverse: when it ups and quits, leaving behind a trail of lost jobs and broken promises.

The Free Press WV


The subject is gathering increasing urgency as the megacorporation rethinks its business strategy. Rural areas like McDowell County, where Walmart focused its expansion plans in the 1990s, are experiencing accelerating depopulation that is putting a strain on the firm’s boundless ambitions.

Hit hard by the longterm decline in coal mining that is the mainstay of the area, McDowell County has seen a devastating and sustained erosion of its people, from almost 100,000 in 1950 when coal was king, to about 18,000 today. That depleted population is today scattered widely across small towns and in mountain hollows (pronounced “hollers”), accentuating the sense of sparseness and emptiness.

The Walmart supercenter is located about five miles from the county seat, Welch, which still boasts imposing brick buildings as a memory of better times. But the glow of coal’s legacy has cooled, as the boarding up of many of the town’s shops and restaurants attests.

When you combine the county’s economic malaise with Walmart’s increasingly ferocious battle against Amazon for dominance over online retailing, you can see why outsized physical presences could seem surplus to requirements. “There has been a wave of closings across the US, most acutely in small towns and rural communities that have had heavy population loss,” said Michael Hicks, an economics professor at Ball State University who is an authority on Walmart’s local impact.

On 15 January 2016, those winds of change swept across the country with a fury. Walmart announced that it was closing 269 stores worldwide, 154 of them in the US. Of those, 14 were supercenters, the gargantuan “big boxes” that have become the familiar face of the company since the first opened in Missouri in 1988.

One of those supercenters was in McDowell County.

“It was a big thing for people round here when Walmart pulled out. People didn’t know what to do. Young people started leaving because there’s nothing for them here. It’s like we’re existing, but not existing.”

The words are spoken by Henrietta Banks, 60, who lives just up the hill from the mothballed supercenter. We’re sitting in her front room where she spends much of her time in a hospital bed that has been set up for her as she is treated for congenital heart disease.

She remembers the excitement when the supercenter opened. “People welcomed it with open arms, we needed the jobs,” she said.

But in the end the expectation that Walmart would usher in a new, better era for McDowell County proved illusory. Her late husband Arthur, a former sharpshooter in the US Army who died in 2010, worked as a greeter at Walmart for a few years. He took the job largely in the hope of securing healthcare insurance for Henrietta, but he was told that coverage wasn’t part of the package, and the couple had to make do with Medicaid.

Their daughter Nicole, 25, is sitting beside her mother holding her hand. She works as a corrections officer in a nearby prison, but her dream is to become a therapist.

Given her mother’s health issues, Nicole Banks tries to compensate for Walmart’s departure by seeking out fresh fruit and vegetables in the surrounding area. But it’s not easy. The nearest replacement store, Goodsons, is too expensive, she says, and other Walmarts are an hour’s drive away along Appalachian roads that are as tightly coiled as the copperhead snakes that live in the local forest.

Already, she spends half her $1,200 post-tax monthly salary on car insurance and repayments, and gas for the long drive for groceries eats into the little that is left. So she and her mom grab food where they can, opting for less pricey meals of hamburgers or spaghetti rather than fresh salad that takes another big chunk out of her income.

It’s not great for her mother’s health, but then Nicole thinks that’s typical for McDowell County people since Walmart left town. She has noticed that processed foods seem popular again; there are long lines again at the local McDonald’s.

“There’s a lot of people getting sick since the store closed because they’re not getting the right diet. It’s sad to me, but bad food is cheap.”

Nicole Banks is the first person in her family to go to college. With a degree in sociology, how would she sum up the impact of Walmart leaving?

She pauses to think for a while, and when she replies, she does so with unexpected vehemence. “It’s ridiculous,” she says. “People round here can’t get healthcare, they can’t get jobs and now the good food has gone. We are not getting our basic needs met. People are dying young.”

Banks is not exaggerating. Of the 3,142 counties in the US, McDowell County comes in at No 3,142 in terms of life expectancy. For men, that’s 64 years, a statistic that, as Bernie Sanders likes to point out, is the same for men in Namibia.

Clearly, such endemic health problems cannot be laid exclusively at the door of Walmart. But for Sabrina Shrader, a community organizer who was born and bred in the area, it provides the context for understanding the effect of the corporation’s decision, and that of its controlling family, to pack its bags and quit.

“The Walton family are billionaires,” she said (also no exaggeration – their collective worth is put at about $150bn). “They developed a system that just made us worse off, and then they took even that away from us.”

McDowell County forms part of the largest mixed mesophyte forest in the world, a relic of the ancient woodland that once covered much of North America. Wherever you look, majestic sugar maples, hickory, oaks and tulip trees tower overhead, hugging the steep slopes of the Appalachians.

It was into this stunning setting that Walmart descended in 2005 on the site of an old Kmart, like the spacecraft of alien botanists that lands in the forest at the start of the movie ET. And there it sat: a massive gash of concrete encircled by nature’s abundance.

Peep into the glass doors of the front of the store and you can start to appreciate the brutal simplicity of the Walmart concept. There is nothing inside its windowless walls, just 103,000sq ft of air. A Walmart supercenter is no more, no less than the name implies: a big box, an empty stage on which to wave a magic wand and summon up a million retail dreams.

Pack it with 80,000 products, and the people will come. Not just from all over McDowell County, but from far beyond. Over the 10 short years of the supercenter’s existence, many of those people grew dependent on it in so many ways.

Top of the list of dependencies: jobs.

“It’s all about jobs,” says Melissa Nester, publisher of the local newspaper, The Welch News, which sells 4,500 copies three times a week and doggedly refuses to have a website. “Dollar stores have picked up some of the trade left by Walmart, but they haven’t created many jobs.”

At its peak, Walmart employed 300 people in the McDowell County supercenter. That was down to about 140 by the end, but it still made it the largest employer in the area.

Wanda Church has been unemployed since that day when she cried as Walmart’s doors were closed for the last time; the company offered her a night shift at the next store along, but she couldn’t stomach the hour’s drive either way and wasn’t prepared to leave her home. Other employees felt they had no choice and are either commuting long distances or have relocated to work at other Walmart outlets, some as far off as Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, some 375 miles away.

There were knock-on effects, too, for local businesses that used to tender to workers and shoppers drawn into the area by the supercenter. Restaurants in a radius of several miles from the store complain of empty tables, while houses and shops in its close vicinity are now up for sale.

“It has affected this place real much, nobody stays here no more,” says Jessie Swims, 67, sitting on a bench at the Big Four motel across the road from the supercenter, drinking a soda. Swims has lived in one of the motel’s 15 rooms for the past five years, paying $600 a month out of his retirement money. Big Four used to be full, he says, now most of the rooms are empty and it too has been put on the market.

After jobs, taxes are the next things to go. The town of Kimball in which the supercenter is located used to receive $145,000 a year in taxes from Walmart, and when that went it had to cut back its workforce and put all remaining staff on a four-day week.

The county government also lost $68,000 in taxes, most of which went to schools, and all its staff were given a 10% pay cut. “All Walmart was interested in was how many millions of dollars they made, they weren’t interested in helping the community,” says McDowell County commissioner Gordon Lambert. “When they didn’t make the profit they wanted, they left.”

Walmart’s total revenue in the year in which the company closed the McDowell County store was $485.9bn.

I asked Walmart why it quit McDowell County. A spokeswoman said that closing a store was never easy, but it was “a necessary part of keeping a business healthy and positioned for future growth”. A number of factors had driven this particular decision, she said, including “financial performance as well as strategic alignment with long-term plans”.

The company had worked with all the employees who had lost their jobs to find them suitable transfers or give them severance pay. “We look forward to continuing to serve our Kimball area customers when they visit our stores in Bluefield, Princeton and MacArthur,” she said, (without referencing the hour’s drive.)

Economic losses are only one aspect of the hurt felt locally as a result of Walmart’s passing. There is something intangible, less material – and more chilling – about the fallout, something that seems to flow from the dependency the people of McDowell County developed on the retail magic conjured up inside that big box.

The Free Press WV


It’s touched upon by Wanda Church when she tries to explain why she cried that day. It was because, she says, she lost her family when Walmart closed.

Her family?

“The people I worked with, I relied on them if I needed help. The customers, they were our family.”

You hear it from Darrell Williams, 42, a truck driver picking wild raspberries on the side of the road to make a fruit cobbler. He recalls that his twin boys acquired their nicknames inside the supercenter. “My kids grew up in there. They called them the Screamers, because they used to scream if they didn’t get what they wanted.”

For Dan Phillips, Walmart was a way of coping with bereavement after his wife died a few years ago. “If you were lonely and had nothing to do, you’d go to Walmart to talk to folk. It was a great social network.”

Being a schoolteacher, Phillips has a theory for what happened when the store closed. “Socialization. We lost our socialization factor. Now it’s hard to keep track of people, there’s no other place like it where you can stand and chat.”

There was something else Phillips lost with Walmart’s departure. To illustrate the point, he reaches into his red pick-up truck and pulls out a loaded Para Ordnance Warthog .45 handgun and waves it at us, telling us not to freak as the safety is on.

“Bought this in the Walmart parking lot,” he says. “Guy sees me reading a gun magazine and asks me was I carrying. He offered to sell me the Para warthog and I got it for $775.” Phillips took his new possession home and added to his collection of 140 firearms.

“They screwed us real hard by leaving us like that,” he says, reflecting on the various ways his life has changed. “It’s so sad they thought they could just walk away.”

There are some rays of hope piercing through the dense ancient forest of McDowell County. Some families are trying to avoid the long drive to alternative outlets and the heavy prices by growing their own food.

In a hollow on Hensley Mountain, Alma McNelly, 53, affectionately known as “Maw”, and her husband Randy or “Paw”, live with 11 chihuahuas, a cockerel who wakes them at 5am every day and a horse called Snowman. Maw grows cauliflowers, tomatoes, carrots and strawberries. She shares the produce out to friends and family at the end of the pay month when times are lean and people start to go hungry.

She also collects six eggs a day from her brood of wyandotte hens. The only downside is that Paw doesn’t trust fresh-laid eggs unless they’re pickled, so she still has to make a monthly run to a supermarket to get factory-farmed eggs.

Down the road, Deana Lucion, 29, six months pregnant and with her 18-month-old daughter Trinity in her arms, tells us that she has started growing cucumbers, squash, peppers and corn. Her husband Phillip Lucion, 35, also supplements his income as a mechanic in a coalmine by catching trout in the nearby lake.

They make ends meet, but to the couple it’s a constant slog. “We do live in a great place,” Phillip says, “but I feel like a slave sometimes.”

When things get really rough at the end of the month – the money has run out, there are no food stamps left and the petrol tank is dry – people can always turn to the local food bank Five Loaves and Two Fishes run by Linda McKinney and her son Joel. On the third Saturday of the month they supply canned food and daily necessities such as toilet paper to up to 150 people who often sleep in their cars in the parking lot overnight to ensure they receive help.

For the last two years of its existence, the Walmart supercenter provided the food bank with close to 200,000lb of meat, dairy, pies and bread, allowing the McKinneys to increase the frequency of their giving. Now that’s gone, they try to make up for the shortfall by growing tomatoes, arugula and peppers in a greenhouse.

Linda McKinney says that the fresh food they received from Walmart, or “waste” as the corporation classed it, is sorely missed. But, like many of the other residents of McDowell County, she says she also mourns the communal aspect of the supercenter, its quality as a “social hub”.

McKinney rattles off a list of all the community facilities that disappeared from the region in recent years as the population declined and the culture of mega-chains like Walmart took root.

There used to be 28 churches of her United Methodist denomination in the county, now there are six; there were seven bars in Welch, all but one have closed; there were three cinemas, now it’s down to one; there are no community centers left; many of the corner shops have gone. “There’s nothing here,” McKinney says.

McKinney has one other, rather astonishing, reason to regret that the store closed. Walking.

Walking?

“I went to Walmart for the walk,” she says. “I went early and I got a cart and I walked all over the store. I loved walking around it. I would walk and talk, talk and walk. I could walk the store all day.”

That’s a statement that will reverberate far beyond the boundaries of McDowell County, or West Virginia. It could be applied to small towns and rural areas right across the US. This is the statement of communities that have had the communal bled out of them.

Filling the void, as well as helping to create it, came a sparkling new phenomenon: a big box, 103,000 square feet of windowless air, where you could catch up with friends, trade guns, shop to your heart’s content and even take a hike, all within a concrete gash carved out of one of the world’s most breathtakingly beautiful ancient forests.

And now that too is gone.

~~  Ed Pilkington in McDowell County, West Virginia ~~

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

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

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

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

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

By WVDOE Disgusted on 04.20.2018

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

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

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

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

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

This is the WVBOE legacy.

By State BOE - dysfunctional is an understatement? on 04.16.2018

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

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Maybe Jimmy can pay some of his tax bills now?

By Justice, pay your tax bills! on 04.15.2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is, if you are up to it.

By Kanawha Reader on 04.15.2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Economist on 04.14.2018

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

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

By R. A. Beasley on 04.14.2018

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

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HaHaHaHaHaHaHa!

By Don't bring them to Gilmer! on 04.13.2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

By GCHS Parents on 04.12.2018

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

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

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

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

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

By Makin Arch Look Good on 04.09.2018

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

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

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

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

By R. Curry on 04.06.2018

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

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

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

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

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

By Appreciative Parent on 04.05.2018

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

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

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

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

That dissention was completely ignored by our failed state leadership.

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

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

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

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

By J.P. on 03.30.2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Gilmer County Teacher on 03.30.2018

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

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Public Service Commission is a joke.  Sorry.

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

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

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

West Virginians deserve better!

By West Virginia resident on 03.30.2018

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

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

By Rahul on 03.22.2018

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

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

By Marlea Cottrill on 03.19.2018

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

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

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

By Charleston Reader on 03.18.2018

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

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

By Brian and Montie VanNostrand on 03.17.2018

From the entry: 'Gary Don Williams'.

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

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

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

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

By Bill Williams on 03.16.2018

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

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

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

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

By B. Jones on 03.16.2018

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

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

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

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

By Brad got it mixed on 03.15.2018

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

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

By BangBang on 02.14.2018

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

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

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

Our prayers are with the family.

By Connie Turner on 02.10.2018

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

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

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

Keep the saws out of our state forests!

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

By Another Clueless Politician's Scheme on 02.10.2018

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

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

By Cookie Setty on 02.09.2018

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

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

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

By Question for Pres. Pellett on 02.07.2018

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

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

By And we Appreciate It on 02.02.2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Give 'em some $$$ ! on 02.01.2018

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

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

Or pay higher insurance premiums?

True/false?

By is it true? on 02.01.2018

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

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

By Nancy Rose Westfall on 01.31.2018

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

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

By Free Press on 01.31.2018

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

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

By Active Voter on 01.31.2018

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

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

By Gilmer Parents For Accountability on 01.29.2018

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

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

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

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

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

By Glenville Teachers on 01.29.2018

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

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

It does NOTHING to improve education!

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

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

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

By Troy Parent on 01.28.2018

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

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

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

By B. Beckett on 01.26.2018

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

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Reduce requirements.
Lower teacher standards.

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

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

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

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

By Failed State BOE on 01.18.2018

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

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

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

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

By Rusty Moore on 01.16.2018

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

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

By R. Wells on 01.16.2018

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

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

By Give Citizens The Facts on 01.14.2018

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

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

By Ugly on 01.10.2018

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

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

By Michell J. Hill on 01.07.2018

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

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

By Accountabilty Needed on 01.03.2018

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

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

By B. Post on 01.02.2018

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

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

By Dana Linger on 12.29.2017

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

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

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

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

By Parents For Better Leadership on 12.29.2017

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

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

By E. Moore on 12.28.2017

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

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Jeanette,
I am so sorry for your loss.

By Margie Shook on 12.18.2017

From the entry: 'Warren Curtis Pierce'.

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

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

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

By B. K. Brooks on 12.15.2017

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

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

By The Silent Majority on 12.15.2017

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

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

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

By HOW COME NOW ? on 12.14.2017

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

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

By Moore on 12.11.2017

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

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

By School Board Member In A Top Performing County on 12.10.2017

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

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

By Searching on 12.10.2017

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

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

By Gilmer Students Ripped Off on 12.08.2017

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

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

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

Sincerely

Pat McGroyne

By Pat McGroyne on 11.30.2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Web on 11.18.2017

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

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

By Skip Beyer on 11.18.2017

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

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

By Gilmer Voter on 11.16.2017

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

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

By More Of Same For WV Schools on 11.15.2017

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

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A food pantry opens at Marshall University?

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

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

Times area really tough in West Virginia.  Really are.

By Tough Times at Marshall University on 11.14.2017

From the entry: 'West Virginia News'.

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

By POGO on 11.13.2017

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

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

By reader on 11.12.2017

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

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

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

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

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

By 20 years of WVBOE 'playing' school on 11.12.2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

By WVDOE Fact Checker on 11.11.2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for nothing Jim Justice and the WV legislators.

By WEST VIRGINIA TAXPAYER on 11.10.2017

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

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

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

By Thank America's Rosie's ! on 11.10.2017

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

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

By GilmerCountyCommission? on 11.03.2017

From the entry: 'Did You Know?'.

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

By Answers Needed on 11.03.2017

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

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

By 304 More Issues on 11.02.2017

From the entry: 'Did You Know?'.

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

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

By Gilmer County Parents on 11.02.2017

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

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

By B. Cummings on 10.30.2017

From the entry: 'Did You Know?'.

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

By 304 on 10.30.2017

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

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