G-LtE™: Challenges in Public Education
As the new President of the board of Education in a State intervened county school system, I wish to share some thoughts on the state of our public schools and on some of the challenges we face now and in the years ahead.
The dynamics of any school system are extremely complex with many constituencies involved and many policy and legal constraints. You have probably noted in recent news releases that West Virginia has one of the most regulated and constrained public school systems in the country. With all the complexities in place plus the need to reach the students with the best educational experience we can provide, under the best circumstances we remain challenged to fulfill the needs of our public schools.
Hopefully, most of Gilmer County’s major issues will be identified and resolved in the near future. In the State’s Audit Report which triggered state intervention there were several citations which the state-appointed Superintendent is in the process of addressing. Additionally, the State Board of Education is looking to approve an Exit Management Plan for all intervened counties which will help clarify tasks which need to be completed for both the state and the counties involved. Perhaps Gilmer County will have part of its governance restored in the near future and we can get on with the business of administering our schools.
As a new President, I am committed to the need to move forward to provide a quality educational experience for the -students in the county. To do this, a vision for the future of our schools needs to be formulated, agreed upon, and understood by school officials and the general public. Better communication is an essential element in this important process. Superintendent Blankenship and I agree that we should hold town hall Board meetings in different locations in the county to let the public hear from the Board and the Board hear from the public. Quite often the information that circulates is the result of rumor, speculation and erroneous assumptions. It is not always possible to keep everyone accurately informed, but this Board will strive to have transparency with the public on school matters.
Our most immediate challenges involve getting governance of our schools back to the County Board of Education. We will work with the State Department of Education and the State Board of Education to accomplish this as expeditiously as possible. Also, we have a time line until November 01, 2012 to select the most suitable site for a new elementary school which will house approximately 400 students. While not a certainty, we will work with the School Building Authority to see if a health clinic could be a part of this project. The other facilities related issue is the inter-county school to be built at a Linn site. It is obvious that new governance procedures need to be placed in West Virginia code to make a fair and equal partnership of inter-county and multi-county schools. Before the new school opens at Linn, officials of Lewis and Gilmer County will need to agree on a new set of provisions.
As I am sure you are aware, public school systems across the country are facing financial challenges. In California systems are closing schools, consolidating schools and cutting up to twenty days off the school year. While the situation is not as grave in West Virginia, we are not exempt from the need to develop strategies to live within our budgets. Because of the loss of population in several rural counties in West Virginia there are school closures, school consolidations and reductions in staff under consideration. For example, the Harrison County Board while located in a fairly strong and healthy appearing economy is dealing with some of these difficult decisions.
Rural counties in our state have some of the most difficult challenges in dealing with lost student population. Here in Gilmer County we have lost significant student population over the last ten or so years. The geography of the county, however, remains the same. With the diminished numbers and shrinking funds, hard decisions are brought to those who have to manage this kind of situation. The Legislature has given counties like Gilmer a floor in student funding to allow time for the counties to develop management strategies to operate within the average funding levels for public schools throughout the state. While Gilmer County has approximately 931 students, we receive funding for 1400. With the financial challenges the state is facing they cannot continue this type of subsidy and therefore have notified counties that there will be a phase-out of these extra dollars over the next three or four years.
What does this mean for Gilmer County? It means that a plan has to be implemented to manage our schools with the funding generated by actual student enrollment in the near future. Not all schools can remain and streamlining must occur all around.
It will be imperative that the Board of Education, the Superintendent and the State Board of Education be totally transparent and forthright with parents, taxpayers and the general public as we all work through this necessary transition.
As counties face financial problems, there is also the need to be mindful of the need to improve qualifications of teaching and administrative personnel and raise our academic expectations for students as well.
Like growing a garden or creating a new structure the transition will not happen overnight. Gilmer County will get our facilities issues in order, our County back from the State and create a plan for the future and ultimately emerge with an improved educational program for our students. I encourage your support and participation as we move forward.
William K. Simmons
West Virginia is near the bottom in educational outcomes in the USA, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count Data Book.
West Virginia ranks 47th in the nation in the report’s education indicators.
Nearly four out of five of the state’s 8th graders (79%) are not proficient in math, and nearly three out of four 4th graders (73%) are not proficient in reading.
Joining West Virginia in the bottom five nationally are Arizona, Mississippi, New Mexico and Nevada.
This is the real problem and over twelve years of throwing money at consolidation,larger classrooms and more staff in Charleston has done little to nothing to fix it. In the meantime W.V. children fall behind. This is what the State D.O.E. should be addressing instead of flexing its political muscle and forcing counties to accept what is clearly not the answer to providing an inferior education. New buildings are nice but a quality education was provided by many one room schools. The success of their students proves that.
There has been a lot of well documented information put out by the GFP on these subjects. How people interpret it or if they read it at all can not be controlled. We need the authority of our Board of Ed returned and a Superintendent who will work with them to focus on what’s really important.
Comment by FGC on 08.07.2012
We wait, with great anticipation, for the people who have caused our educational train wreck to repair it ?
Comment by by anonymous on 08.07.2012
I agree that money is tight but I also know that no school consolidation or new building ever improved the quality of education for a district. Like “FGC” stated, one room schools provided excellent education. Now, with TV and internet, they could become the “school of the future” and save the state millions of dollars a year. However, it would take a real revision of state codes to do anything other than make a worse mess of things, wouldn’t it?
Comment by Karen Pennebaker on 08.07.2012
I don’t know what you call it, but definitely not democracy we claim to have. I know we can hope, but Dr. Simmons how could our education system get fixed when the very same people who broke it, and keep breaking it, are in charge of fixing it? They keep appointing each other as president and vice presidents at the state level while they are in for 10-year terms without the people’s vote? How could it get fixed if the parents do not give a hoot about their kids’ education? Parents need to get proactive about the education like they do it with sports. They need to show up to the meetings like they do with sports. They don’t even have to pay to get in the meetings like they do with sports.
Comment by Dick D on 08.07.2012
to Dick D. You are so right.
Look at the emphasis placed on sports at both our high school and our college.
Look at how the elite gang locally keep themselves in control both on the college foundation and the board of governors. Same names in control for a generation or more.
The game is played locally just as its played at the state level.
Educators are a like attorneys, doctors, etc. They all protect and cover for each other. They can all be very proud of their accomplishments, now can’t they? Thirty years of corruption has the sunshine on it now for all to see, both locally and state wide.
Those who are responsible for that corruption, are wringing their hands, looking to point fingers at the one to blame. The problem is they are all in the same blame game picture together.
What has happened in Charleston with the State DOE and BOE may well be the biggest political “power grab” in the history of West Virginia. Is the proof of this statement, the fact state news media has given little in depth coverage?
There is a big, big political story to the one who has the courage to cover it. Well, that is, uncover it.
Comment by anonymous on 08.07.2012
DD, since when does the State do anything based on solid economics to get the most for WV tax payers? In Gilmer there is confusion related to the total spent per pupil and it is claimed that we outspend the State average by as much as 50%. If we are funded for 1400 students and we only have 900 is that is one reason for an inflated amount? We wonder if Dr. Simmons would do a financial audit to tell us where we stand, including how much discretionary surplus we have if any, why we may need to continue with the existing school levy, and how taking Gilmer’s children to Linn will affect economics? We are in the dark with the mass confusion and the State’s refusal to communicate.
Comment by Sully on 08.08.2012
Funny when Dr. Simmons was running for the board he was for the little schools and now he is for just one! I think Gilmer only needed 2 grade schools from the beginning because there just is not enough kids in the county and not enough money. Gilmer in not a rich county and people just varely make it by as it is now!! People need to move on with the times. I just think it’s funny people thought he was going change things and now he’s going along with them.
Comment by KB on 08.08.2012
True Sully, would be good to know how much is being paid to Minnie Hamilton at this time to attend the current clinic room at the High School, what services they are permitted to provide and what level of personnel is there on a regular basis. Would it be the same thing if put in the Elementary School? Do they provide the malpractice insurance? It would be good to know. Are there are any federal programs that provide the funding. There is more knowledge needed on various issues than just scratching the surface can provide. These are questions the tax payers should have been informed about years ago. That old excess levy for the four schools needs to expire and a new levy request put to vote for funding dedicated to the new school.
Comment by More Transparency on 08.08.2012
Not until our Gilmer County School Board is brought together as an informed and cohesive unit free of takeover status will any of the problems be fixed. Mr. Blankenship, the budget for this year has not been published. No member of the board seems to have any financial information available other than a list of paid bills with no detail each month. No Gilmer County Board has ever approved one school or was ever presented with a copy of the facilities plan. No Gilmer County Board ever met and approved the intercounty school to be located in Lewis County. Everything done is at the state’s will and pleasure in backroom meetings giving no consideration to the needs of education which is supposed to be their whole purpose for existence.
How did we do on meeting AYP this year? Of course population will continue to decrease as the children are transported out of county. Blankenship already approved a large number to attend in Braxton county but they say they can’t take them. The Calhoun County Super says send them here, we’ll take them all. People are looking to get out of this state ruled gulag. Why should they stay if they have no say as to how their monies are spent? In my opinion, nothing should be done until an unbiased professional study is completed to assess how best to spend tax dollars to achieve a quality education for the children in the most cost effective manner. This is not the last year to request SBA funding. The CEFP can be modified.
Comment by Are We Rushing Things?FGC on 08.08.2012
Dr. Simmons, I do appreciate your interest in county school systems. As we discussed at a meeting in Morgantown all system takeovers are not one size in the OPEA seizures. I am a certified OPEA trained team member. There are so MANY variables to choose from that virtually any county in the state could be intervened. The ONE thing that I have seen in most interventions is the salient fact—board members who ask questions about what is the direction the DOE and SBA are trying to do in any county is a triggering mechanism. Suddenly, a seemingly functioning system turns sour overnight. Suddenly, if the newly elected board finds that the Legislative Rules. SBA contracts,mandates that only the state can wave, look out. I further believe getting control back is the primary answer. Either the code (18-2E-5) or the Constitution needs changed. Simply said, too much power, unbridled power, has been given to too few who have little or no oversight. Mr. Linger reportedly said it best at the state board meeting-we are spending too much on the wrong things for the wrong reasons for a 48th position in education in the US. At least, this my feeling about his response to Gov. Tomblin`s Efficiency Audit. Seven hundred fifty thousand dollars is a lot of money that could reap WV a respectable ed system if followed as suggested. As reportedly Ms. Manchin said `we’ are not capable of responding to the audit. The local board, even intervened, using the voices of the people of their county, putting children FIRST have power that is great. Keep your voices LOUD and clear. Together change wiil come.
Comment by william D. Duty on 08.22.2012
Thank you, thank you, thank you Mr. Duty! The people of Gilmer County truly appreciate your words of wisdom, your experience and your support of our struggle to regain control of our schools.
Comment by We Appreciate You Sir on 08.23.2012
Page 1 of 1 pages
Commenting is not available in this section entry.
<< Back to Main