TOMBLIN MAKING EFFORT TO CONSOLIDATE COUNTY SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS - Rural WV Counties With Declining Enrollment Affected

(02/28/2013)

The legislature is undertaking work on West Virginia's school system, following a 2012 audit that highlighted numerous problems, and national education reports saying the state is among the nation's worst performing in the nation.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's education reform bill was introduced in both houses of the Legislature which is looking at streamlining the composition of West Virginia's 55 individual school districts.

The streamlining would likely affect the state's most rural counties like Calhoun, Wirt, Clay and Gilmer, whose budgets are most vulnerable to maintain adequate operating staff.

While most WV counties have seen a decline in student enrollment, the impact of the decline more severely felt in rural counties. Calhoun schools have seen a decline of well over 500 students since 2001.

See related story   CALHOUN SCHOOLS COULD FACE CUTS IN PERSONNEL - Declining Enrollment A Problem

Wirt County superintendent Dan Metz told state officials his county, the smallest in the state, operates with a handful of administrative staff.

Gov. Tomblin's proposal is to move toward regional or consolidated administrators and staff.

Meanwhile, other proposals linked to the state's education audit has brought resistance from the state teacher's union, including another effort to have 180 instructional days.

State education officials have long been saying they fixed the 180 issue, but few county school systems have been able to deliver 180 instructional days.

The bill is receiving bi-partisan support, although some Republicans say it falls short of "real reform."

"I think we need to go further, I don't think we address things like charter pay, merit pay, locality pay and truly returning control of the school system to the local entities, that's where education happens the best," said Senator Mitch Carmichael, a Republican from Jackson County.

There are several proposals in the bill, but the major issues deal with changing the way teachers are hired - seniority would no longer be as big a factor as it is now and faculty senates could weigh in on the candidates - it would also give counties more control of their calendar and require 180 days of instruction.

Some proposals linked to the state's education audit has brought resistance from the state teacher's union, including another effort to have 180 instructional days.

State education officials have long been saying they fixed the 180 issue, but few county school systems have been able to deliver 180 instructional days.

See ...   State schools eyeing cross-district administration   by Shay Maunz for the Charleston Daily Mail

And ...   Teachers unions blast Tomblin school reform bill   by Eric Eyre for the Charleston Gazette


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