SCHOOL CHIEF SAYS STUDY HAS "FUNNY MATH" - Challenge WV Says: "We Used Their Numbers," School Head May Get $61,000 Raise

By Dianne Weaver

State Superintendent of Schools David Stewart says "Challenge West Virginia, a small-schools advocacy group, hired an out-of-state consultant to stir up some "funny math" regarding the number of school administrators in West Virginia and our students' test scores."

Stewart told the Charleston Daily Mail "Now it is time to set the record straight."

Stewart says there are fewer central office and school administrators now than 10 years ago.

Linda Martin of Challenge WV said "If there's funny math in the study, it is the State Department's funny math. Only their numbers were used."

There is no funny math in House Bill 4044 before the West Virginia Legislature to raise the state superintendent's salary to $202,000, in addition to significant salary increases for other state school officials.

State school board members are also trying to get on board with a monthly salary of $500 plus expenses, after they received $100 per meeting, averaging less than two per month.

Overall statistics show the state has remained stagnant in improving the education of the state's kids over a ten year period where school consolidation has been a major push. "There's nothing funny about that," said Martin.

"The promise of state officials was to cut costs with consolidation. Check the math on that," she said.

Stewart said the "Challenge West Virginia report also diluted the achievements of our students and our teachers. The 'funny math' used by Challenge is hurting our children, our teachers and our state's educational achievements."

Martin said the superintendent pulled some recent statistics to show that fourth graders and other groups have remained above the national average, ignoring the Challenge study that covered a ten year period.

"Challenge West Virginia appears to have been blinded by its cause. While trying to build their case against consolidation, its members are giving our students and our teachers a black eye," said Stewart.

"Challenge West Virginia exists for improving education, putting the efforts and money where it counts," said Martin. "Several of the state department's administrators make more money than the governor," she said. "We believe in spending the money on actual teaching and teachers, not building $30 million dollar high schools. "

Over a hundred Mingo County residents packed the Mingo County Board of Education meeting Wednesday night in Williamson in an effort to save three of the county's high schools from consolidation.

The group was led by Williamson Mayor Charles West. West plans to send a petition with nearly four-thousand signatures to the West Virginia Legislature in hopes lawmakers would allow them to vote on the issue.

West said the plan will destroy their communities and force children to endure long bus rides. The protest group said he state has held county school systems hostage withholding money, allowing school buildings to crumble and fail fire codes.

Challenge WV promotes smaller community based schools, which they say have better outcomes.

- Dianne Weaver is a member of Challenge WV, and is an advocate for small, community based schools.