"WHERE'S LLOYD?" - Jackson Shuns Lincoln Groundbreaking, State's Most Expensive School


By Dianne Weaver

The groundbreaking for the state's most expensive school, the $32 million high school for Lincoln County was held yesterday at Hamlin, but not without protest.

It may be the first such ribbon-cutting where county school members were not in attendance, nor was Lincoln County native and school consolidation architect Lloyd Jackson.

Jackson, a Democrat candidate for governor, is a former state senator and past member of the State Board of Education, who has fought hard for school consolidation, not only in Lincoln County but in West Virginia, closing hundreds of community schools.

"Where's Lloyd?", asked school board President Carol Smith.

"The new school should be named Jackson High," said Smith, who says the consolidated school will require some county students to be riding buses more than an hour-and-forty-five minutes one way.

"The school colors should be yellow and red," said Smith. "Yellow for not admitting this is a big mistake and red for the embarrassment it is causing," said Smith.

"Jackson is telling West Virginia voters school consolidation is a county choice," said Smith. "What a lie."

She acknowledged serious problems with public education in Lincoln County, but said "Building multi-million dollar buildings and busing kids for hours is not the answer."

The Lincoln system has been taken over by the Department of Education.

There were more people protesting the school's construction along the highway than attending the ribbon-cutting, excluding school kids which were bused to the site.

Political activist for small communities, Thomas Ramey said "Where we were standing for our protest yesterday, there are times the road is covered in five feet of water," referring to the access road to the new school.

"The money must talk. They are going to build the school on a site frequently cut off by flooding," said Ramey. "There isn't enough room on the lot to build a football field."

State school board officials attended the ribbon-cutting.

"After they closed our schools, one official told our rural parents complaining about the winding roads and long bus rides, they should just move closer to Hamlin," Ramey said.

Board president Smith said "The problems rests with the system's inability to support teachers, programs and deliver education to our kids."

"Distance Learning Centers, the computer age and closed-circuit TV makes it easier to deliver community education, rather than bus kids to big buildings," said Smith.

"I can assure you Lincoln County and dozens of other counties have been held hostage to build expensive new buildings that cost many times more to operate."

The promise to "save money" with centralization is a myth, she said.

"Nice buildings may seem important, but education begins and ends in small communities," she said. "Teachers, parents and community involvement have given the best results.

West Virginia has been on the bandwagon under Jackson's leadership in closing hundreds of community schools.

The new Lincoln school, besides the $32 million price tag, at least $10 million more of taxpayer money is being used for site preparation, all paid by West Virginia taxpayers.

The construction costs are about $50,000 per student.

Lincoln residents are continuing their fight to stop the construction of the consolidated school.

- Dianne Weaver is a member of Challenge WV which advocates for sustaining small communities and community-based schools