March 20, 2009 - Volume 29 / Issue 11
|Day of Session||38th|
(Including agency/department rules bills)
Quote: “What audacity this committee has to write a bill to give superintendents the discretion to withhold (teachers’) pay. This is a bill we don’t think we can even work with in the House. This bill doesn’t get to the real problem. It’s the boards of education and the superintendents…” – West Virginia Federation of Teachers President Judy Hale discussing the Senate Finance Committee’s version of school calendar legislation adopted March 19.
- Bill to limit OPEB liability could be put off
- West Virginia Retiree Health Benefit Trust: Impact on Accrued Actuarial Liability of House Bill 2959 and Senate Bill 340 – WV OPEB Accrued Actuarial Liability
- Opposition mounts for teacher hiring bill
- Innovation zone bill clears House Education Committee despite some questions
- Discussion heats up over school calendar bill
- Opening up the process?
- Bill would set uniform dress code for teachers
- W. Va. chosen for national pilot school mental health project
- ADMINISTRATIVE PERSPECTIVE
- WVSBA BRIEFS
- LAST WORD
Bill to limit OPEB liability could be put off
By Jim Wallace
A bill to limit the liability caused by OPEB – other post-employment benefits – associated with health care insurance for retired public employees seemed to be sidetracked this week at in the House of Delegates. But it’s much too early to pronounce the demise of the concept presented by House Bill 2959, and its Senate counterpart moved a bit late in the week..
The House bill would prohibit subsidies for retiree premiums for health coverage provided through the Public Employees Insurance Agency for any person hired on or after Jan. 1, 2010. Currently, retirees’ premiums pay for only about one-third of the cost of their benefits, but under the bill, retirees would bear the full cost.
The idea is to cap and shrink the liability.
By prohibiting such a subsidy for future public employees, the bill would cap the OPEB liability created by the subsidy and cause it to dwindle over the next several decades. By contrast, actuaries for PEIA have projected that, if the subsidy is not ended, that OPEB liability will zoom steadily upward from about $7 billion now to more than $20 billion by 2032 and to more than $80 billion by 2066.
“Actually, it could be even worse, because it assumes the MAPD stays in place, which is speculative.” – Keith Huffman, PEIA’s general counsel
“Actually, it could be even worse, because it assumes the MAPD stays in place, which is speculative,” Keith Huffman, PEIA’s general counsel, said.
MAPD is the Medicare Advantage prescription drug plan to which PEIA switched coverage for about 37,000 retirees in 2007. PEIA Director Ted Cheatham told the House Education Committee last week that the MAPD switch initially reduced the OPEB liability by about $50 million, but that savings is gone and the liability was increasing again.
Following federal and state guidelines, PEIA has been billing school boards and other governmental bodies for their shares of the OPEB liability but has not required them to pay those bills yet. However, many people are afraid that a court ruling or other governmental action in the future might require payment.
Issue could be sent for study in an interim committee.
When House Bill 2959 came before the House Pensions and Retirement Committee this week, Chairwoman Sharon Spencer, D-Kanawha, assigned it to a subcommittee.
People in the education community are saying that some legislators want to put off the proposal in the current legislative session and assign it to an interim committee to study during the months leading up to the Legislature’s 2010 regular session.
Late in the week, a subcommittee of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee sent the Senate bill that would eliminate the PEIA retiree subsidy to the full committee without recommendation. It is expected to go on to the Senate Finance Committee next week.
The governor’s office is reportedly pushing for action on the OPEB liability this session, so it is too soon to say will happen with it in the next few weeks, even though the proposal is getting a lukewarm reception from many lawmakers...
Prospects for casual deficit bill look good.
Meanwhile, Senate Bill 258, which deals with casual deficits, has received some attention this week and many observers believe it has a good chance to pass. The bill would clarify that members of local fiscal bodies would not be held personally or criminally liable for deficits caused by the unfunded actuarial, accrued OPEB liability beyond the required minimum annual employer premium payments.
There was much discussion this week about what the exact wording of the bill should be, but the concept seems to have strong support.
Jim Wallace is a former government reporter for the Charleston Daily Mail and former news director of West Virginia Public Radio. He now works for TSG Consulting in Charleston and writes for several national and West Virginia publications.
West Virginia Retiree Health Benefit Trust: Impact on Accrued Actuarial Liability of House Bill 2959 and Senate Bill 340 – WV OPEB Accrued Actuarial Liability
Opposition mounts for teacher hiring bill
By Jim Wallace
A bill to give school districts more flexibility in hiring teachers is expected to fare well in the Senate but have difficulty getting through the House of Delegates.
Senate Bill 513 (also House Bill 3006) was recommended by Gov. Manchin after it was proposed by the 21st Century Jobs Cabinet, which is co-chaired by First Lady Gayle Manchin and Ralph Baxter. In a commentary elsewhere in this issue, they wrote that the cabinet debated rules for hiring teachers for almost a year and decided that some of those rules are outdated.
“A school-level interview in which applicants must present themselves and their qualifications to the employer – as any jobseeker in any profession would be required to do – is neither a mandatory nor a scored element in determining teacher selections.” – Gayle Manchin and Ralph Baxter
The cabinet’s main concern is that the rules “make the ultimate measure of a teacher’s professional competence not demonstrated student success but number of years in service,” Manchin and Baxter wrote. “A school-level interview in which applicants must present themselves and their qualifications to the employer – as any jobseeker in any profession would be required to do – is neither a mandatory nor a scored element in determining teacher selections. The new law proposes a single set of hiring criteria that recognizes teacher experience but requires teacher excellence.”
Personnel directors requested the changes.
The origins of the bill go back to school system personnel directors, because many of them saw a need to revise portions of the law affecting their work.
“Our rationale is…seniority is not everything.” – Sandra Rupert of Cabell County schools
“Our rationale is – given the skills needed in the 21st century – seniority is not everything,” Sandra Rupert, personnel director for the Cabell County schools, said. Giving superintendents and school boards more flexibility in hiring decisions would allow them to make sure that candidates’ talents and skills mesh with the needs of their schools, she said.
Rupert said that, because of the emphasis on seniority under current law, one West Virginia school system had to forego hiring a former Teacher of the Year from a neighboring state when a candidate with more seniority applied for the same position.
Senate Education Chairman Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, chaired the work group that developed the proposal for the Jobs Cabinet. He hopes to move the bill in the Senate.
“Obviously, I support most elements of it, and we’re going to try to come up with something so that we’ll be able to bring a bill out to the committee,” he said.
Critics warn it would take the system in the wrong direction.
But critics of the bill, including union leaders and House Education Chairwoman Mary Poling, D-Barbour, view the bill as a step backwards.
“I had voted against it as a member of the Jobs Cabinet and a member of the work group,” Poling said. “I’m always open-minded as to what comes to us from the Senate, but there are a lot of concerns about the proposal.”
Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, said the bill would take West Virginia “back to the days of nepotism and cronyism.” He said too much discretion would be left to superintendents.
“But to have something subjective like this just lends itself to more and more legal battles and to more grievances.” – WVEA President Dale Lee
“We’re certainly willing to have discussions, and we want to ensure that the most qualified person receives positions,” Lee said. “But to have something subjective like this just lends itself to more and more legal battles and to more grievances. While the system we have now is not perfect – and we’re the first to say that it does have some problems – this one lends itself to a lot more litigation than we would have currently.”
Judy Hale, president of the West Virginia chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, also said the bill could lead to a reversion to nepotism and cronyism, so her union opposes it. She said there could be some merit to adding other elements to the hiring process, such as teachers’ technological skills, but the bill would give too much discretion to superintendents.
House Education chairwoman says bill is off base.
“So there’s a lot of misrepresentation about the criteria in place that were certainly put there in an age when cronyism and nepotism ruled what happened in the schools.” – House Education Chairwoman Mary Poling
Poling said the premise of the bill seems to misrepresent the criteria used for hiring teachers. Those criteria include certification, degrees, experience and evaluations, among others.
“It’s being represented that people are hired entirely based on seniority, and it’s just one of seven criteria,” Poling said. “So there’s a lot of misrepresentation about the criteria in place that were certainly put there in an age when cronyism and nepotism ruled what happened in the schools.”
The West Virginia School Service Personnel Association is also concerned about the bill, not so much for how it would affect association members now but for what might be ahead.
“We’re concerned that if they come after teacher seniority this year, we’re probably next,” Bob Brown, association executive director, said. “So from that perspective, we are watching the bill closely. We’re going to oppose the legislation.”
Given the stances of Plymale and Poling, the proposal to change hiring standards is expected to have a good chance of getting through the Senate but not in the House.
“I don’t think it has a snowball’s chance on the House side.” – Bob Brown of WVSSPA
“I think it has traction on the Senate side,” Brown said. “I don’t think it has a snowball’s chance on the House side.”
But Plymale doesn’t let that concern him.
“I can’t worry about what happens on the House [side],” he said. “I just have to worry about what happens on the Senate [side].”
Jim Wallace is a former government reporter for the Charleston Daily Mail and former news director of West Virginia Public Radio. He now works for TSG Consulting in Charleston and writes for several national and West Virginia publications.
Innovation zone bill clears House Education Committee despite some questions
By Jim Wallace
Members of the House Education Committee had many questions about how a bill to establish school innovation zones would work, but they approved it unanimously on Tuesday.
House Bill 2836, which was among Gov. Manchin’s legislative proposals, would allow local educators to develop models for making improvements that would be consistent with 21st century learning practices. The proposals for innovations would be expected to come from teachers rather than administrators.
The bill includes provisions for ensuring a high level of support among employees at any school that establishes itself as an innovation zone. But several delegates were uncertain how that would work.
Questions emerge on teacher transfers.
In particular, some delegates were confused by a provision that requires 80 percent approval among a school’s employees for an innovation zone to be established and another that provides for transferring employees that oppose the innovation zone concept. Delegate John Shott, R-Mercer, suggested there might be grounds for a grievance if an employee opposed to the innovation zone were not transferred to another school.
“This thing is somewhat flawed.” – Delegate Woody Ireland
“This thing is somewhat flawed,” Delegate Woody Ireland, R-Ritchie said, suggesting that an employee might have to apply for a transfer before knowing whether an innovation zone plan will be instituted. “Now you are forcing me out before you know if the process is going to go through.”
Ireland also wondered how the bill might affect seniority. Staff attorney David Mohr said seniority rules would still apply when filling a vacancy. In addition, he said the process of establishing an innovation zone is long enough that teachers should have enough time to adjust to proposed changes.
Federal funding could depend on bill.
Jan Barth of the Office of Assessment/Accountability at the Department of Education said the process includes a full year of preparation for changes. She also said the innovation zone bill could help several West Virginia schools get portions of about $650 million in federal money for 21st century school innovations.
Delegate David Perry, D-Fayette, directed a line of questions at Delegate Stan Shaver, D-Preston, and chairman of a subcommittee that considered the innovation zone bill, to clarify some issues for fellow committee members. For example, Shaver confirmed that education employee unions are in support of the bill. He also confirmed that the rules for the program have not yet been set, but the bill is needed to get some of the federal funding.
“To not do this could jeopardize the federal funding.” – Delegate Stan Shaver said.
“To not do this could jeopardize the federal funding,” Shaver said.
House Education Chairwoman Mary Poling, D-Barbour, said much federal money could be directed to education reform, and she considers the innovation zone proposal a type of “controlled reform.”
Doubts don’t prevent strong support.
Despite his earlier misgivings, Ireland called the innovation zone bill “an excellent idea” and urged its approval. “Praise Jesus,” Education Vice-Chairman Brady Paxton, D-Putnam, responded to Ireland’s comment.
The committee approved the bill unanimously. Poling explained that the bill would not have to go through the House Finance Committee, even though Gov. Manchin has requested $500,000 for planning grants for the innovation zones. She said the Finance Committee has agreed to leave that appropriation in the governor’s budget, so the innovation zone bill could go directly to the House floor.
Also at the meeting, the committee originated a bill to establish the Science and Research Council, which would provide expertise and guidance in science and technology research at state colleges and universities. Another higher education bill approved by the committee – House Bill 2241 – deals with credit card solicitation on college campuses.
-- Jim Wallace is a former government reporter for the Charleston Daily Mail and former news director of West Virginia Public Radio. He now works for TSG Consulting in Charleston and writes for several national and West Virginia publications.
Discussion heats up over school calendar bill
The Senate Finance Committee passed a bill Thursday that changes the current school calendar to ensure students get 180 instructional days in the classroom. But the heads of the state's two teacher's unions are not happy.
The unions and the Senate Education Committee worked out a bill that seemed to satisfy both earlier this month. But during Thursday's Finance Committee meeting, Senate Education Chairman Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, introduced amendments to the bill.
The changes include ending the first semester no later than December 23rd, allowing a school system to begin class before August 26th and go past June 8th to meet 180 instructional days, and moving all six Out-of-School Environment days, or OSEs, to after February 1st. And the most controversial change is that teachers would not be paid for days when school is cancelled in their counties before 6 a.m. Instead, they would be paid for the make-up days. However, their pay structure would not be disrupted.
Changes are intended to reduce costs.
Plymale told his fellow committee members the changes had been made to save money. The bill senators came up with in the Education Committee would have cost the state and counties $10 million, he said, but with the amendments, it costs nothing.
"Do you think you should be paid on a day when you don't show up for work?" – Sen. Erik Wells
The debate over unpaid days got heated at times. Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanawha, asked West Virginia Federation of Teachers President Judy Hale, "Do you think you should be paid on a day when you don't show up for work?"
Hale fired back, "Are you going to argue about the pay of teachers?"
Wells repeated, "That's not my question. Should you be paid for a day you do not work?"
Plymale’s amendments were approved.
Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, said the bill isn’t perfect. "I don't know if this is the best way to do it, but it's the way it's before us right now to consider,” he said. “And until others come up with alternative ways of approaching it, we have to act on it.”
The bill now moves to the floor of the Senate, where it's expected to be voted on next week.
Hale angrily said after the meeting the changes were unwarranted and sprung as a surprise. "The bill was completely rewritten overnight,” she said. “It's a horrible bill. It won't work.”
“It's a horrible bill. It won't work.” – Judy Hale of the American Federation of Teachers
West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said not paying teachers when class is cancelled is just wrong. "They're still working on lesson plans,” he maintained. “They're adjusting lesson plans. They're grading papers.”
Lee said the bill doesn't match up with the House version. He believes there will have to be a compromise between both bodies to pass any sort of meaningful legislation dealing with the 180 instructional days this session.
This story from the MetroNews radio network was used by permission.
Opening up the process?
Gov. Joe Manchin says he is willing to consider collective bargaining as an option for public employees, including school teachers.
"I just think there has to be a better way to run government." – Gov. Manchin"I just think there has to be a better way to run government," the governor said on Wednesday's MetroNews Talkline. He said implementing collective bargaining would allow the state to negotiate with workers and their representatives directly on wages and benefits.
"It is easier, in my estimation, if we had an open process to sit down and talk and make adjustments and changes through a bargaining agreement than it is through the codification of law, repealing laws," the governor said.
Right now, Manchin said, he and his administration are hamstrung by the many, many work rules the Legislature has approved over the years. Lawmakers spend a lot of time each legislative session deciding on pay raises and benefits, issues that could be addressed at the bargaining table if changes are made.
Labor is on board.
West Virginia AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue said labor leaders have been in talks with the governor about collective bargaining for a while now.
“Right now, there are a lot of things that he would like to do in state government that he's unable to do and this would allow the process to happen." -- Kenny Perdue of AFL-CIO
"He sees an opportunity to be able to manage state government in a different way, and run it, as he says, like a business,” Perdue said. “Right now, there are a lot of things that he would like to do in state government that he's unable to do and this would allow the process to happen."
The AFL-CIO is supporting a collective bargaining bill that's been introduced in the state Senate. The first stop for that proposal is the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Manchin said it's time to, at least, get a discussion going. "I don't have all my questions answered, but am I open to sitting down and talking and looking," he said.
This story from the MetroNews radio network was used by permission
Bill would set uniform dress code for teachers
By Jim Wallace
Two senators stirred up a bit of controversy this week with the introduction of a bill to establish a dress code for teachers.
Sen. Ed Bowman, D-Hancock, told the Register-Herald of Beckley that he has seen some teachers with “questionable” dress, such as sweatshirts and boots. He said they should dress “in a respectful manner” for the benefit of the students.
Two senators are behind it.
Bowman and Sen. Frank Deem, R-Wood, sponsored the legislation, Senate Bill 602. It would require the state school board to promulgate rules to require county school boards to implement a dress code that would be uniform throughout the state beginning with the next school year.
The bill has two minimal provisions:
- The state board may create an advisory committee comprised of teachers, school employees, parents and students for the purpose of making recommendations on the dress code; and
- The state board shall allow certain casual or “dress-down” days for pep rallies, school parties, school dances and for preparing classrooms at the beginning and end of the school year.
At least one committee will consider it.
The bill has been assigned to the Senate Education Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Bob Plymale, D-Wayne. “We’re going to put it on the agenda,” he said.
Judy Hale, president of the American Federation of Teachers in West Virginia, hopes it doesn’t go too far. She thinks it’s not a good idea for the Legislature to impose rules like a dress code on teachers across the state.
W.Va. chosen for national pilot school mental health project
West Virginia has been chosen by the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care as the pilot state for its School Mental Health Capacity-Building Training Initiative. The project will provide training and ongoing technical assistance to maintain and expand high-quality school mental health services statewide.
West Virginia was chosen from among 10 states because of its capacity and potential for advancing school mental health efforts, Laura Hurwitz, director of school mental health at the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care (NASBHC), said.
“If we want children to be successful in school, we first must make sure they are emotionally healthy.” – Supt. Steve Paine
“So many children go without proper medical care, including mental health services, because their parents, through no fault of their own, cannot afford insurance needed to cover such expenses,” state Superintendent Steve Paine said. “We are honored that West Virginia has been recognized for its efforts to help children in this arena. If we want children to be successful in school, we first must make sure they are emotionally healthy.”
The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) is working in conjunction with the Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities, the Bureau for Public Health, the School Health Technical Assistance Center at Marshall University, the School-Based Health Assembly, and Legal Aid of West Virginia’s Family Advocacy, Support and Training (FAST) program.
Program would build on what West Virginia has already done.
“It is our intention to integrate the knowledge and experience of West Virginia into our future capacity-building activities for other states.” – Laura Hurwitz
“It is clear from the accomplishments that West Virginia has already made in school mental health that not only are they well positioned to make significant gains from the initiative but that NASBHC will learn from their accomplishments,” Hurwitz said. “It is our intention to integrate the knowledge and experience of West Virginia into our future capacity-building activities for other states.”
Melanie Purkey, director of the WVDE’s Office of Healthy Schools, said the project will enhance current collaborations between the Department of Education and the Children’s Division of the Bureau for Behavioral Health.
“We are very excited to have been selected for this project and are looking forward to learning from the trainers and working with others in the state to address this very critical need,” Purkey said.
The School Mental Health Capacity Building Partnership is part of a national initiative made possible through a five-year cooperative agreement between NASBHC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Adolescent and School Health. Additional support for the initiative is provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
For more information, contact the Office of Communications at (304) 558-2699.
School calendar legislation moving; expect some changes on the House side; Bills also address innovation zones, coaches and OPEB
By Martha Dean, Ed.D.
There are several bills that are on the move in both houses this week that impact education. Some of them have substantial implications for schools, and I will concentrate on three bills of importance.
House Bill 2836 has the short title, “School Innovation Zones Act.” Its purpose is to provide principals and teachers at schools that are approved as innovation zones with flexibility and control to meet the needs of a diverse population of students by allowing exceptions to policy, rule, or interpretive and statutory constraints that limit or prohibit implementation of an innovative approach.
The bill requires the state Board of Education to promulgate a rule providing for a process for schools to apply for designation as innovation zones, and, if designated, the process for submission and approval of innovation zone plans.
Governor has funded planning grants.
HB 2836 is the governor’s bill, and there is currently $500,000 in the governor’s budget for planning grants. The thought is that there would be around 10 schools awarded the designation and planning grants. The idea is to have the entire school committed to trying something new and different and to be committed to plan and work together to make it happen.
The bill would require a minimum of 80 percent positive vote from the employees at the school in order to gain approval. It also provides that employees who don’t want to participate have the option to request a transfer to another school and the board of education must make every reasonable effort to accommodate the request for transfer. If the transfer is not possible, 100 percent of the employees affected by the plan must vote in favor of plan approval. Other requirements include evidence of support by parents, students, the county board of education, the LSIC, and the school’s business partner.
The bill goes on to address some required components of the plan, what may not be excepted, such as the assessment program of the state, and some suggestions for what an innovation zone plan may include. If the state board approves the plan, all exceptions to state and county rules, policies and interpretations requested are approved. If an exception to a statute is requested, the state board may only approve it if the Legislature acts to grant the exception.
The innovation zones that are approved are to be reviewed by the state Board of Education at least annually. Upon a determination that adequate progress has not been made, the WVBE may revoke the school’s innovations zone designation. Committee Substitute for HB 2836 passed out of the full Education Committee in the House on Tuesday.
School calendar bill is moving.
SB 249 (the calendar bill) passed out of the Senate Education Committee and went to the Senate Finance Committee early in the session. It had contained the provision that teachers could make up snow days outside of the employment term of 200 days but that the county board would have to pay half of the salary and the Legislature would pay the other half. Senate Finance made several changes to the bill and considered it at the meeting on Thursday. The committee substitute that passed out of Senate Finance:
- Eliminates instructional support and enhancement days;
- Eliminates the earliest starting date and the latest ending date for the instructional term;
- Requires the first half of the instructional term to end on or before December 23;
- Requires at least three of certain non-instructional days be scheduled prior to the beginning of the instructional term;
- Clarifies that the seven holidays included as non-instructional days are days that must occur during the employment term;
- Requires all six Out-of-School Environment (OSE) days be scheduled after February 1;
- Changes the earliest dates a county can use non-instructional days and accrued instructional time to make up canceled instructional days to February 1;
- Requires uniform method of cancellation notification;
- Provides that certain cancelled instructional days be considered non-paid, out-of-calendar days and requires those days to be rescheduled;
- Provides for faculty senate meetings during specified months; and
- Allows the 43-week limit to be extended under certain conditions.
Both teacher unions are unhappy with the provisions of this bill. As a matter of fact, I understand that it angered Judy Hale, and she reportedly made some appalling comments during the committee meeting. Nevertheless, the bill passed unanimously.
One small amendment was made during the committee meeting by changing a “may” be paid to a “shall” be paid in accordance with the established pay period schedule in reference to the days that teachers would be required to make up after the originally established 200 day employment term. The idea was that the teachers would continue to receive their paychecks without modification; they would just have to make up the day missed at a later date.
This bill goes to the House when it passes the third reading in the Senate. I imagine there will be some changes made there. Your suggestions for improvement should go to the House Education Committee members as they begin their work.
Long-term coaches would have more security.
Senate Bill 57 was passed out of the Senate Education Committee on Thursday. This bill provides that, for non-professional coaches who have been employed a minimum of five years in the same position with good evaluations, their positions do not have to be advertised every year. In a sense, this provides continuing contract status for those coaches, which they have not had prior to this bill.
This bill has a couple of other provisions that would correct problematic situations. It removes United States citizenship from the requirement for granting a certificate. It also provides that a retiree may be employed as a coach up to three hours a day without this time being included in the calculation of the 140-day limit on the number of days a retiree can be employed without penalty.
Greenbrier County leaders want action on OPEB.
John Curry, superintendent of Greenbrier County, and his treasurer, David McClure, visited at the Legislature on Thursday. We enjoyed a lunch with Senator Jesse Guills and then were fortunate to get a short meeting with Delegate Tom Campbell, vice chair of the House Finance Committee.
We took the opportunity to discuss the Other Post Employment Benefits and have a renewed hope that something can be done this legislative session to help county boards be in a position where the liability for OPEB will no longer be a current liability showing up on the annual financial report and causing many counties to show a deficit. Keep tuned.
An alternative action being discussed is to get a resolution passed to create a study commission during the interims. We greatly prefer a legislative solution.
Additionally, Wood County Superintendent Bill Niday indicated to me that a bill that would help with the OPEB issue has been introduced in the Senate. It is Senate Bill 566. It is very short, and can be found on the legislative Web site (www.legis.state.wv.us). Urge your senators on the Education Committee to support this bill. It needs to pass out of Education, then Pensions, and then Finance.
Martha Dean, Ed.D.,is the executive director of the state School Administrators Association.
Former WVSBA President Madeline McDowell Blue Remembered
A memorial service was held Sunday, March 15, at Romney Presbyterian Church for former West Virginia School Board Association President Madeline McDowell Blue, who died March 13. As part of the service, letters from several state and local officials were read, including reflections from Gov. Joe Manchin and Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Robert Byrd.
Blue was a member of the Hampshire County Board of Education, serving consecutive terms from 1966 through 1992. She served as president of the WVSBA in 1980-1981. She was the first and only West Virginia county board member to have served on the National School Boards Association Board of Directors, representing NSBA’s Southern Region.
Center is one result of her work.
Blue was a moving force in the establishment of the Potomac Comprehensive Diagnostic and Guidance Center in Romney and for many years guided its development as a member or president of the board of directors. She was ardent in her support for and involvement in Hampshire County and Romney civic projects.
Over the years, Blue was active in local and statewide politics and was an ardent supporter of many Democratic candidates. She was the recipient of the Romney Rotary Club's “Knight of Old Hampshire” award in 1992, and was a member of the American Legion Auxiliary, Hampshire Unit 91, for 44 years.
As an active member of Romney Presbyterian Church, Blue was a member or leader of many lay renewal teams that visited Presbyterian churches in the eastern and southeastern states.
A child of Alabama, she spent most of her life in West Virginia.
Blue was the daughter of the late Angus and Madeline (Stanford) McDowell. She spent her childhood in Camden and Montgomery, Ala. As a young woman, she came to Romney to become a teacher of the deaf and lived there for the rest of her life. She taught students in the primary grades of the West Virginia School for the Deaf for 35 years.
In 1938, she married John Rinehart Blue. Following the death of her husband in 1965, she owned and operated the Romney Ben Franklin store until 1991. In addition to her husband, Blue was preceded in death by her sister, Ruth McDowell Kinnard. She is survived by her children: John A. Blue and his wife, Elizabeth, of Pasadena, Calif.; Julia T. Blue and her husband, Donald Weir, of Lutz, Fla.; and David S. Blue, of Washington, D.C. She also is survived by her granddaughter, Catherine W. Blue, of Houston, Texas.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the Madeline Blue Scholarship Fund, in care of: The Bank of Romney, P.O. Box 876, Romney, WV 26757, or to the Romney Presbyterian Church, 100 W. Rosemary Lane, Romney, WV 26757.
Applications available for WVU Holocaust summit
Fifth- through 12th-grade teachers from across the country are invited to attend a summer institute to learn about teaching human rights while covering the Holocaust and comparative genocides.
Fifteen West Virginia teachers will be chosen from those who apply for scholarships to the Holocaust and Comparative Genocide Teachers Institute, which is sponsored by West Virginia University and the West Virginia Humanities Council.
The institute, scheduled for June 14-22, will include four days of instruction at WVU in Morgantown, as well as a two-day excursion to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. It’s open to all, but the 15 scholarships are reserved for West Virginia teachers.
Attendees can earn graduate or professional credit. Teachers seeking the scholarship and $100 stipend must apply by March 25. Others may apply until April 1.
For more information and to obtain an application, contact Dr. Mary Haas at 304-293-4386 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Letter on Miner’s Day
I am writing in regards to a subject near and dear to the hearts of many Americans, and West Virginians in particular: miners.
In January of 2006, the Miner's Day Memorial Association of West Virginia, along with the support of thousands of other individuals, successfully petitioned the West Virginia Legislature to create a commemorative, statewide Miner's Day, which was achieved in Concurrent Resolution No. 32.
Now we are petitioning the United States Senate for a commemorative National Miner's Day, and seek your support, too.
For further information, please visit our Web sites at:
I hope that you will support this cause and assist us in our efforts for the creation of a commemorative National Miner's Day. And if you do, could you please inform the students, faculty and staff within the public schools of our endeavor? Perhaps it could be part of the commemoration of West Virginia Miner's Day and encourage recognition of the contribution of mine workers to the well being of society.
Thank you for your consideration of my request.
Roy Lee Cooke, President of the Miner's Day Memorial Association of West Virginia
(And one of the original "Rocket Boys")
Miner's Day Memorial Association of West Virginia
2009 Legislative Calendar
- √ Opening Day – Jan. 14, 2009: Organizational session to elect officers and open and publish election results (WV Const. Art. VI, §18).
- √ First Day -- Feb. 11, 2009: First day of session (WV Const. Art. VI, §18).
- √ 20th Day -- March 2, 2009: Submission of Legislative Rule-Making Review bills due (WV Code. §29A-3-12).
41st Day – March 23, 2009: Last day to introduce bills in the Senate and the House (Senate Rule 14)and (House Rule 91a). Does not apply to originating or supplementary appropriation bills. Does not apply to Senate or House resolutions or concurrent resolutions.
47th Day – March 29, 2009: Bills due out of committees in house of origin to ensure three full days for readings.
50th Day – April 1, 2009: Last day to consider bills on third reading in house of origin. Does not include budget or supplementary appropriation bills (Joint Rule 5b).
60th Day – April 11, 2009: Adjournment at midnight (WV Const. Art. VI, §22).
Source: West Virginia Legislature
Jobs Cabinet recommendations on teacher hiring practices
By Gayle C. Manchin and Ralph Baxter
The 21st Century Jobs Cabinet’s recent decision to endorse discrete changes to the teacher hiring code stems from the group’s overall commitment to teacher quality, as expressed in its “Global Vision for the 21st Century” compact, unanimously approved in 2006:
All West Virginia educators will have the professional training and skills to elicit 21st century knowledge and creative thinking, language and reasoning capacities in all learners. These educators will be recruited, compensated, and retained in ways that are competitive with other states and nations.
Concerns about teacher hiring regulations were raised and debated in the Cabinet for nearly a year, and finally adopted as a legislative priority because of recognition that “some aspects of the rules…may be out of date, especially in the current competitive job market for highly skilled college graduates and with the impending retirement of nearly a quarter of the teacher labor force.”
Work group with many interests developed the proposal.
The “Special Task group on Teacher Hiring Practices,” chaired by Senator Bob Plymale, was broadly inclusive, benefiting from the participation of the Legislature, Board of Education, local school districts, teacher unions and parents. The Department of Education and legislative staff provided technical assistance. The vote to approve the final package, which is now before the Legislature as Senate Bill 513/House Bill 3006, received the support of teachers, legislators, business leaders, and agency officials who are members of the Jobs Cabinet.
The task of the committee was to determine whether and how laws that require open positions to be made available and given to the most senior teachers in the system before they can be offered to other applicants disadvantage the state.
Districts are prohibited from making job offers to prospective teacher candidates in the spring, when the hiring season begins, and firm offers often are not extended until late in the summer. At the same time, other states are luring away the “best and brightest” of hometown graduates with attractive positions and signing terms.The committee found that these rules adversely affect both the hiring and retention of new teachers in West Virginia. Districts are prohibited from making job offers to prospective teacher candidates in the spring, when the hiring season begins, and firm offers often are not extended until late in the summer. At the same time, other states are luring away the “best and brightest” of hometown graduates with attractive positions and signing terms.
Senate Bill 513/House Bill 3006 addresses two aspects of the current system that threaten our common goal to ensure that we have the most qualified teachers in West Virginia classrooms.
Bill would make success with students more important.
The existing dual-hiring criteria allow local areas to consider a number of issues when evaluating a teacher’s qualifications, such as degrees earned, experience and performance evaluations, but make the ultimate measure of a teacher’s professional competence not demonstrated student success but number of years in service. A school-level interview in which applicants must present themselves and their qualifications to the employer—as any jobseeker in any profession would be required to do—is neither a mandatory nor a scored element in determining teacher selections. The new law proposes a single set of hiring criteria that recognizes teacher experience but requires teacher excellence.
The bill also makes changes to the timetable for posting and filling jobs so that West Virginia can recruit teacher candidates in a timely way.
The bill also makes changes to the timetable for posting and filling jobs so that West Virginia can recruit teacher candidates in a timely way.
The provisions of Senate Bill 513/House Bill 3006 are the recommendations of school personnel professionals about how to improve the system that they navigate every day. We believe that these modest, procedural changes introduce needed flexibility into that system while preserving its overall fairness and professionalism.
Gayle C. Manchin and Ralph Baxter are co-chairpersons of the 21st Century Jobs Cabinet.
Early school start and long commute times – Are there any consequences?
By George L. Zaldivar, M.D.
Intuitively, we know that there is a need for sufficient sleep. We have observed the deleterious behavioral changes caused by sleep deprivation. We have observed them in our children, spouses or have experienced them ourselves. Why then, should we not try to teach our children good sleep habits that minimize such deprivation? Sleep habits that will be useful to them through their lives.
Children may manifest sleep deprivation as either daytime excessive somnolence or fatigue, or as hyperactivity.
Children may manifest sleep deprivation as either daytime excessive somnolence or fatigue, or as hyperactivity. Excessive somnolence is easy to comprehend: The brain is fatigued and has the tendency to fall asleep at any time. But how to explain hyperactivity? To do so, we would have to plant ourselves in the social milieu of the child. While in school, it is not sociably acceptable to fall asleep during a class and be singled out by the teacher because of it. It may be more acceptable to adopt a “cooler” behavior of engaging in activities that will preclude sleep. Such behavior will result in the unfortunate consequence of class disruption.
Other common consequences of lack of sleep are the inability to retain advice or knowledge given by the spoken word. This will manifest itself by repeated failures to do homework, and apparent memory lapses, which will resemble a learning disability. In teenagers, sleep loss may result in risky behavior such as speeding while driving and the gambling tendency of risking future undesirable consequences of current rash, poorly considered actions.
Need for sleep varies by age.
Children 2 to 6 years of age need 13 hours of sleep. Ages 6 to 12 require 12, and ages 12 to 18 require 9 hours. How can such a large amount of time be allocated to sleep in a busy teenage life? The answer at times is difficult. Some teenagers work after school. Some have multiple school activities while trying to study. For a pre-teen the answer is not easier, but perhaps more within the parent’s ability to provide.
If the child or teen has to commute to school by long bus rides, the child or teen will have be up too early to meet his or her sleep needs.
A child must be routinely encouraged to go to his or her own room, which must be kept free of distraction, such as TV or games, at 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. Such early times may undesirably cut into the family time of working parents. A teenager must go to his or her distraction-free bedroom by 10 p.m. at the latest. But what about the wake-up time? Here is where school and commuting times are important. If the child or teen has to commute to school by long bus rides, the child or teen will have be up too early to meet his or her sleep needs. If, additionally, the student’s classes begin too early, as unfortunately now they routinely do, the sleep loss problem will be aggravated. Add to this the artificial manipulation of time by daylight savings, and the sleep loss and its consequences will be compounded.
To help students live up to their learning potential, schools must take into consideration the physiological needs as well as the social needs of their wards. Protecting their sleep will go a long way toward improving their ability to learn. Legislators must consider the financial stresses in the school system while helping the teachers teach and the students learn. Not an easy balancing act. Certainly, large schools may be more financially viable, but when the students live too far from the schools that they attend, their ability to rest and learn is impaired. A reasonable accommodation must be found.
George L. Zaldivar, M.D., is director of the Charleston Area Medical Center’s Sleep Center.
Meanwhile in Colorado...
It’s almost impossible to keep grade-school pupils from squirming in their chairs. But a growing number of school districts throughout the nation have hit on a solution. They’re seating the kids on big, rubbery exercise stability balls at their desks. By balancing their posteriors on the balls, the children work out their restlessness and they find they are able to concentrate better on their studies.
“The whole theory with the brain is that when your body’s engaged, your brain’s engaged,” Tiffany Miller, a fourth-grade teacher in Fort Collins, Col., said. She called it “actively sitting.”
Source: The Week, March 20, 2009, and other news media accounts.
“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” – John F. Kennedy, speech, Frankfurt, West Germany, June 25, 1963.
"I don't know if this is the best way to do it, but it's the way it's before us right now to consider. And until others come up with alternative ways of approaching it, we have to act on it.” – Sen. John Unger on the school calendar bill approved by the Senate Finance Committee
“Certainly, I can dress differently in a suit and tie as a high school teacher, but as a kindergarten teacher with five-year-olds running all around, I’m certainly not going to wear a suit and tie. As a phys-ed teacher, if I’m getting down on the floor and playing games with the kids and those types of things, I certainly can’t wear a suit and tie.” – WVEA President Dale Lee, speaking in opposition to a bill to establish a statewide dress code for teachers
“It’s being represented that people are hired entirely based on seniority, and it’s just one of seven criteria.” – House Education Chairwoman Mary Poling on why she thinks a bill to change teacher hiring standards is misguided
“Obviously, I support most elements of it, and we’re going to try to come up with something so that we’ll be able to bring a bill out to the committee.” Senate Education Chairman Bob Plymale on why he supports the bill
“While the system we have now is not perfect – and we’re the first to say that it does have some problems – this one lends itself to a lot more litigation than we would have currently.” – WVEA President Dale Lee on the teacher hiring standards bill.
“We’re concerned that if they come after teacher seniority this year, we’re probably next. So from that perspective, we are watching the bill closely. We’re going to oppose the legislation.” – WVSSPA Executive Director Bob Brown on why school service personnel are opposing changes in teacher hiring standards.
County board takeovers: Policy lessons learned regarding utilization of scarce resources amid cries of voter disenfranchisment Change in both places.
By Howard M. O’Cull, Ed.D.
I recently received a telephone call from a county board member who wanted to know why “we” have school boards in West Virginia.
As our conversation ended, she said, “Oh well, the last one out, turn off the lights.”
Two recent events aid in illustrating her point: the state Board of Education’s “takeover” of the Preston County School System and the non-renewal of the county superintendent’s contract in Gilmer County.
(Lest anyone draw any conclusions, the board member I cited in paragraph one is not associated with either of these counties.)
When the state Board of Education “takes over” a county school system, several reasons are often cited: Bad personnel practices, fiscal mismanagement, sloppy handling of county schools, hiring practices, etc.
The pattern is familiar.
Some WVBE critics, however, see takeover enterprises less in terms of magnanimous school system “rescues,” settling for a grittier interpretation, namely that the state Board of Education exercises such authority with casual regard for county boards who are simply trying to heed the will of local voters.
Critics see a process flawed from the get-go: Pick up previous reports from counties having been taken over by the state; cut-and-paste some well-honed verbiage here and there; add a little county-specific flavoring (the more egregious the better, particularly kids sleeping in class); throw in the vogue discourse or two about bad leadership, especially at the county board level; then toss in some really flavorful yet stringent rhetoric about school facilities, concentrating on the obvious conclusion that there are too many schools, and you have gotten clear, compelling justification for state board intervention.
Moreover, there have been complaints this is exactly the Office of Education Performance Audit’s approach – mechanistic, without nuance and wholly predictable once an audit team heads into a troubled county, based on WVBE behest. Indeed, OEPA has a specific mission. Given the excruciating detail the agency uses to make county board “evaluations,” even a stellar school board should not expect a picnic. In other words, some critics charge county boards, facing an OEPA visit, are more or less guilty until or unless vindicated by the state Board of Education after review of audit reports and recommendations.
Yet to blame OEPA for state takeovers misses the point: To what degree do locals bring it upon themselves?
To answer this question honestly, one must admit most educational issues in West Virginia revolve around centralized school system polity coupled with dictates of scarce resources.
In other words, some critics charge county boards, facing an OEPA visit, are more or less guilty until or unless vindicated by the state Board of Education after its review of audit reports and recommendations.Moreover, the order is not important. In fact, one could argue scarce resources – endemic of typically natural resource-rich, geographically-bound ‘mountain states’ – drives Charleston centralization. Centralization results in the achievement of a balance between competing interests with centralizers as its arbiters. If left to themselves, the “locals” might attempt or succeed in rearranging or even deracinating the status quo. If this were to occur, centralizers would be forced to respond to newly organized demands for redistributing resources in more populist terms. One need not run for cover; the above scenario is not going to play out in West Virginia.
Number of schools is often a key factor.
When we examine most takeover counties, the “real” issues revolve around policies and ends concerning scarce resources. In other words, “too many schools” usually becomes part and parcel of the OEPA pathology report.
We all know the routine: The locals don’t have the political will, as elected representatives of the public, to close unneeded schools and facilities. The state, looking from Charleston, espies the situation, and school merger and consolidation become the prescription, based on the scarce resources model.
Just look at Lincoln County, Mingo County and, to a degree, McDowell County.
Yes, each of these systems has or will benefit from new facilities – state-of-the art, efficient and top-notch.
The real issue is one of varying interests melded within the context of often competing local or state priorities, policies and dictates.But, as the board member inquired, at what costs in terms of the notion local county board governance matters – or county voter sentiment matters? She makes a point: If the state is going to substitute its judgment and “deny” - the caller’s term - the electorate the voice it has through local officials, why not just do away with county boards? That way, there would be no disenfranchisement – again, her words - and centralizers would be accountable to themselves.
But, of course, it’s not that simple: The real issue is one of varying interests melded within the context of often competing local or state priorities, policies and dictates. And, many locals contend they will lose each time.
Besides the myriad other issues justifiably resulting in the need for state intervention, including some writ large personnel and finance matters, I predict that the state board, in its foray into Preston County, will conclude school facilities are at least inferior – if not too many school facilities, too many schools, too many old buildings and the like. Rather than seeking creative ways to address these issues, as one state Board of Education member mentioned recently, the facilities prescription drawn from previous takeovers likely will be hauled out again.
Of course, there are other contextual factors: Preston County is large, geographically diverse, separated by various notions and cultures and has had a long history with school mergers, de-consolidation (dating to the 1970s) and an active contingent of small school advocates who are and have been quite effective. Moreover, they are no strangers to “high state” politics and politicians.
While no takeover is easy for most board members to swallow, the PCBOE president assures me the board “wants to work with the WVBE.” In fact, he sees the state takeover in positive terms and looks upon the intervention as a way to work the system out of its problems.
(This is the Jackson Doctrine coined after a notion made by former Sen. Lloyd Jackson, D-Lincoln, that locals cannot see the forest for the trees when the specter of state takeover looms. Provincial politics, personality cults, low-wattage leadership and similar factors prevent entrapped boards from climbing out of county messes. In the Preston situation, especially in terms of finances, the Jackson Doctrine proves trustworthy.)
For the Preston curative, the state board has chosen two experienced administrators who can guide the system through its difficulties. Finally, Preston County is far from Charleston news media outlets which, once upon a time, fanned the anti-centralization fervor in southern West Virginia takeover counties, selling many newspaper copies in a process which earned a Charleston Gazette reporter or two high awards.
Another county could get state attention.
To switch gears but only slightly, there are predictions Gilmer County is ripe for intervention.
Here is another stew comprised of local interests, demonstrated through elected county board members (at least a board majority), and state interests more fixed on efficiencies, rationality in terms of the “necessary” number of school buildings, the specter of scare dollars and, of course, allegedly “bad” county board leadership.
As in many of these situations, both county board members and county superintendents find themselves caught between so many competing parties, particularly the electorate – however amorphous – for the former and the often firm, resolved will of funders and centralizers for the latter. Amid all this swirl of activity, a county superintendent must keep teachers, schools, students and the system itself focused, first and foremost, on teaching and learning.
According to various sources, some Gilmer County leaders and residents are appealing for state takeover, probably because it would put the school board “in its place” and would allow for the economical benefits that come from rearranging schools or building a new school to replace older structures.Additionally, county superintendents, imbued with expertise as professional educators, have one- to four-year employment contracts with “employing” county boards, whose goals and policies may differ – although both the county board and superintendent, given divergent philosophies, will claim whatever they are doing is for the best interests of students. Not to be lost in this shuffle, superintendents also must circulate and work with various community interests some of whom have powerful reach. And, of course, there is the entire notion of scarce resources, including how to procure and sustain money from state interests whose objectives may differ from employing county boards.
According to various sources, some Gilmer County leaders and residents are appealing for state takeover, probably because it would put the school board “in its place” and would allow for the economical benefits that come from rearranging schools or building a new school to replace older structures.
Centralizers have an advantage.
This is West Virginia political scrappiness – a politics often appealing to centralizers who, if circumventing the county board and its claims of voter mandate, can pal around with community interests who appear to have real-time goals, often enunciated through long political reach, which just happen to converge with those of the centralizers.
In many counties, this is often the case – county board members easily run afoul of those who have, for years, “run” the county, whether it be courthouse or state politicians, moneyed interests, ‘big business’ or other influencers.
And, unlike a few years ago, persons representing “elite” county interests do not seek election to county boards, meaning many of today’s board members often claim the elusive ‘electorate’ as their loyalists or backers. In many ways, county board members who covet voter validation do so because they lack access to the substantive lode of influence community elites possess, including Charleston connections.
This set-up plays out in at least two ways: Elites often shun, as they have for millennia, persons, including elected officials, from the wrong end of small-town political tracks who believe in simple democracy – not meritocracy. Thus, these interests find it easier to attach themselves to centralizers rather than the ilk of county board members who, through no fault of their own, believe in simple voter will.
The ultimate design, of course, is to effectively eschew the county board, which can plead backing and support from voters, while county elites can claim the centralizers. Not being hide-bound to voter will, centralizers can more easily tackle issues local board members shun – school mergers for example.
Of course, county board members who find themselves in this mix often believe their role is to accommodate what they think or assume voters “want.” This notion presents its own trail of tears in that county board members may end up taking the easy political course while the system suffers in terms of finances, including “numbers over” that allowed by the Public School Support Program, squishy personnel decisionmaking, lax curricula and other ills – and then there’s Pauley v. Kelly and a host of additional factors, including state constitutional mandate. Lest one forget, there’s the Jackson Doctrine. Fair enough. Those observations, however, warrant another column.
Road ahead is rough.
County boards face a perilous future in West Virginia.
Yes, the state educational system could operate without county boards.
Yes, community elites often have best interests of their communities at heart. This is demonstrated through economic development, business expansion and community reinvestment.
Yes, the state concludes it has students’ best educational interests at heart, pointing to Lincoln County’s new high school as just one example, and the new school slated for Mingo County.
Yes, the great unwashed don’t always make good policy choices, but are their voices, as voters and constituents, shut out in state takeovers?Yes, the great unwashed don’t always make good policy choices, but are their voices, as voters and constituents, shut out in state takeovers?
No matter one’s response, the real issue is “who” will have greater sway regarding utilization of scarce resources? Even as a school board partisan, I know the odds favor the centralizers.
Howard O’Cull is executive director of the West Virginia School Board Association.
The Legislature is published by the West Virginia School Board Association. It provides county board of education members, state policymakers, school administrators and the education community information and opinions regarding West Virginia legislative issues. The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect official opinion or policies of the WVSBA, unless specifically stated.
West Virginia School Board Association
PO Box 1008
Charleston, WV 25324
Phone (304) 346-0571 • Fax (304) 346-0572 WVSBA.ORG
Richard Snuffer(Raleigh), President
Vincit omnia veritas
“Truth conquers all”