By Kennie Bass
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Contending the state board needs dedicated staffers to help members craft statewide policy, a director of operations and a full-time lawyer are now on the board's payroll, to the tune of $191,000. Despite the fact the state Department of Education already has two full-time lawyers making $185,000 that have always been at the board's disposal.
"She's (a lawyer) hired by the Department of Education," Gayle Manchin, President of the W.Va. Board of Education, said. "We're asking her about a policy issue which will affect the Department of Education and so she's, who is her boss? Well, her boss is the Department of Education."
Manchin contends the board is a separate entity from the education department and that's why it needs its own staffers. Teachers unions who have been critical of the hirings disagree.
"I've been around for 34 years," David Haney, the Executive Director of the West Virginia Education Association, said. "And in the 34 years, that I've been here I've always noticed that the state department, they have some very talented individuals who have always given the board, in our opinion, really, really good advice."
Manchin said the current board has been more active than past boards. And that the governor is asking the panel to do more. She said without dedicated staffers that would be impossible.
"Nine, normally, individual people with their own jobs, lives, cannot begin to collectively do the work," Manchin said. "There has to be a coordination. There has to be a staff."
By the time the hiring is finished there will be a quarter million dollars in new salaries on the board's payroll. It remains to be seen when and if that investment will show up as progress in West Virginia classrooms.
"I'm curious to see exactly why it's necessary for the board to hire three additional staff," Haney said. "And then the question is, how many more down the road? And exactly where does the state board see themselves going?"
"I just believe that it will add to the overall performance of what we're able to do in giving better direction and policy to the Department of Education," Manchin said.
The final hire to be made is a coordinator's position, which will pay between $72,000 and $79,000.