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Eight W.Va. schools chosen for STEM network

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Eight W.Va. schools chosen for STEM network
By Lori Kersey, The Charleston Gazette-Mail

George Washington High School in Charleston is one of eight schools across the state picked to be a part of West Virginia’s first STEM Network Schools program.

The program was developed based on the recommendations from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Council.

“Together, these schools will help ‘raise the bar’ in STEM education and produce a model for statewide implication,” Amelia Courts, chief executive officer of the Education Alliance, said in a statement. “Throughout the next three years, the STEM Network Schools program will touch thousands of educators, families and students across the state.

“The Education Alliance looks forward to seeing the innovative ways these schools will enhance their instruction to make a long-term, measurable difference to educate and support West Virginia students.”

George Washington Principal George Aulenbacher said STEM has always been a part of education at GW. This program will help the school emphasize it more, he said.

“We’re just going to look at building kids’ thought-processes with more project-based learning,” Aulenbacher said. “We are doing that [now] but we’re just trying to figure out how to partner with area businesses, how to bring experts in the field into the classroom.”

Besides George Washington, the STEM Network Schools include Edison Middle School in Wood County, Greenbrier East High School in Greenbrier County, Sherrard Middle School in Marshall County, Spring Mills High School in Berkeley County, Tucker County High School in Tucker County, Warwood School in Ohio County and Wheeling Park High School in Ohio County. The eight schools will receive resources including $30,000 over three years and a STEM coordinator VISTA.

Sponsors for the program, which have put forth a $1 million investment, are the BelleJAR Foundation, the Chevron Foundation, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Ross Foundation and Southwestern Energy. The Education Alliance is coordinating the program.

Representatives from each of STEM Network Schools attended a training session Thursday at the Advanced Technology Center in the West Virginia Regional Technology Park in South Charleston. The three-year program starts this year with a planning period. Each school will develop a plan to enhance the schools’ current STEM efforts.

Thursday’s meeting was a chance for representatives of the school to network with each other and talk about ideas, Aulenbacher said. He said he wants students to know there are opportunities for careers in West Virginia in STEM fields.

“I want kids not just at GW but all around the state to know that there are opportunities to stay in West Virginia,” he said. “There are jobs out there. There’s opportunities to have good employment with a high school diploma, with a two-year degree and a 4-year degree.

“And I want to expose personally my 1,100 kids at GW to those opportunities,” he said.

Larry Malone, Tomblin’s director of policy, delivered remarks from the governor. Tomblin said he knows the value of STEM education to help students succeed.

“STEM education creates critical thinkers, problem-solvers, innovators and collaborators,” Tomblin said through Malone. “These are skills that are foundational to all careers particularly those we are creating in West Virginia for the 21st century.”

The state plans to add more than 25,000 STEM jobs by 2018, Tomblin said.

Charles Patton, president and chief operating officer for Appalachian Power, also is chairman of Tomblin’s STEM council.

Patton said within his company he expects a “mass exodus” of aging workers, from linemen to engineers, in the next five years. His company is not alone, he said.

“It’s important for this state to look at new ways to advance education and tie the education to the needs and the future of this state,” Patton said.