Board aims to educate lawmaker on school system

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Board aims to educate lawmaker on school system
By James Blankenship | Posted: Saturday, December 19, 2015 5:00 am

PRINCETON — When the West Virginia Legislature reconvenes on Jan. 13, 2016, representatives including West Virginia Senate President and gubernatorial candidate Senator Bill Cole will be well-educated on the issues that weigh heavy on the minds of the Mercer County Board of Education.

A legislative panel met with the board ahead of the regular Board of Education meeting Tuesday to discuss education-based issues that might see debate under the Capitol dome later in the winter.

Superintendent Dr. Deborah Akers started off the meeting, and one point of discussion she focused on involved the absence policy for students in the county. Currently, the policy, she feels, is too loosely constructed and allows for manipulation of the rules. Cole informed the board that there is currently a bill up for debate targeting these issues.

Akers also wanted to raise the cap for students’ classroom size for sixth grade. Currently, Senate Bill 562 §18-5-18a, has set the ratio of one teacher for up to 25 pupils. Akers does not suggest that we change the limit for all grades, but just for the sixth grade.

“There are times when a class will have 26 or 27 students, and according to the current code, this requires the addition of more staff to assist with smaller classroom sizes. Due to the already-stressed teacher employment rate and budget cuts, it is difficult for schools to acquire extra staff for just a few extra students,” Akers said.

During the meeting, the board also expressed an interest in more local authority. “Currently, West Virginia is the most regulated state in the country when it comes to their school systems: right below Hawaii,” said Akers.

She went on to speak about how the Board has received negative feedback from the community, “We get a lot of criticism for not performing as we should. So, let us make some of our own choices,” Akers said.

Regarding other concerns from the board, Gregory Prudich spoke on the need for social workers in the school building, instead of spending their work days away at an office. His thought is the best way for social workers to be effective in assisting students is by having them in the school itself, instead of in an administrative center away from the students they are helping.

“The teachers are not equipped to deal with social issues. They are there to teach and help the children learn. The social workers are trained and certified to assist with the social issues and personal issues the children may be going through,” Prudich said. “This is the most efficient way to use this resource.”

Another topic that Prudich brought up was the procedure of training incoming teachers. “The process of educating our educators needs work,” he said. “Something that needs a focus is the fact that teachers are having more difficulty with knowing how to deal with parents and managing students.”

While many other topics were brought into the discussion, there was mention of the Common Core system. There was also a suggestion of providing more incentives for locally trained teachers to stay in the area.