Mark Manchin meets with Harrison school personnel

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By Roger Adkins
The Exponent Telegram

CLARKSBURG — Dr. Mark Manchin doesn’t plan to “come to Harrison County with a sledgehammer,” but he does plan to look at programs and make changes that are necessary.

Those were comments he made Wednesday during a meeting hosted by the Harrison County Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers — West Virginia. Those in attendance consisted of union members and others in the school system.

“I owe it to you not to come in and start beating up on things, but I also owe it to you to make sure you have the resources you need to be successful,” Manchin said.

Manchin told the group that he had no hidden agendas, and he does not believe there need to be sweeping changes at the school level. It is more likely that changes will occur at the central office, he said.

“Look, if they’re doing their job and furthering education in the county, they’ll be fine. If not, yeah, they can get a little nervous,” Manchin said. “If there are people who are not furthering education, eventually I will figure it out.”

Manchin was very responsive to questions, even if not everyone liked the answers, said Andrea Alfred, president of the Harrison County chapter.

“I had a couple concerns about his answers to questions about consolidation and alternative certification,” Alfred said.

Alternative certification allows individuals with a bachelor’s degree and no education specialization to receive teacher training from other organizations. Manchin said he believes alternative certification can help with West Virginia’s teacher shortage, but he believes it will be more useful in rural areas.

“I don’t think it’s much of an issue for Harrison County,” he said.

Manchin also said he was personally in favor of year-round schooling and school consolidation if it’s in the best interest of a school system.

“I think it would be foolish not to put these things on the table for discussion, but I want you to be part of that discussion,” he said.

Several individuals in attendance asked Manchin how he felt about boards of education that try to micromanage school systems.

In addition to direct experience in two previous superintendent positions, Manchin said he literally has experience with all 55 West Virginia boards of education.

“First, let me say that I respect this board. I don’t think I’m going to have any issues,” Manchin said. “I report to the board. Everyone else reports to me.”

However, in the past, Manchin said there have been times as a superintendent when he would not stand down on an issue with a board.

“I’ve had to say, 'You all hired me. Do you want me to run this county? Do you want to make this decision? You want to interfere with this one? How about all of them?’” Manchin said. “I’m not easily intimidated.”

Sara Frantz is a teacher at South Harrison High School. She said she was generally impressed with Manchin’s comments.

“It was good to hear it straight from him,” she said.