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Paine says social, emotional needs lead forum comments

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By Jeff Jenkins, WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A final report from the eight Department of Education-sponsored education reform public forums won’t be ready in time for Wednesday’s state Board of Education meeting.

State School Superintendent Dr. Steve Paine said they will talk about the forums but the final report is going to take a few weeks to put together. The mediation firm the department hired is working with Marshall University to put all of the comments together.

During a Monday appearance on MetroNews “Talkline,” Paine said nearly 2,000 state residents participated in the forums. He said one issue stood out at every meeting.

“Overwhelmingly there was almost unanimous support for social, emotional supports for students,” Paine said. “In other words, recognizing that kids are coming from some very, very difficult backgrounds and some of those needs need to be met before we can address their academic needs. That’s probably the one that stood out the most to me.”

SB 451, which died in the House of Delegates, included about $24 million in wrap-around services. Paine said he hopes that part of the bill is included in any new proposals lawmakers consider when they restart the special session on education reform which is currently in recess.

Paine said student achievement won’t improve until those “hierarchy of needs” are met.

“We need to take care of social, emotional needs. All of those need to be met before we can expect kids to perform better. Secondly, we need a good principal and good teachers in every single classroom. It takes everyone to see something through for 4 or 5 years with investment,” Paine said.

Two other issues in 451 weren’t as widely accepted at the forums. Paine said although he doesn’t have conclusive totals on how many people voiced approval or opposition on the controversial issues of education savings accounts and charter schools but he said, based on his unofficial listening, the overwhelming majority of those attending the forums don’t believe either is needed.

Nearly 100 state lawmakers attended the various forums, Paine said.

“They were intent on listening,” he said. “Some ideas and impressions may have been changed.”

Paine said, although he’s not sure what form the final report will be in, he wants to make sure it’s as transparent as the forums.

“We’ve been very, very transparent and objective in this whole process and we want to see that through to an objective analysis to all that we’ve collected in that final report. I think that’s very, very important,” he said.

Paine said the state Board of Education will talk about the results of a school system when it comes to education reform at Wednesday’s monthly meeting.