The head of West Virginia's largest teachers union is wary of education reform plans that involve shifting more control to regional bodies.
Judy Hale, president of the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, said Monday she was optimistic about some ideas state Board of Education President Wade Linger recently presented to a group of legislators.
But she balked at the idea of asking Regional Educational Service Agencies, commonly referred to as RESAs, to provide teachers with professional development.
"What they do with professional development, they come out and they give you a PowerPoint. And they read a PowerPoint to you," Hale told Linger and legislators.
There are eight such agencies spread across the state. In theory, the agencies are to coordinate services between counties within their areas and also with the state Department of Education.
In practice, the services provided depend on the region itself, according to a statewide audit of the education system.
Released last January, the audit recommended more than 100 changes auditors believed could save the state money while helping schools and the department function efficiently and effectively. A large part of increasing the efficiency of the department involves shifting more responsibility to RESAs.
"The lack of a statewide, coordinated planning process for the RESAs creates a system that fosters independence but allows the RESAs to work in isolation, sometimes to the detriment of the entire system," the audit states.
The audit goes on to say a comprehensive plan of what is expected of RESAs would help the department and county school systems.
In its response to the audit, the state board agrees it could expand the duties of the RESAs. Compared to the Charleston-based department, the agencies are in a great position to provide professional development for teachers, Linger said Monday after the meeting.
In Hale's opinion, RESA personnel don't understand the training material or what teachers need to learn. Teachers themselves are better positioned to provide that training, she said.
"You have a cadre of teacher leaders in the building; they know that Mrs. Jones can't handle her classroom or needs work on classroom management," Hale told the legislative group.