CHARLESTON, W.Va.-- Two West Side schools will receive thousands of free books, thanks to a partnership between one of the state's teachers unions and a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization.
The joint venture between the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers and First Book was announced at a gathering of state lawmakers and education and community leaders Monday.
The day began with a tour of the new West Side Elementary, which is being hailed as a cornerstone of progress in the community. Not only does the school feature much cutting-edge technology, but administrators also are exploring several initiatives to get parents more involved in the education of their children.
"Not only do we have people from our communities here in West Virginia, but today we are honored to have folks ... who share the same interest of making sure our children are properly educated and that they get the basics out there so they can be productive citizens back in our communities," acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said.
"That's what it's going to take to move West Virginia forward."
As part of the partnership, at least two books will be provided for every student at West Side Elementary and Stonewall Jackson Middle School. The union's state chapter was able to secure one of just five Innovation Fund grants offered through the national organization.
First Book, which specializes in placing age-appropriate materials in schools, will help select the books.
Librarians at each school will get another $1,500 for book purchases.
The Rev. Matthew Watts' HOPE Community Development Corp. helped gain the Innovation Fund grant.
Watts said poverty should not be an excuse for poor academic performance and West Virginia needs to rid itself of the stigma of being an uneducated state.
"We will produce a world-class education system, and people will come from near and far to see how we came from the bottom to the top," Watts said.
AFT President Randi Weingarten made it to Charleston despite travel difficulties caused by Hurricane Irene over the weekend. Judy Hale, the president of the state chapter, said Weingarten made a "herculean effort" to get there Monday morning.
Weingarten made it just in time to announce the partnership. She also emphasized the importance of connecting the school system to the local community, especially in places like the West Side.