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W.Va. simply must tackle school issues

The firing of the state superintendent of schools is all about change.

The state Board of Education fired the superintendent without following proper legal procedures. Later the board was criticized for how it awarded contracts.

While these situations were improper, they were used as diversions to keep the school board from addressing the problems within our educational system.

A Daily Mail editorial called these criticisms a "sideshow," adding: "The firing of a superintendent is not a tragedy. The failure of West Virginia's expensive public schools . . . is."

In a recent $750,000 independent audit of the West Virginia school system, auditors found many areas in which our schools have been sorely lacking when compared to other states.

Our state's per capita spending on education ranks eighth in the nation and our percentage of personal income spent on education ranks No. 1.

The audit found that West Virginia has the most bureaucratic school system in the nation. This has prohibited efforts by our governor and our legislators from bringing about changes needed in our public schools.

The audit pointed out that seniority protection of teachers has prohibited the most qualified teachers from being placed in the classroom. The study also called attention to the fact that principals lack the authority to place the best teachers in schools.

In a discussion of eliminating seniority as the primary criteria in determining a teacher's placement, board member Lowell Johnson, a former head of a teachers' union, said: "Taking out the seniority provision of the hiring law would make the teachers' union go crazy."

Priscilla Haden, also a board member at that time, said, "Given the union's influence, I wouldn't touch it."

According to news reports, Johnson ultimately persuaded the board to write a vague response to the audit's recommendation on seniority.

The audit was also critical of the prohibition of charter schools in West Virginia. It also did not approve of the state being unable to hire teachers with the Teach For America organization.

This national organization places teachers in the classroom who, through their education and real life experiences, have been found to be very effective teachers in other states.

Frank Deem

Vienna

Deem, owner of J. Frank Deem Oil & Gas in Parkersburg, served 30 years in the Legislature.


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