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Thompson appoints education audit work group

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A year after Public Works LLC released an audit of the state's education system, House Speaker Rick Thompson has appointed nine delegates to a work group that will take a closer look at that audit.

"The education system in West Virginia is in the brink of an overhaul, and it is important that all members of the House of Delegates are up to date and knowledgeable of what the audit recommends and what is needed to improve upon our education environment here in the state," Thompson said in a statement. "As speaker of the House, I am charged with assisting each House member in making an informed decision."

Thompson went on to say that he is asking the group to obtain as much information as possible and become a resource for other delegates as the House considers legislation resulting from the audit "so we can build common ground now and hit the ground running."

Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha and Minority Leader, said improving the education system is key in moving the state forward.

"This session will provide us with an historic opportunity to improve education in our state, and I am confident that the members of this work group will put the needs of our children first and work toward making the changes necessary to achieve the best outcome for our students," Armstead said.

Thompson appointed the following delegates:

n Delegate David Perry, D-Fayette: Perry is a veteran educator with 23 years' experience as a principal. He also has sponsored several education bills while in the Legislature, including two adopted this year.

n Delegate Larry Williams, D-Preston: Williams has experience working on education-related legislation and is a former vice chairman and longstanding member of the House Education Committee. Before becoming a legislator, Williams served on the Preston County school board.

n Delegate Randy Swartzmiller, D-Hancock: Swartzmiller has participated in many school-related activities, including advocating for a local bond levy and has two children who have moved through the public school system.

n Delegate Doug Reynolds, D-Cabell: Reynolds also has two children in public schools and has publicly called for a more thorough examination of what the audit's findings really mean.

n Delegate Denise Campbell, D-Randolph: Campbell has a child with special needs, so she can bring a unique perspective to what is needed in the public school system, Thompson said. She is a nurse and nursing home administrator.

n Delegate Bill Anderson, R-Wood: Anderson is a teacher with 20 years' experience in the Legislature. He has been vocal in the past about education reform.

n Delegate Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan: Cowles is a businessman who understands the employment needs of business and appreciates how the school system must adjust to the changing job market, Thompson said. Cowles is a member of the House Finance Committee and has experience dealing with the school funding formula.

n Delegate Amanda Pasdon, R-Monongalia: Padson is a member of the House Education Committee and works as the business development director for the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, which has an interest in education reform.

n Delegate Eric Nelson, R-Kanwaha: Nelson is a businessman who deals with large West Virginia companies. He also is a longtime coach and knows how valuable teachers are and understands the need to properly train and retain them, Thompson said.

The 2013 Legislative session will begin in February. Thompson said he appointed the group now to give members time to gather information and talk with key players.

"I want this work group to have the time to hold discussions with every stakeholder to gain a full understanding of what changes are needed to make West Virginia's school system among the best in the country," Thompson said.