The eyes of the Mountain State were on Wheeling Tuesday night as education reform returned to the limelight.
A public meeting was held at Wheeling Park High School that allowed parents and teachers to tell education officials what they would like to see happen with the state’s education system. This was the seventh of eight forums officials are holding across the Mountain State.
Education has been a hot-button issue across West Virginia in 2019, from Senate Bill 451 to local matters.
The forum at Wheeling Park High School provided a opportunity for teachers, parents, community members and officials to discuss education reform. Those in attendance were able to participate in three or four small group discussions focused on school choice and innovation, instructional quality, social and emotional health, and funding.
The state’s highest-ranking education official believes that there was no other choice than to listen to the people.
“You know, after this legislative session, there was so much that was somewhat controversial that we felt like we needed to go out as a state board and as the State Superintendent of Schools and ask the people, ‘what do you want in terms of education reform?” said state Superintendent Dr. Steven L. Paine. Dr. Paine also said that he believes forums like this one are essential in the Mountain State.
Not only were State Board of Education members in attendance, but so were local politicians. While the state has come together to work on these issue now, some people believe this should have happened a long time ago.
“If this would have been done last year before Senate Bill 451 was basically just thrust upon the legislature, we probably wouldn’t be in a situation like we are today,” said Mike Ferro, a member of the Marshall County Commission. “But I think you can come up with some really good ideas that these teachers are going to have to improve education, to transform education, not necessarily reform it.”
More than 200 area residents pre-registered for the forum, with hundreds more registering shortly before it began. People of various professions were able to gather in small groups, focusing on one issue at a time.
“I think it makes sense to break them apart in terms of discussions and see how people feel about each one individually,” said Molly Aderholt, a member of the Ohio County Board of Education.
The eighth and final West Virginia public education forum is set for Wednesday night in Berkeley Springs.
If you were unable to attend any of the statewide education forums, don’t worry. The West Virginia Department of Education wants to hear from you.
If you want to provide feedback, you can fill out a survey, which you can access by clicking here.