Cumberland Times-News

January 31, 2013

Residents voice concerns to W.Va. lawmakers

Town hall-style meeting held at regional airport

Elaine Blaisdell
Cumberland Times-News

— WILEY FORD, W.Va. — Residents addressed a variety of legislative issues during a town hall meeting on Tuesday at the Greater Cumberland Regional Airport.

Delegate Gary Howell and Sen. Craig Blair fielded serval questions on education, including the recently completed statewide education audit. Howell said he doesn’t serve on the education committee but vowed to work with his colleagues to keep up to date.

“Education is a primary concern for Craig and myself. Education is paramount,” said Howell.  

The Education Efficiency Audit of West Virginia’s Primary and Secondary School System recommends 180 days of instruction for students. The 200-day employment term for educators and support staff would remain and there are restrictions on how those days can be scheduled, including that the beginning and ending dates of the term cannot exceed 43 weeks for support staff, according to the report.

There is a recommendation being proposed that would relieve the 43-week requirement and go to an all-year calendar similar to how Preston County schools operate, ac-cording to Howell.

“If the 43-week requirement was relieved, the school calendar could be moved around. Students could go further into the summer,” said Howell.

In addition to revising the state code to abolishing the 43-week limit, the education report is also recommending that the state code require districts to provide a minimum of 180 days per school year of instructional time, provide consequences for districts not meeting the requirement and that instructional time contain the minimal number of hours outlined in the state board policy.

“Time in school alone, however, will not improve student outcomes,” the report said. “What matters most is quality instructional time. That is why it is important for policymakers to consider requiring the right kind of time, not just mandating days in a school calendar.”

Howell is hoping that a special session on education is held so that he can get more involved.

“The education of children and getting it right is what’s most important,” said Howell.

One resident questioned whether there was a bill proposed that would restrict gun ownership, according to Howell. Howell indicated that he wasn’t aware of any and that if there was a bill he would vote against it. Howell said he is a lead sponsor of the West Virginia Firearms Freedom Acts (House Bill 2705). The bill would amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931 to exempt firearms, firearms accessories and ammunition from federal regulation if it is sold and maintained in the state of West Virginia. Other versions of the bill include Senate Bills 84 and 555.

Board of Education member Butch Wahl, who is also a classroom teacher at J.M. “Chick” Buckbee juvenile facility in Augusta, suggested a bill that would provide “a judicial road map” for juveniles, according to Howell. “There is no structured format that says juveniles will go to X facility after spending time in the regional jail. The kids get shifted around,” said Howell.

The town hall meeting at the airport was the second meeting of its kind. The first meeting was held on Jan. 22 at the Mineral County Courthouse.

“It was very informal. It was a great format for people to speak their mind and tell us what they wanted. I got a good amount of information,” said Howell.

Howell encouraged those who couldn’t attend the meetings to contact any of their local representatives with any concerns or questions.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.