A first look and a final look
The West Virginia School Boards Association (WVSBA) met for a regional meeting in Bridgeport on April 28 to get up to speed on how legislation from the 2022 WV Legislature Regular Session may affect our Upshur County School District, as well as 11 other counties making up Region 7: Barbour, Doddridge, Gilmer, Harrison, Lewis, Marion, Monongalia, Preston, Randolph, Taylor and Tucker counties.
I am pleased that Tammy Samples, Ed.D., serves as a state officer. She presided as WVSBA Vice President at our Region 7 Spring Training Session. Dr. Samples provides presidential leadership for our Upshur County Schools BOE. Though new BOE members are elected in the May election, our local BOE will have stability with President Dr. Samples and member Pat Long.
During my 12-year tenure, I served as a local representative for monthly Region 7 meetings until the West Virginia Legislature abolished us. I believe this was a tactical mistake of governance from Charleston. Our regional similarities as North Central counties had been well served by getting our school superintendents and board representatives together. Setting up pro-active bus driver education, which we accomplished as a region, is just one example of problem solving best done locally. In fact, Upshur County Transportation expertise served the Region 7 to train more drivers.
Another wonderful Region 7 offering this year will be Orientation 2022 for newly elected BOE members in the absolute splendor of Canaan Valley Resort, Davis, Tucker County. June 24 and 25 will just be a perfect date for all new members to come to our truly wild and wonderful terrain.
Let me communicate further with our Upshur County parents, guardians, and grandparents about some of the 293 bills that became law in our recent legislative Regular Session. As a BOE member, I have been surveying the 2,216 bills introduced and the 293 bills passed. Our focus remains on student safety. As a Mountaineer Physician, this is extremely important to me. The fact that we now have about 1,200 teacher vacancies that are very difficult to fill also concerns me greatly.
Bowles Rice Education Law Group shared their legal perspective on 10 new laws. I will briefly give you my considered opinion on a few of these:
1- The November election will have three amendments to our State Constitution to vote on. This may provide less money to run schools and create more legislative oversight from Charleston. Watch these carefully.
2- SB 704 - Allowing parents, custodians, and guardians to inspect instructional materials in classrooms. Certainly my parents exercised much oversight to the education of my four sisters and me. That fine tradition kept us on our toes. This is a welcome law.
3- HB 4600 - Making it a felony for a “Person in a Position of Trust” to assault, batter, or verbally abuse a child, or neglect to report abuse they witness. This strengthens the vital prohibition of child abuse and neglect. As a physician who treated Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, I know firsthand the lifelong harm such abuse can do to a defenseless child. My introduction to this came while I served as Medical Director for our Louis A. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Clarksburg. One day I attended a student research presentation at West Virginia Wesleyan College where Dr. Warner’s students reported there were 1,200 child protective service (CPS) referrals in one year in Upshur and Lewis counties. What a wake-up call to a major infliction of pain on our children and grandchildren! Like a Mother Bear, once awake I devoted 19 years of my life to fight that abuse and 12 years of service to the Upshur County Schools Board of Education helping our students stay safe.
However, June is my last month as an elected member of the BOE. I am pleased that Araceli, My Beloved, and I could serve together as we did throughout our professional career. She crossed to the Heavenly side of life May 17, 2021. Now my focus needs to be on grief and unfinished projects. However, I am glad for this first look in 2022 as a Lesson Learned about West Virginia Public Education. To those who follow, I ask for due diligence in carrying on.