SHENANDOAH JUNCTION—A series of Town Hall meetings will be held in the county during the next few months to get the help of area teachers in making revisions to West Virginia codes 18 and 18-A, which govern education issues in the state.
The first meeting took place Thursday at the bus garage conference room. The meetings are the brainstorm of West Virginia House Delegate Wayne Clark, assistant majority whip, representing the 65th District. Clark was accompanied by fellow house delegate member Charles Horst, Sr., who represents the 62nd District. Both men, Republicans, are members of the house education committee.
“This is the first time something like this has been done concerning these codes,” Clark said. “The interim study (called the Education Priority Study) that comes from these meetings will determine what codes of Section18, and 18-A should and must be adjusted or removed to better allow our teachers to perform their jobs, evaluate our testing methods, adjust our evaluation methods for our teachers, principals and hopefully improve the overall education system in the state.”
Clark told teachers present at the meeting that he wanted to learn from them.
“I don’t live it like you do. I want to know what we should be doing,” Clark said.
The delegate sent emails to every teacher in the county. Teachers were asked to answer a series of 15 questions like: What event in your life directed you to become a teacher? Do you recall the feeling that you had on that first day you reported to work to begin your education career? Do you still have that feeling?
Jason Smith, a 10th grade teacher at Washington High School, said his students have told him they don’t want to be teachers.
“We aren’t doing anything to inspire them to be teachers. They tell me they don’t want to be poor,” Smith said.
Barbara Michaels, a teacher at Charles Town Middle School, said teachers don’t get respect as a profession.
“People are thrilled to tell you their son or daughter is a doctor or a lawyer but a teacher? Teachers are behind the eight ball,” Michaels said.
Clark held the multi-page code book up at the beginning of the meeting. Smith said it probably hadn’t been revised “in a hundred years.”
After the meeting, Michaels added that it reminded her of the 2,000-page Obama Care bill.
“Who reads all of it?” Michaels asked.
Clark said he didn’t want to discuss teacher salaries but the topic frequently came up. Teachers present said low teacher salaries made it hard to get new teachers and retain them. The lack of consistency caused by changes in personnel and the use of too many substitute teachers is harmful to the students.
Clark admitted that the location of Jefferson County made it a challenge.
“Teachers can just cross the border into Maryland and Virginia and make higher salaries. It’s a battle with other representatives in the Legislature who don’t have this problem in their districts,” Clark said.
The topic of the lack of parent participation came up.
“Teachers hear parents gripe about their kids or are blamed for problems and that’s all,” said one teacher who declined to be quoted.
“Again, we’re a commuting county. There are ‘absent’ parents who come home late from work and don’t get to help their kids,” Clark said.
Teachers also complained because they don’t have enough time for lesson planning or can’t get a “duty free” lunch time.
Although only five teachers attended Clark’s first meeting, he said other Town Hall meetings will take place through the fall. He hopes to meet with principals and other school administrators, too.
“In late fall, our collaborated information could then be compiled to determine which areas of Section 18-A we can begin improving on. We’ll then have a complete Omnibus Bill ready for introduction at the beginning of the 2022 Legislative session,” Clark said.