Special Session Offers Opportunity for Change

May 17, 2010

 By West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Steven L. Paine

As state superintendent, I have spent a lot of time preparing and planning for this special session. These are historic times for our state and I believe lawmakers, educators, parents and others will set the stage for our future during the next week. Our state has a unique opportunity to create a public school system which is the envy of the country.

West Virginia has already had several educational successes, such as outperforming every other state on the Standards, Assessment and Accountability section of the Quality Counts report, receiving a nearly perfect score of 98.3; chalking up one of the top 10 spots for state preschool education, according to the annual survey of state-funded preschool programs; outscoring students in many other states in critical reading and writing on the SAT college entrance exam; and many others.

But we can do better. Because we can have a stronger educational system, the West Virginia Board of Education and the West Virginia Department of Education reached out to more than 2,000 teachers, parents, county board members and others to find out what really needs to be improved. At the core of our conversations were the students of our state. The outcome of the input resulted in It’s ALL About the Kids: Progressive Action Steps for West Virginia’s Education System http://wvde.state.wv.us/aboutthekids. The report, a comprehensive framework for the transformation of education in West Virginia, was presented to the Gov. Joe Manchin with 28 progressive suggestions for the special session.
The governor chose to further develop eight of the 28 suggestions. The eight pieces of legislation proposed by the governor will require sweeping legislative changes as well as policy changes.  Some will believe we have not gone far enough. Others will think we have gone too far.  Whatever your opinion, understand that the board’s and the department’s suggestions are for the kids. As a matter of fact, in the future we expect to discuss the suggestions that were not chosen by the governor for this session that comprise the remainder of the It’s ALL About the Kids report.     
 I have consistently said kids and their parents come first but those that work in the system, including teachers and principals, are a close second. Throughout all of my years in the state’s educational system, West Virginia teachers, when given the time and adequate resources, have exceeded expectations in every instance. When presented with any tasks, our teachers step up. When asked for help, our teachers lend a hand. When challenged, our teachers address the problem with thoughtfulness, dedication and an unwavering loyalty to students.
During this special session, I know that our teachers will provide guidance and solutions as legislators make sweeping changes to state education law.
The West Virginia Board of Education, the West Virginia Department of Education and I are grateful to the governor for his willingness to lead historic steps to improved public education. His vision will set the stage for the state’s future. That vision puts kids first and teachers and principals a close second, because we all believe its all about the kids.

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