CHARLESTON, W.Va. – It came as no surprise to hundreds of early childhood educators that a longtime supporter of pre-kindergarten education received the 2013 West Virginia Champion of Universal Pre-K Award. Senator Robert Plymale (D-Wayne) has served as the chair of the Senate Education Committee since 2002 and is well known as a vocal advocate for early learning.
Plymale accepted the award during the annual Universal Pre-K Leadership Institute, a professional development opportunity offered jointly by the West Virginia Department of Education, West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR) and the West Virginia Head Start Collaboration Office.
"I am deeply touched by this honor,” said Plymale. “It's not lost on me that legislation is only as good as the people who implement the initiative. The Executive and Legislative branches of government owe the County Collaborative Early Childhood teams here today a big thank you for making our state very proud of your work and for that you deserve the recognition."
“I cannot think of a more deserving recipient of this award,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools James Phares. “Senator Plymale understands the importance of high-quality early education. Children who attend preschool learn valuable behavior and participatory skills. When they enter kindergarten, they have better pre-reading skills, richer vocabularies, and stronger basic math skills than those who do not attend preschool. Research also shows that high-quality pre-K can decrease dropout rates, crime and delinquency, and improve health. That’s important in a state like West Virginia where more than 50 percent of our public school students come from low-income homes.”
Award recipients are selected based on their historical work and continued dedication to the education of young children in West Virginia. The individual must illustrate a significant impact in West Virginia on pre-K as well as advocacy for high-quality, equitable programming across the state.
“Bob Plymale has been a friend and long time supporter of quality early education,” said Jeanette Barker, executive director of Playmates Preschools and Child Development Centers. “With his detailed understanding of education, the needs of working families and businesses in West Virginia, Bob spent many hours of planning, brainstorming with stakeholders, and working on legislative language to ensure collaboration, inclusion, and funding was included in a substantial manner during early education changes and pre-K implementation across the state.”
“Senator Plymale’s dedication to early childhood and patience with the difficulties of implementing a major new initiative led to our (pre-K) success,” added Kay Tilton, a former staff member of the WVDHHR Division of Early Care and Education. “I feel very sure he will forever remember that the needs of all young children are important.”
As chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Plymale has been a leading supporter of the Universal Pre-K program in West Virginia. He was instrumental in bringing public preschool, Head Start and child care together to most effectively provide comprehensive services to children and families across the state. West Virginia students are the beneficiaries of a progressive state law that required universal preschool to be available to all of the state’s 4-year-olds by the 2012-2013 school year. Enrollment figures indicate that 15,754 children attended pre-K programs across the state last year.
Senator Plymale is a graduate of Ceredo-Kenova High School in Wayne County. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Marshall University. He is the director and chief executive officer of the Rahall Transportation Institute in Huntington, West Virginia. Plymale leads a dynamic team of business, academic and research professionals working to enhance safety and economic development opportunities through transportation. Plymale also is the director of the Multimodal Transportation & Infrastructure Consortium (MTIC), a Tier I University Transportation Center led by Rahall Transportation Institute. Plymale serves in various public and community organizations including the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Cabell County Senior Service Organization and the Huntington Museum of Arts.
For more information, contact the West Virginia Department of Education at 304-558-2699.