Leadership Symposium Early Bird Deadline Approaching | Join K-12 leaders nationwide for three days of empowering strategies, networking, and inspiration! Discounted pricing ends March 1. Register today.
Student Well-Being

Attendance ‘Mandatory’ For W. Va. Board

By Lisa Fine Goldstein — December 11, 2002 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

When Howard M. Persinger Jr. took over as the president of the West Virginia state board of education in October, he had one chief concern: If just two board members missed a meeting, the board would not be able to function.

With three vacancies, the nine-seat board barely had a quorum.

“I looked around and said, ‘We are a motley crew. But we are hard workers. We have the best interest of the children in mind,’” Mr. Persinger recalled. “But if someone gets sick and can’t make a meeting, you worry.”

West Virginia’s board saw its membership drop after its former president resigned amid a scandal, just two weeks after another member moved. A third member had stepped down several months earlier.

The board still isn’t whole. Thanks to a recent appointment by Gov. Bob Wise, though, it is down by only two members— unless you count Sheila Hamilton, whose term expired Nov. 4, but who is staying on the board until a replacement is found.

Sound confusing? Not to worry, said Mr. Persinger.

In his view, the vacancies haven’t caused any disruptions in overseeing the state’s 834 public elementary and secondary schools. To the contrary, he added, pointing out that the streamlined board has taken the lead on several issues.

For example, the board demanded an investigation recently into allegations that state education department employees may have arranged special deals for a contractor and classroom- furniture supplier after the 2001 floods in McDowell and Wyoming counties. Subsequently, state schools Superintendent David Stewart launched an internal investigation into the incident.

Not everyone is so upbeat about the situation, however.

“I think people are focused on what is going to be the future makeup of the board,” said Howard M. O’Cull, the executive director of the West Virginia School Boards Association. “There are some people who think the board has been marginalized. We don’t share that view, but we know it’s out there. The board is solidified when it is full.”

Some observers point out that the West Virginia board members now have more individual power than they would on a full board. For example, two members could derail an issue by not showing up for a vote, said David Griffith, a spokesman for the National Association of State Boards of Education, based in Alexandria, Va.

“Our board doesn’t work that way,” said Sandra M. Chapman, the board’s vice president. “We will speak and vote our minds.

“I know the governor is aware that we are awaiting appointments,” she continued. “I don’t think it is a problem if he takes his time. I view it as a compliment that we are functioning quite well.”

Opportunity for Governor

The board elected as its new president Mr. Persinger, who took over the helm of the state board after former President J.D. Morris resigned in October. Mr. Morris abruptly quit during plea negotiations on charges that he had embezzled money from the bank he used to run. He has since pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement. His sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 3.

Just two weeks earlier, board member Jim McCallum, a lawyer, had resigned to move to North Carolina. The two unexpected departures added to the one longstanding vacancy created by Cleo Mathews, who resigned last year after she was elected mayor of Hinton, W.Va. Her slot was filled recently, when Gov. Wise appointed retired Boone County teacher Delores W. Cook.

And then there is the need to replace Ms. Hamilton whose nine-year term was up last month. Board members are appointed by the governor to staggered terms.

“We are looking for her replacement,” said Chip Slaven, a spokesman for the Democratic governor. “In the meantime, we still have her on the board—a very capable, experienced person. So now we have only one or two vacancies, depending on how you look at it.”

Gov. Wise has announced that when Sen. Lloyd G. Jackson III, the chairman of the state Senate’s education committee, finishes his legislative term in January, he will be appointed to the board.

Analysts point out that the confusion and concern have given way to a chance for Mr. Wise to appoint almost half of the board. That could be a powerful tool for forging his agenda and leaving a legacy in education. Two of the seven board members were appointed by former Gov. Cecil Underwood, a Republican and three were appointed by former Gov. Gaston Caperton, a Democrat.

This is a critical time for education in West Virginia. The state faces many challenges, such as scrutinizing the school funding formula, developing a philosophy on academic standards, and considering new federal demands on states under the “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001.

“Education is at a crossroads,” said Mr. O’Cull of the state school boards’ association. “The governor has a lot of things to think about.”

Observers say Gov. Wise wants to shape a board more in-line with his views on key issues.

For example, Mr. Wise, who was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives when he was elected governor in 2000, campaigned on his belief in small schools. And as governor, he has been less aggressive than the board on the issue of consolidating small, mostly rural schools.

Meanwhile, the governor is making his board picks a priority.

“It’s a strange and unusual occurrence to have so many vacancies,” Mr. Slaven said. But, he continued, the governor “would rather take the time to pick the right people rather than just fill the vacancies quickly.”

A version of this article appeared in the December 11, 2002 edition of Education Week as Attendance ‘Mandatory’ For W. Va. Board

Events

Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Science of Reading: Emphasis on Language Comprehension
Dive into language comprehension through a breakdown of the Science of Reading with an interactive demonstration.
Content provided by Be GLAD
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being Opinion When Students Feel Unlucky, Teachers Can Help Change That Attitude
Mindsets matter when it comes to thinking about opportunity. Here’s what new research finds.
Paul A. O'Keefe
2 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Getty
Student Well-Being A Mental Health Screening Saved Students’ Lives in This District
A district that deployed a universal mental health screening was able to intervene immediately with five students who had suicide plans.
4 min read
Vector illustration of a counselor or psychologist holding a clipboard in one hand and an umbrella above in the other over an anxious woman who is tucking her head into her knees with a tangled line hovering above her head.
iStock/Getty
Student Well-Being Parents Worried About Their Kids' Mental Health See the Fix in New Schooling Options
Parents who say they are considering a change to their children's education identify mental health as a driving factor, a new report shows.
5 min read
Student walking down the stairs at her school.
iStock / Getty Images Plus
Student Well-Being Explainer More Students Are Getting Diabetes. Here's What That Means for the Classroom
More than a half million people under 20 could have the chronic health disorder by 2060, and they'll need support from schools.
8 min read
Conceptual image in blues: female student with diabetes wears glucose monitoring patch
E+/Getty