WV Board of Education discusses school safety and legislative collaboration

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE) welcomed Deputy Cabinet Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (WVDHS) Rob Cunningham to its September meeting on Tuesday to update school safety efforts in the state. WVDHS has worked collaboratively with the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) and other state agencies to support school safety and address challenges that may exist.

Homeland Security and the WVDE began to work together more closely shortly after the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas in May 2022. Gov. Jim Justice directed the WVDHS to survey state education leaders and local public safety officers to determine the status of school safety plans and how to best implement a statewide school safety initiative.

The WVDE supports school wellness by focusing on student and staff social-emotional well-being. This includes building relationships inside and outside of the school to provide safe learning environments. The Department of Education also coordinates with WVDHS which works directly with emergency responders and school safety personnel to ensure there is a seamless and robust infrastructure to protect schools and address potential situations.

WVBE President L. Paul Hardesty requested Deputy Secretary Cunningham attend future Board meetings regularly as a standing item to discuss school security and update school safety initiative efforts.

“School safety is too important for us to put it on the back burner,” said President Hardesty. “By having a standing agenda item, we can hear from Homeland Security officials regularly. We will best serve our students, staff and schools by increasing our attention on security and also recognizing any problems that exist.”

“We have had a strong working relationship with WVDE, the state Department of Health and Human Services and other partners,” Cunningham said. “We know that this level of collaboration is critical for us to continue to elevate school safety. This is the highest priority of the Governor and this office.”

“Student safety and achievement go hand-in-hand,” said State Superintendent of Schools David L. Roach. “I know from my experience that safe schools provide for the most productive learning environment. We cannot focus on one without the other and we will fully support any effort to streamline and increase school safety in our state.”

In other Board news, President of the West Virginia Senate Craig Blair attended the September meeting to share his goal of working with the WVBE, WVDE and the greater education community to improve public education. He discussed the direct link between educational progress and economic development.

“It is impossible to grow our state population and economy without a solid public education system,” Senator Blair said. “We want to see student achievement climb because that leads to economic development, growth and profitability for our state.”

Senator Blair welcomed future solutions-driven discussions to remove obstacles that may inhibit academic progress. “We have a multitude of things to do, nothing is siloed,” he said. “We will move beyond the ‘us versus them’ mentality because if anyone has ideas, I want to hear them.”

“On day one, I said one of my top priorities was to mend the relationship between the State Board of Education and the State Legislature, and that is what is happening,” said President Hardesty. “We’ve got too much to do without the luxury of time to improve student achievement and school performance. It will require our united effort.”

The Board also voted to reconstitute its Finance Committee. This committee promulgates ideas for submission to the State Legislature that will modify the school aid formula to better serve the needs of students and county school systems. Committee members include WVBE Vice President Nancy White (chair); WVBE Member F. Scott Rotruck (vice chair); WVDE School Operations Officer Sam Pauley; WVDE Director of Special Education Services Sheila Paitsel; county superintendents Deirdre Cline (Wyoming); Richard Duncan (Roane); David Price (Raleigh); and Thomas Williams (Kanawha); and county treasurers Jim Butts (Berkeley), Karen Cummings (Wirt); Jeff Davis (Tyler); J.P. Mowery (Pendleton); David McClure (Greenbrier) and Drew Rottgen (Cabell).

Lastly, the following policy revisions were discussed and recommended for public review.

West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (WVSSAC) Series 2 is being amended at section 14.4.g. to bring the rule into compliance with W.Va. Code §18-2-25a(d)(6), and Series 3 is being amended at section 6.4.c. to bring the rule into compliance with Policy 5202, Minimum Requirements for the Licensure of Professional/Paraprofessional Personnel and Advanced Salary Classifications.

The glossary term Scrimmage is being amended to bring it into compliance with other sections of the rule, and Preview is being amended to bring it into compliance with current practice.

The amendments to WVSSAC Series 2 and 3 have been placed on the WVBE policy section of the WVDE website for public comment for 30 days.

The next regularly scheduled WVBE meeting is 9:00 a.m., Wednesday, October 12, 2022, in Building 6, Room 600, 1900 Kanawha Boulevard, East, Charleston, West Virginia.

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