Parents, educators, and community members gathered at Eastern Greenbrier Middle School on Tuesday, Mar. 19, to voice their concerns and thoughts on the current state of West Virginia’s educational system.
Keep the Promise: A Town Hall on Enhancing Education was hosted and moderated by Senator Stephen Baldwin, who held the event so local government representatives could hear thoughts directly from the community about specific things this region needs assistance with or wants extra focus on.
Senator Baldwin was joined by Delegate Jeff Campbell, Delegate Cindy Lavender-Bowe, Senator Bob Beach, Senator Glenn Jeffries, Senator John Under, and a number of other government figures who all made the trek to Greenbrier County to listen to local presenters. The legislators stayed after the meeting to speak with attendees one-on-one and answer questions.
Over 10 teachers and a number of other speakers came up to the podium to discuss what they believe needs to be done to better our schools, and most stated that smaller class sizes and more funding would bolster the educational process for individual students, and give educators more opportunity to work with each student’s learning style as “no two students learn the same.” One science teacher from Monroe County explained how her large class sizes and $200 budget make it difficult, if not impossible, to have science labs safely. A larger education budget and smaller class sizes would make the hands-on classes more powerful, as they would be able to do more.
Another common issue is lack of counselors and mental health services in the schools, multiple teachers stated that having child psychologists available to speak with children would decrease the number of “difficult” students and make the school a more stable and helpful learning environment. Several speakers advocated for placing social service workers in the schools, perhaps as an extension of DHHR, so that neglected kids and those in unstable environments would be able to get direct attention from social programs quicker, and shorten the process of securing help. A large number of children are “bounced around” through the foster care system, said one teacher, and the opioid crisis is causing home stability issues that make student’s home lives difficult. If social and emotional needs aren’t met, one presenter stated, educators need to be able to act accordingly.
The legislators listened intently and wrote notes throughout the presentation, and Baldwin said they intend to use this information at the upcoming special legislative session on education reform.