Green, Jackson resign from W.Va. school board

By Brad McElhinny in News
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Mike Green, president of the state school board, and Lloyd Jackson, the vice president, have resigned their positions effective immediately.

Last week, new Gov. Jim Justice named three new school board members. Replacements for Green and Jackson would be the fourth and fifth Justice appointees to the nine-member board.

Justice has said he would like to make major changes to the structure of West Virginia’s education system. During the campaign, in his inaugural address and in a recent appearance before local school superintendents, he has been critical of people he termed bureaucrats in Charleston.
Comments from both Green and Jackson indicated they do not believe they fit in with the course Justice is choosing to take.

Green noted that he was named to the state school board in 2009 by Gov. Joe Manchin. He said he did not come from what is commonly considered the education community but instead had been a technologist and business executive.

“However, I will say that after seven-plus years, I believe I can hold my own concerning all issues related to education processes and policies.”

Green said graduation rates are up, performance on student assessment tests are up and the state’s career and technical education program is a model for the nation.

“In spite of what many think, we are NOT 49th and 50th in the nation in everything,” he stated in a joint announcement with Jackson, distributed by the state Department of Education.

Green said there is more to do.

“For me, I leave with a heavy heart. Yet, my passion for improving the lives of my fellow West Virginia citizens is still there…and has been since the day I moved to the Mountain State,” he said.

Green added, “I hope and I pray that our Governor and Legislature will make wise and informed decisions during the upcoming months. The future of our State depends on that.”

Jackson, who was named to the board by then-Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, said it has been his pleasure to serve on the state school board for five years. Since then, he said, the board has helped to assure 180 days of instruction for students, developed standards to measure the performance of students and established an A through F system to rate school performance.

“It is apparent that Governor Justice wants to pursue a different course,” Jackson stated. “Additionally, with the resignation of Dr. Martirano effective June 30, 2017, it will be imperative for the State Board to begin the process for selecting a new State Superintendent. With all these changes pending, I believe it best to allow a new member to make the necessary decisions.”

Exactly a week ago, Justice announced the three new members all at once. They are Miller Hall, Barbara Whitecotton, and Chuck Hatfield. In doing so, Justice expressed criticism of West Virginia’s current education system.

“The politicians and bureaucrats in Charleston have failed to listen to our teachers, so I appointed three educators with significant classroom experience to the state Board of Education,” Justice stated in the announcement.

“Miller Hall, Barbara Whitecotton, and Chuck Hatfield have dedicated their lives to improving public education, and on the state Board of Education, they will help me deliver results for students across West Virginia. They all share my vision for making education the centerpiece of our state.”

That announcement included a joint statement from the new board members, reflecting Justice’s sentiment:

“We want to return local control to our school districts, give our teachers and schools the freedom to properly educate our kids, stop over-testing students, and eliminate the complex bureaucracy holding back our schools,” the three said in the joint statement.

Two seats on the state school board were already open because one had been occupied by Gayle Manchin — who is now Justice’s secretary for education and the arts — and another board member, Tina Combs, had continued to serve after her term expired. Another seat opened last when Justice named board member Bill White to direct the state Office of Minority Affairs.

The board has nine members, and Justice has the ability to shape it significantly starting now.

Justice stirred up conjecture about his education plans during his inaugural address June 17, when he held up a blue folder and said its contents would change how schools in West Virginia are run.

“Today I have an education plan right here that I’m going to submit immediately for people to review,” Justice said at his inaugration ceremony at the state Capitol.

“It’s going to be the elimination of a bunch of unnecessary agencies. It’s going to look at education in a way that’s never been looked at in a long, long, long time.”

Justice has his teaching certificate, spent some time on the Raleigh County school board and serves as basketball coach for the Greenbrier East girls and boys basketball teams. So it should be no surprise that education is one of his priorities.

Prior to the election, the campaign platform on his website featured a section about education policy that included three bullet-point items: get the politicians out of the classroom, prepare students for a career in West Virginia and pay our teachers what they’re worth.

In his inaugural address — and with different turns of phrase — he hit on all those points while also taking aim at the new A through F grading system for schools that debuted last fall.

“We’ve got 600 classrooms in this state that can’t even field a teacher,” he said. “We’ve got to get the bureaucrats out of the way. We’ve got to worry about our kids getting an A through F versus our schools getting an A through F. We’ve got to listen to people on the ground instead of trying to administer from Charleston when we don’t have a clue what’s going on and we have proven — we have proven — we know how to be last.”

During a speech last week in Beckley, Justice said his plans for streamlining involve the state Department of Education and the Regional Education Service Agencies, which are eight centralized offices that provide training and resources to county school systems.

“I’m talking about the state Education Department, RESAs, all agencies everywhere, putting education back into local hands,” Justice said, as reported by the Register-Herald. “I stood at inauguration and said I had a plan. All I’m doing with that plan is circulating it very cautiously internally.”

During an appearance in Bridgeport before the West Virginia Association of School Administrators winter conference, Justice reiterated his dislike for the A through F grading system for state schools that just made its debut last fall.
Justice in Bridgeport said he would replace the state’s Smarter Balanced standardized test, which weighs heavily in the A through F system, with the ACT. The state Board of Education has already been considering moving away from Smarter Balanced, believing students have little incentive because the test doesn’t affect final grades or college readiness assessments.

“Not only would students be preparing for a test they take if they are college-bound, but they will take this much more serious than the state assessment,” Justice said at the association of school administrators. “We are testing these students so much that they are going through the motions with their heads down and not trying.”

Justice, at that appearance, said he is already looking ahead to the anticipated June 30 departure of state Superintendent of Schools Michael Martirano.

Martirano, who announced his planned departure last fall because of family concerns, recently has described soul searching, although he hasn’t withdrawn his resignation.

As reported by the Exponent-Telegram in Clarksburg, Justice said Martirano’s replacement should advocate for more local control of school systems.

“An ideal candidate would share the same ideals — wanting to listen locally and put more control back into the hands of the local school systems,” Justice said.