School board members Green, Jackson, see handwriting on the blackboard and step down

Hoppy’s Commentary
The sudden and unexpected resignations of state School Board president Mike Green and vice president Lloyd Jackson seal the fate of the controversial A through F accountability report card for every public school in the state.

Green and Jackson were the most influential remaining board members who were strong proponents of the contentious assessment, and their resignations indicate they realized the school grades, and possibly other significant changes they advocated, were headed for the scrap heap.

They were running out of allies. State school superintendent Michael Martirano, who backed A through F as part of increased school accountability, is leaving at the end of the school year. Additionally, Governor Jim Justice had already filled four vacancies on the nine-member board with career educators who presumably reflect his views.

The new Governor has made it clear he opposes A through F. “We have to worry about our kids getting A through F versus our schools getting A through F,” he said during his inaugural address last month.

Justice’s view reflects that of the leadership of the state’s two teacher unions (West Virginia Education Association and American Federation of Teachers West Virginia) who believe the grading system is flawed and punitive toward underachieving schools.

With Justice’s stated opposition, pushback from teachers and administrators and the change in the state School Board’s makeup, it was evident to Green and Jackson that they were outmanned. “It is apparent that Governor Justice wants to pursue a different course,” Jackson said.

Meanwhile, Justice is promising major changes in public education. “I will reform West Virginia’s schools from the bottom up. We need to let teachers teach,” he tweeted Wednesday. “I will appoint more reformers to the state board who will join me in transforming WV. We owe every one of our students a world-class education.”

We don’t know the specifics of those reforms yet, although he alluded to a plan during his inauguration speech. “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.”

The Board meets in special session today to swear in the four new members (which still leaves one vacancy) and elect a new president. Tom Campbell appears to be a front runner for that position. He opposes A through F, but does believe in school accountability and transparency.

The A through F system has its flaws, but at least it has established a benchmark for measuring how well our public schools are doing at providing a thorough and efficient education as required by the state Constitution.

Surely Governor Justice, who has spent a lifetime in the private sector measuring outcomes, rewarding success and correcting deficiencies, realizes the importance of holding schools, teachers and administrators accountable, even if it’s not by assigning a letter grade.