CHARLESTON — “Sometimes it takes baby steps before we can start walking.”
With those words, a Logan County educator summed up the recent passage of House Bill 3160 by the state legislature.
The primary sponsor of the bill, Democrat Delegate Brent Walker of Braxton County, appears to have had a school in his district in mind when he introduced the legislation. But other sponsors of the legislation included Democrat Delegates Josh Stowers of Lincoln County and Teddy Tomblin of Logan.
The local legislators were involved in the legislation primarily because it may affect some schools in the region. One of the potential schools that is the object of this legislation is Chapmanville Regional High School.
CRHS serves students from the Chapmanville area of Logan County and the Harts district of Lincoln.
Harts parents had lobbied the legislature for a bill that would have forced that area of Lincoln County to have one member on the five-member Logan board of education. They made the argument that their children are a part of the CRHS school district, automatically enrolled at the Chapmanville school when they graduate from middle school. Those who argued for a member from Lincoln on the board have said that they lack any representation on the board that operates their local high school. CRHS is a consolidation of the former Chapmanville High, Harts High and Sharples High.
The new legislation establishes a pilot project whereby two counties can enter into an agreement to jointly operate an elementary school. Again, those familiar with the legislation believe it directly targets a new elementary school that will serve Gilmer and Lewis counties.
Generally speaking, according to Stowers, the bill will permit an organization such as the Local School Improvement Council (LSIC) to have input into the school’s operation.
“I know what the people of Harts want and I wish we could give them that,” said Stowers. “But it is difficult to completely change the way schools and boards of education operate. This is a step in the right direction, which is about all I can say.”
Harts Middle School Principal Debbie Dingess said she was “encouraged” with passage of the bill. “And it has nothing to do with how our students are treated at Chapmanville. Everyone there is very good to them; we just think we should have some sort of say in how the school operates.”
The Logan educator, who asked not to be identified, agreed with Dingess and Stowers. The educator added, “you can’t expect people on a school board in one county to immediately agree to give up a seat to another county. It will take time.”
The new legislation takes effect 90 days from passage last week. It requires a report be filed to let the state department of education and the legislature know how the project is working. That report is due in 2013.