CHARLESTON, W.Va. — It’s another step forward for Reconnecting McDowell. The group has purchased two buildings in downtown Welch to create a teacher village.

“One of the issues we’re dealing with in McDowell County is a shortage of classroom teachers. One of the reasons we have a shortage is inadequate housing opportunities,” said Bob Brown, the coordinator of Reconnecting McDowell.

Getting teachers to commit to McDowell County should be easier if they like where they live, according to Reconnecting McDowell’s Coordinator Bob Brown.

The program is a comprehensive, long-term effort to make educational improvement in McDowell County. Brown stressed that’s hard when potential hires come for an interview and don’t see viable housing options.

“If I’m coming in here from Iowa or Chicago or somewhere and I don’t know anyone and I’m not used to this sort or rural living, probably living up in a hollow somewhere will not be appealing,” explained Brown.

Reconnecting McDowell will meet again in June to decide whether to rehab the old Best Furniture and Katzen buildings or tear them down and start from the ground up. They’re looking at housing for about 35, with commons areas and a coffee shop.

Brown said they want teachers who come in to McDowell County from out of state to feel right at home.

“We thought if we could create a professional village where teachers and other young professionals could live it would be conducive to getting folks to stay and give us 3 or 4 or 5 years of work in McDowell County,” he stressed.

Brown calls it a win/win for Welch. He believes it will drive the economy bringing in new businesses like restaurants and cafes.

Once the Reconnecting McDowell Board of Directors meet and decide what to do with the buildings, they hope to have a ground breaking ceremony later this summer.

The property cost $92,000. The dollar amount for rehab and construction are still being put together.

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  • Chasity Kennedy

    The Reconnecting McDowell project has the best intentions; however, teachers from out-of-state do not stay here long. They come and go as soon as their obligations to the program are met. Frequently, these out-of-state teachers are holding positions that qualified teachers who actually live in McDowell County want - teachers who are actually invested in the McDowell County community and its students. The local teachers will stay. Furthermore, many of the out-of-state teachers look down upon the McDowell County area and its citizens, which unfortunately causes a negative result for the area and the students. An all too familiar West Virginia stereotype is often reinforced by the out-of-state teachers who carry and show their distaste for the rural area. While the Reconnecting McDowell program has the best intentions, perhaps, the program could be more successful if it would focus on the teachers or potential teachers that already reside in McDowell County.

    • Allison McCormick

      I understand what you are saying, Chasity. Many that go into education need a place for a kick-start for their career and tend to search for better paying options. This makes it very difficult for the state of WV in general, and I can only imagine for McDowell. I was born in MD, lived in VA, and currently have lived in WV for 10 years. I am finishing my last year of college in PA for education and my true hope is to return to WV because it is what inspired me to teach. I absolutely love WV and my hope is to return to my high school, Hampshire High School (I live in Romney) for the many issues within the county and struggles within the school system. I have never been to McDowell and I feel that I very vaguely heard of the high need for teachers, but I had no idea how bad things were. I am very interested in investing at least in WV's educational system and I actually would consider going to McDowell. I agree with McGuire stating it is a "calling" and I want to be where there is serious need. My hope is to stay invested in where I end up teaching, and I again want to say that I honestly would consider McDowell.

  • Terry

    Would come back to WV to teach if I could afford to. After 16 years, advanced degree, and multiple certifications, my Maryland salary is not even listed on any of the WV counties I checked, even the fast growing eastern part of the state.

    I salute McDowell county. I think they should approach some of the organizations that are trying to tear down our traditional education system for funds, like Bill Gates Foundation, Democrats for Educational Reform (DFER), Walton Foundation (WalMart). Just promise them they they will get the private contracts for their friends who have created tech companies, charters, textbook companies, and you will see lots of money.

  • Elphaba

    This is a very good and much-needed thing in other rural counties, as well. I hope officials will be watching this development carefully and making their own plans for similar facilities.

  • teach

    YEAH! McDowell Co. is doing wonderful things in their county, and I hope they set the stage for other counties as well. We need to work together and WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE! We need to get back our American pride. I love education and I think the WV State BOE better get on board instead of going against education such as trying to encourage all year round school, in counties that don't want it and consolidation of our schools. Why did the State Dept. feel they needed to spend $43,0000 looking to find a new State Superintendent nation- wide? If I were a WV County Superintendent I would take that as a slap in the face. The WV State BOE didn't have a problem finding Dr. Phares! Maybe the $43,000 could have been invested back into the schools budgets or even better - send it to McDowell Co. McDowell co. keep up the good work!!

  • teach

    YEAH! Way to go McDowell Co. Finally education is getting the much needed help that it deserves. We can make a difference in our communities if we all work together.

  • ViennaGuy

    Out-of-the-box thinking ... I like it, and I hope that it succeeds beyond anyone's wildest dreams.