CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Board of Education wants to try a new approach to tackling problems which plague the state’s schools. President Tom Campbell says instead of dictating policy from Charleston, the Board would be far more ahead to listen to educators at the local level.
“What works for Herbert Hoover may be different for Greenbrier East. What works for Prosperity Middle may be different for Morgantown Middle School,” Campbell explained after a recent Board of Education meeting. “To be what this board is seeing and what I’m seeing is we want to bring these people in and see what’s working and what we can replicate. To me it’s exciting.”
The program is called “Thoughts from the Field.” It started during a board meeting in Morgantown where the board invited in the Superintendent from Monongalia and Brooke Counties to share what was happening in their schools. Campbell said it was so well received, they started to do it more often, at it was the presentation from Herbert Hoover High School and Elkview Middle School Principals which convinced the board it was a worthwhile pursuit.
“They thought outside the box and those two schools basically had four hours day while sharing one building. They shortened the time by half, but their performance improved,” Campbell said. “That’s led us to think maybe we need to figure out what works in certain areas rather than dictating a number of measures from Charleston which make us feel good, but really don’t accomplish our goal of improving student performance.”
Campbell said the key to listening is to gain local support. When the Superintendent, administration, faculty, parents, and students all buy into an idea, it seems to be successful. Campbell acknowledged the buy in isn’t always there with edicts from Charleston forced into place by the state board.
“To me there’s a lot of strength out in the system, we just need to tap it,” he said. “Children have more challenges today than ever, which makes the public school more important and essential than ever. The caring people we have will get it done as best they can, but if we support them as opposed to mandating them, in my opinion, they’re going to get a whole lot more done.”