PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Four down and four to go for the West Virginia Department of Education’s educational forums.

The 5th of eight educational reform public forums occurs Monday night at Blennerhassett Junior High School in Parkersburg. Lawmakers and education leaders are halfway through the statewide mission to better understand what needs to be done in public education in the state before a special session begins on the subject.

AFT-West Virginia President Fred Albert and state Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Paine have attended the majority so far and expressed their thoughts on the forums during recent appearances on MetroNews ‘Talkline.’

Steve Paine

Paine said he has been impressed by not only the attendance of the legislators but the way they have handled themselves.

“They didn’t express their thoughts or try to persuade or lobby anyone for their positions,” he said. “They listened very carefully to these stakeholders and that has happened at all locations so far. I applaud the legislators for their willingness to listen to the educational community throughout the state.”

“I don’t see any reason why that won’t continue throughout the next stops.”

Those legislators have been hearing from many students in these forums that are speaking out for public education, according to Albert.

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Fred Albert

“They want us to support public education,” he said of the students. “They were opposed to charter schools, they would like to have innovation zones. They were telling us to fund what we have, fund our schools.

Albert said the forums consist of four stations where stakeholders can spend a half-hour at three of the four stations in a roundtable type discussion. He said that he has gone to three stations at every visit and the station that gets the most attention and talk is one called Emotional and Social Support for Students.

“Teachers are begging for help,” Albert said. “Service personnel, our school kids are begging for help in this area. We are suffering in our classrooms from students who are coming to us with so many social and emotional needs.”

Albert said he would like to see more health nurses and school psychologists in every school working with teachers and students to solve the emotional and social support issues for students.

The summits wrap up next week with stops at Robert C. Byrd High School in Clarksburg on April 1, Wheeling Park High School in Wheeling on April 2 and Berkeley Springs High School in Berkeley Springs on April 3. All public forums are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

Once they are all in the books, Paine said the West Virginia Department of Education will work with the Marshall University Research Corporation on a report before a final check from the Consensus Building Institute.

Once the report is ready, they will release it Gov. Jim Justice, state Senate President Mitch Carmichael and the Speaker of the House Roger Hanshaw before going public.

Paine is hopeful the report can be carried over greatly into the special session for education reform.

“We will have a report that will have tremendous information,” he said. “They are very interested in us going through this process and giving them really good information. As Governor Justice works with the President and the Speaker in calling for the special session, he can choose to use this as a basis for which he discusses items for the call for the special session.”