BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. — The West Virginia Department of Education held its final forum Wednesday regarding possible changes to the state’s education system.

The event, held at Berkeley Springs High School, included roundtable discussions on issues facing public education and related possible approaches lawmakers can make during this year’s special legislative session.

State Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine said the forums were a wise investment of time.

“We’ve heard some really thought-provoking things from people. We’ve gathered their ideas of what they think of the omnibus bill that was presented,” he said. “It’s just really good to listen to people. A lot of different perspectives. It’s interesting to delve into the reasons why they don’t have the agreement.”

More than 18,000 surveys from students, parents and other stakeholders were submitted during the eight events, which Paine found encouraging.

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Dr. Steven Paine

“We got a lot of data and analysis going on right now. We’ve got our work cut out for us to get the report done by May 1, ” he said.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Consensus Building Institute has led roundtable discussions on issues such as school choice, funding and services to provide students.

Lynne Harty, a former nursing professor and parent of students already out of public schools, said academic success in West Virginia has been stagnating since the 1990’s.

“I think teachers have definite problems that are not being addressed by the state Board of Education,” she said. “I think there are too many administrators in the state and not enough teacher autonomy, and I think there needs to be more help in the classroom for teachers who are teaching children with mental disabilities and behavior issues.”

Harty also spoke in favor of charter schools and education savings accounts, two controversial provisions of the Senate’s failed omnibus education bill.

“I do think some of the regulations of the bills need to be fine-tuned, but I think we should try it. What we are doing right now isn’t working,” she said.

Delegate Sammi Brown, D-Jefferson, and Sen Charles Trump, R-Morgan, were among the Eastern Panhandle legislators in attendance.

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