BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va.¬†—¬†State School Board member Debra Sullivan says she’s concerned the board’s finance committee, which now includes a few members of the state legislature, is getting beyond the original reasons for creating it.

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Debra Sullivan

During Wednesday’s monthly state Board of Education meeting, Sullivan said she had to speak up because she was “quite frankly confused and perplexed” by the path the committee is taking.

The finance committee has been meeting in recent weeks on education reform issues but members have ventured beyond school funding and started to delve into policy matters. The committee has a subcommittee chaired by state Board of Education President Dave Perry. It’s called the policy and statute subcommittee.

Setting policy is the job of the state board, Sullivan said.

“Policy is the board of education’s role that’s what we do,” Sullivan said during Wednesday’s board meeting that was held at Berkeley Springs High School. “Again, I was perplexed and dismayed to see that there was a policy committee established without our knowledge.”

Perry apologized to Sullivan for any miscommunication, adding it’s only natural that discussion about funding in connection with education reform would include discussion on policy.

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Dave Perry

“Statute drives policy and we decided on a subcommittee. It’s within our ability to do so,” he said.

Perry and fellow board member Tom Campbell head up the finance committee. Campbell led the committee’s initial efforts last fall. Several recommendations were made to state lawmakers before this year’s regular session. The committee, with a few lawmakers added, began meeting last month in hopes of having recommendations for lawmakers before the upcoming special session on education reform.

Campbell said Wednesday House Speaker Roger Hanshaw and Senate President Mitch Carmichael wanted lawmakers added. Campbell said it’s gone well.

“I see it as a unique opportunity for the different entities to be involved to work on some solutions they agree on. They won’t agree on everything but the relationships that are being nourished I think are extremely positive for the future of West Virginia,” Campbell said.

Campbell told Sullivan the committee has no power to give final approval to any proposal. He said that would be up to the state BOE and the legislature.

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Tom Campbell

“We can’t pass a law. We can’t change a policy. We can make recommendations,” Campbell said.

The finance committee is scheduled to meet again next Tuesday, May 14, in Morgantown. It hopes to have its recommendations ready for the full state Board of Education to consider at a special meeting scheduled for May 20.

Sullivan said she still finds the situation “problematic.”

“I’ve been surprised and alarmed that the composition of the group has changed massively,” she said.

Before Sullivan made her remarks, Perry updated on the board on the statute and policy subcommittee’s discussions. He said they are looking at recommending more than three dozen statutes that could be eliminated along with a recommendation for eight-hour work days for professional educators and changing the make-up of the 200-day employee contract.