West Virginia State Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Phares visited Monday's Barbour County Board of Education meeting to gather input and questions to take back to Charleston.
"As far as education is concerned, the bridge between the State Board of Education and the local boards was deteriorating," Phares said. "My mission is to get to all of the local boards of education. So far, your county is the 37th one I have visited. It is a hectic schedule, but I am glad to be here.
"My reason is to come here to take questions from the board and take those back with me," Phares said. "We started this process in January. We are able to use this input, and did so when working with the governor on Senate Bill 359, and while working with the board on policy implications. It has had a huge impact on professional development."
Phares complimented Barbour's educators.
"Barbour County is home to a School of Excellence in Belington Middle School," Phares said. "On the WesTest 2, Barbour County schools have been improving. I believe this year, you will score above or parallel with the state averages. I am very proud of (Barbour Superintendent of Schools) Joe (Super), the administrative staff and the other folks for their continued hard work.
"I am tickled pink that over the past six school years, Barbour County Adult Basic Education and GED programs have produced 201 graduates," Phares said. "The difference between being a straight dropout and giving them the opportunity to earn their GED speaks volumes to the empathy that your staff has for all children."
Phares said the educational system in Barbour County is progressing.
"You have more taking Advanced Placement courses and more are passing the test," Phares said. "The pass rate was at 13 percent, and now is 42 percent. This is a sign of progress."
Phares said his sister lives in Barbour County and warned him about coming before the board.
"She said she wanted me to be nice to you," Phares said. "We have a good board in Barbour County. She has no children in school, but she does follow you and was very complimentary of this board."
Phares said he feels the Barbour BOE is doing a good job.
"You have tough things that you deal with such as the declining carry over," Phares said. "But you have taken steps to deal with it. I applaud you for that."
Following his presentation and questions, The Inter-Mountain asked Phares about several Barbour BOE issues. First, Phares spoke to the issue of the $90,000 discrepancy in the Public Employees Insurance Association budget item. The initial figure supplied to the Barbour BOE for use in preparing their budget was lower than what was actually needed.
"It is unusual and we are working on the problem," Phares said. "This mistake was not made at the local level. PEIA had some problems statewide."
The Barbour BOE cut middle school sports positions earlier this year due to budget constraints. Members of the community banded together to raise the money needed to fund the positions and save the sports programs. The group Barbour All County Sports Organization donated more than $34,000 to the BOE and the sports programs were reinstated.
"Well, when you have people that are continuing to decline toward the deficit, you may see those types of things," Phares said. "Barbour County was fortunate to have a group to help. I don't know that it is sustainable, so they need to allocate other resources to maintain a program that the community values. It is difficult to go out every year and raise that kind of program."
Contact Beth Christian Broschart by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.