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Teachers provide input at inaugural ‘Solutions for Success’ focus group


The first public education focus group was held Tuesday night in Morgantown.

A second meeting was held Wednesday in Wheeling.

“Solutions for Success” sessions are facilitated by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA). The two unions came up with the idea after another round of national teaching showed West Virginia at or near the bottom of the list.

Three questions posed to the audience, primarily made up of teachers, were designed to determine what local schools do well, where they can improve and what resources are needed to help teachers educate effectively.

The most common impact areas cited were educational attainment, proper staffing, teacher salary, training, student motivation and parental involvement.

Monongalia County AFT President Sam Brunett said teachers face a lack of respect on a daily basis and some teachers even face physical abuse. In some cases, Brunett said there is a feeling that building administrators console parents rather than support teachers in classrooms with behavioral issues.

“It starts at home, it starts with good parents who are willing to read to their kids and provide a stable base for these kids to come to our schools,” Brunett said. “Then those kids need the support of those parents throughout their educational career.”

Monongalia County Education Association President Heather Deluca Nestor, an eighth-grade teacher, talked about a concept called a “loop teacher.” The “loop teacher” would be assigned to work with a third grader, but would also help the student with some second-grade subjects like reading. DeLuca-Nestor said that plan could help prevent skills gaps and continue to push students into grade levels they are not prepared for.

“We could have it at the end of third/fourth, you’d have it at the end of sixth grade and the end of eighth grade so if they are going to high school we know they are ready,” DeLuca-Nestor said.

This was the first of five in-person meetings and one virtual meeting planned for Dec. 15. Registration for all meetings is at 5:30 p.m. and comments begin at 6 p.m.

WVEA President Dale Lee said once the meetings have concluded the summary of all concerns and potential solutions will go to Charleston.

“We’re going to take these findings and go out and present it to Gov. Justice, the legislature, West Virginia State Board of Education and the West Virginia State Department of Education,” Lee said. “And we hope we can find some beginning solutions to this.”

State Sen.-elect Mike Oliverio, R-Monongalia, said he went Tuesday night to listen but made it clear that lawmakers have concerns they would like to address as well.

“But, I also think it’s important for the teachers to hear from legislators and the things we think are important to the citizens that we serve,” Oliverio said. “So, I think there is some give-and-take tonight that will produce some effective legislation in the future.”

AFT-WV President Fred Albert said he hopes lawmakers will attend the Monday meeting in Charleston that coincides with legislative interim committee meetings.

“Be there with us and listen to teachers, educators, service personnel and parents about what we need in our schools,” Albert said.

Other meetings will be Monday in Charleston, Dec. 8 in Beckley and Dec. 13 in Martinsburg.