The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

March 30, 2013

Change of heart?

State superintendent says if Fayette County wants smaller community schools, it should have them; Bond to fix existing facilities could be on November ballot

FAYETTEVILLE — Under a new superintendent of schools, the state has done a 180 on its attitude toward school closure in Fayette County, reversing over 20 years of directives and challenging one of the major conclusions of an audit that led to state takeover of the county’s school system in 2010.

Superintendent James Phares and two private citizens, thus far working independently from the local board of education, have created a plan to float a bond this fall that would pay to fix the county’s existing facilities, rather than close any schools.

“I’m a proponent of local school districts being able to make decisions on their own about what they are and what they want to do,” says Phares. “I think what the grassroots community wants the opportunity to do is have the voice of the people heard, and their hope is to unite every part of Fayette County.”

“The question now is do the citizens desire for more consolidation to occur so that resources are focused in certain locations, or is it the citizens’ choice that those resources be put in local, community schools? That’s the real discussion here,” says Fayette County Superintendent Keith Butcher.

Phares and the two citizens, Paul McClung and Carolyn Arritt, met privately for several hours with the central office administrators Tuesday in Fayetteville to discuss the plan. Phares says he was requested to do so by all the parties.

At the meeting, Fayette County administrators were instructed to start putting together a bond to present to the public this fall that would keep community schools open and improve existing school buildings, according to Butcher.

“They’ve got to look at their curriculum issues, their facilities issues, their pro forma — to give assurances that they can operate all the schools they’ve got — and to unite the community into a common plan,” says Phares.

McClung and Arritt are forming a steering committee to oversee a “grassroots” community input process that will determine what citizens feel should go in the bond call. They will work with the public, local board, and state board to fine-tune the plan so a bond can realistically pass.

“We will bring together representatives from every community who will go into the rank and file of those communities and say, ‘What does this community need relative to the education for the children?’” says McClung.

“Mom and Dad will tell them what they want. These people will report back to us and Mr. Butcher, and then it will be hammered out with the people present and active in the decision, a truly democratic process for the first time ever.”

Butcher expects that the majority of the bond would be used to address current safety issues and code violations in the county’s aging schools.

Once the bond is put together, Butcher says the county will present it to the citizens in a variety of ways so they are fully informed about what they will be voting on.

“When it comes time for this bond, no one will feel left out, ostracized, antagonized or ignored,” says McClung.

If citizens pass the bond to improve facilities, Butcher says the county would use the funds as a match to request money for two new schools from the School Building Authority (SBA).

Those would likely be a new Fayetteville Elementary and a new Mount Hope Elementary.

Recent top-down bond calls to close existing schools in Fayette County and build a new consolidated high school have failed miserably.

“I think for the past two decades, Fayette County has told them, no, they like their arrangement,” says Phares.

“They are always going to fail until the public is involved,” says McClung.

Text Only
Latest News
  • UMWA1.jpg More than 5,000 protesting new EPA rules at rally

    Today, 73 buses will bring miners and UMW members to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for a labor rally and march through downtown Pittsburgh.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Kroger restricts pseudoephedrine sales in state

    Supermarket chain Kroger is tightening monthly purchase limits of cold medications that contain pseudoephedrine at its West Virginia stores.

    July 31, 2014

  • ‘Biscuit guy’ makes his mark with anthem at TWV

    The old saying “being at the right place at the right time” couldn’t be more true for Calvin Alexander. Thanks to a salad dressing bottle (and some impressive vocal skills), Alexander was invited to sing the national anthem not once, but twice, at Theatre West Virginia before the opening of “Hatfields and McCoys."

    July 31, 2014

  • legion American Legion posts plan to merge

    To help deal with its decreasing membership numbers, Beckley American Legion Post 70 is planning a merger with Post 32. INCLUDES TOUT VIDEO.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • legal Tort reform group brings message to Beckley

    How can West Virginia create more jobs and have a better business climate, at no cost to taxpayers? Greg Thomas, executive director of the West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (WV CALA), says legal reform is one of the answers to that question.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tri-state coal interests rally before hearings

     More than 2,000 union workers and others organized by the coal industry in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia joined top state elected officials Wednesday to rally against proposed stricter federal pollution regulations for coal-burning power plants.

    July 31, 2014

  • Judge in W.Va. asked to delay gay marriage ruling

    Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has asked a judge to postpone ruling on a federal lawsuit challenging West Virginia's same-sex marriage ban until the U.S. Supreme Court reviews a ruling in a similar case in Virginia.

    July 30, 2014

  • Tri-state coal interests rally before EPA hearings

    More than 2,000 union workers and others organized by the coal industry in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia joined top state elected officials Wednesday to rally against proposed stricter federal pollution regulations for coal-burning power plants.

    July 30, 2014

  • Work continues on stand-alone Warrior Trail

    The executive director of the Hatfield and McCoy Trail Authority said Tuesday that officials are still working toward the creation of the stand-alone Warrior Trail in McDowell County.

    July 30, 2014

  • East River Mountain Tunnel repairs will continue for several weeks

    Motorists traveling Interstate 77 could see slight delays again tonight as repair work continues inside of the fire-damaged East River Mountain Tunnel.

    July 30, 2014