The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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March 27, 2013

Superintendent Phares explains ‘landmark’ education bill to board

BECKLEY — West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Phares Tuesday told Raleigh County Board members that the “landmark” education bill puts students first and gives more authority to individual counties.

Phares explained the legislation will give local boards more flexibility with the school calendars; and, all that is mandated is 180 school days. Counties must, however, conduct two public hearings for comments about the calendar. Raleigh County Superintendent Jim Brown said during Tuesday’s meeting that the two public hearings for next year’s school calendar have been slated for April 23 and May 14. Brown added that board members plan to consider approving the calendar May 14, immediately after the public hearing.

To help students learn and achieve, Phares explained that technical schools will not just be considered a place for those who do not do well with academics. However, academics will be added to the tech schools’ curriculum. Phares said students will be able to earn math and English credits in their tech school classes. As an example, he said some students might not understand angles and slopes as it is taught in a math class, but can understand the concepts if they’re related to the hands-on construction of a building.

Also being incorporated is the proven learning method “Project 24,” Phares told board members. “Project 24” enables educators to better know how all students engage and learn and how they can help them in the classroom.

The bill also tweaks the teacher hiring process. Phares said that seniority will still be a factor, but not the only one. If the school’s principal, faculty senate and county superintendent approves the teaching applicant, other approval avenues can be skipped. Phares said the hiring process enables schools to hire the “best and brightest” and “empowers teachers.”

Phares also highlighted that strategic planning, accountability and accreditation will become more simple; and, professional development and how its funding will be spent will be decided at the local level instead of in Charleston.

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