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W.Va. Department of Education Forum Set

WHEELING — The West Virginia Department of Education wants to know what the public thinks about education in the state, and is seeking the best ideas to improve West Virginia schools.

The WVDE is planning public forums in Wheeling and at six other locations throughout the state in the coming weeks as West Virginia lawmakers embark on a special session focusing on “education betterment” in West Virginia.

The local forum is set for 6 p.m. on April 2 at Wheeling Park High School. Others will take place in Ona, Welch, Charleston, Beckley, Clarksburg and Berkeley Springs.

“We want to provide a time for constructive dialogue,” said WVDE spokeswoman Kristin Anderson. “Everyone can agree there is room for improvement in education, and we want to see how we can move the issue forward. That is why we are doing these forums across the state.”

Information gathered during the forums will be turned over to Gov. Jim Justice and members of the West Virginia Legislation before lawmakers return for their May interim session.

The legislature was gaveled in to a special session on education betterment immediately after the regular legislative session concluded on March 9. They were told to go home and speak to their constituents about education matters, and no time for a return to Charleston has been scheduled.

“We’re not 100 percent sure when they are coming back together. I have heard as soon as the May interims in mid-May,” Anderson said. “We’re hoping to have our report finalized before then.”

All are invited to attend the workshops, including educators, parents and members of the community. It is suggested that those wanting to participate first register online, but no one will be turned away, however, according to Anderson.

“We are asking that attendees pre-register not to provide a hurdle, but to help the school prepare for the number of people coming,” she said. Light refreshments will be served.

According to information provided by the WVDE, each forum will begin promptly at 6 p.m. with a short presentation, followed by roundtable discussions in groups. The small group discussions will seek input on the core issues surrounding education and bring together a range of perspectives and viewpoints from across the state.

The seven forums will provide opportunities for stakeholders to engage in constructive dialogue regarding possible education reform that may be considered during the special legislative session.

“I look forward to the opportunity to elicit input and encourage all parties with an interest in education to participate,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Steven Paine. “This is a great opportunity for all stakeholders to engage in a constructive discussion on how to best improve education in West Virginia.”

While representatives of the WVDE will be present, each forum will be facilitated by the Consensus Building Institute (CBI) of Cambridge, Massachusetts. CBI defines itself on hits website as “experts in facilitation, mediation, capacity building, citizen engagement, and organizational strategy and development.”

Anderson said the group has worked in West Virginia and with the WVDE before — most recently in gathering public comment in Nicholas County last year as the community sought to rebuild its school system following massive floodings there in 2016.

Interested participants may register online at wvde.us/education-public-forum.

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