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W.Va. schools superintendent visits Hedgesville

Steven L. Paine speaks with students at James Rumsey Technical Institute

Steven L. Paine speaks with students at James Rumsey Technical Institute

February 14, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

HEDGESVILLE, W.VA. ? West Virginia's superintendent of public schools had "the adults" leave the room Friday at James Rumsey Technical Institute, where students from eight counties were assembled for a forum on 21st-century learning.

"We'll ask all the adults to leave the room, 'cause we want some straight answers from ya," Steven L. Paine told the group of about 20 middle and high school students.

What he and his staff heard from Jefferson, Berkeley, Morgan, Hampshire, Mineral, Hardy, Grant and Pendleton county students will be compiled with feedback received at three other regional forums Paine has held since Jan. 16 as part of the state's 21st Century Learning Initiative, a comprehensive effort to upgrade its education system.

"A democracy works when you hear from everybody," Paine said after hearing students' views on their ideal school and the things that work and not-so-great aspects of their current learning experiences.

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"What better source than to ask the kids?" In addition to the forums, the West Virginia Department of Education is expected to launch an online student survey to reach every student across the state.

On Friday, Paine and his staff heard students' ideal hopes of having technology-aided learning tools for all classes, laptop computers for each student, less difficulty in scheduling fine arts and advanced placement course work.

Student: Requirements killing our vo-tech programs

One Hardy County student told Paine that the increase in requirements was "basically killing our vo-tech programs" and was harming a student population bound for poultry jobs in the rural community that don't require college-level course work.

"If they want to do welding, why do they have to take Chemistry?" the student asked.

Another student suggested that schools are pressuring too many students to attend four-year colleges and universities, when some would be better off completing technical certification or associate degree programs.

When Paine entertained the possibility of eliminating certain required courses, a Berkeley Springs High School student questioned the need for physical education, particularly for athletes taking part in school-sponsored sport programs.

"It's such a waste of my time," the boy said, as others nodded in agreement.

Paine ended the forum by asking students their opinions of Gov. Joe Manchin's proposal to require state-funded PROMISE scholarship winners to work in West Virginia for two years after graduation as a condition of not being required to pay back the grant.

Students discuss Manchin's PROMISE proposal

With hopes of landing an aerospace engineering job one day, a Martinsburg High School student questioned how such a stipulation might limit his opportunity to land a job in West Virginia, where such jobs are not plentiful.

Still others sympathized with putting the requirement into effect as a means to elevate the education levels of the state's work force and at the same time attract employers who would provide competitive professional opportunities.

Paine said lawmakers who were convened for a budget hearing prodded him to survey the students on their views of the PROMISE proposal, which is pending in the State Legislature.

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