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Cornerstone Committee Prepares For Hearing

By Staff | Mar 10, 2010

The Cornerstone Committee has been hard at work for the past 12 months, gathering information about the public school system of Wetzel County and West Virginia.

The group, convened at the request of the Paden City Foundation, Inc., has been tasked with the job of refuting the proposed Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan (CEFP or 10-year plan) of the Wetzel County schools.

The plan, in its present state, calls for the merging, not consolidating, of Paden City High School into the New Martinsville School (grades seven and eight) and Magnolia High School (grades nine-12).

The Cornerstone has gathered information from a variety of sources including the county schools’ central office and the West Virginia State Department of Education. The group’s findings will be presented during the public hearing scheduled for March 25 at Paden City High School beginning at 6 p.m.

At present, the CEFP has not been approved but public opinion must be gathered before a vote can be taken. That vote is predicted to occur in April at a regular Board of Education meeting. The plan slates the last graduating class of Paden City High School to be the Class of 2012, if the plan is approved and fully implemented.

Rodney McWilliams, spokesperson for the Cornerstone and Foundation president stated, “This dedicated group of concerned citizens has been working hard for nearly a year, in response to the proposed CEFP. The amount of time and effort this group of volunteers has put forth to date is amazing and, at the same time, not surprising. This type of fortitude and dedication is in the history of our town and it runs in the veins of everyone here.

“Our findings will give a better picture of the situation with Wetzel County schools and Paden City High School, in particular, than what was given to the committee that formulated the proposed CEFP. Members of the CEFP committee have told us they wish they had the information we have researched when they were working on the plan back in 2009.”

The Cornerstone is wanting to dispel some misinformation and untruths that are circulating around the county concerning Paden City High School and the costs associated to operate the school. Cornerstone committee member, Matt Ferrebee stated,”We are hearing that educators in one other town in Wetzel County are stating that operating Paden City High School is costing their school opportunities and teaching positions.”

McWilliams added, “In theory, that same statement can be made by any school about any other school in the county. In reality, the costs to operate PCHS are exactly in line with the county average to operate any one of the eight public schools in Wetzel County.

PCHS does not take a disproportionate amount of money to operate. Secondly, when you compare the academic results attained by the school, you will find you get more for your money at Paden City High School than at any other high school in the county. Less than five percent of the total county expenditures for operating eight schools (for the school-year ending June 30, 2009) was used to operate PCHS.

The school also attained the highest ranking on the 2009 WestTest 2 scores of all four county high schools and Paden City Elementary School received the highest ranking of all eight schools in the county in 2009.” More of the group’s findings are slated to be presented at the public hearing.

The Cornerstone also undertook an enrollment campaign during the summer months in 2009. The group points to an enrollment increase in the Paden City attendance area of 17 students this year as another indicator the schools are operating as they should.

McWilliams noted, “The Paden City attendance area (PCES and PCHS) was the only attendance area in Wetzel County that showed an enrollment increase for this school term. People are hearing and understanding the quality of education you receive in Wetzel County schools and in Paden City and enrolling their students here. This is a testament to the school and the county and another reason why public schools should remain in Paden City.”

Cornerstone member Mike Turner commented on the curriculum at Paden City High School. “If you do the research, you will find the educational opportunities at Paden City High School are in direct correlation to the goals established by the West Virginia Legislature and supported by the State Department of Education and county board of education. The school is educating students in the correct manner and adhering to the mandates of the governing bodies.”

McWilliams continued, “One of our concerns is the misinformation and the misrepresentation of information that is going around the area. The truth is the plan calls for the merging of Paden City students into an existing Magnolia High School. It is not a consolidation. It is absorbing one school into another.

“Also, the operating costs at PCHS or any one school are not prohibiting opportunities at other schools. In fact, we were told the county schools are better off financially now than they were several years ago.

“If total county costs are a problem, then spending cuts should be proposed across the county. You shouldn’t sacrifice a higher performing school for the sake of cutting costs. That sends a message that costs trump education in this county. Furthermore, the curriculum currently offered at Paden City is equal to or better than those of the other schools.

“That is evident in the test scores. When you couple the cost efficiency and academic excellence with the overwhelming community financial support Paden City High School receives, the choice is obvious-this school is an example of a successful school and one from which to pattern others.”

Support for Paden City schools is not limited to the members of the Cornerstone. Evidence of the feelings of the townspeople and alumni nationwide can be seen throughout the town.

Large banners adorn main streets in town declaring “Paden City High School-Open for All, Now and Always.” Yard signs stating, “Choose Paden City Schools” and “Come Home to Paden City Schools” have been up since last August. Billboards are on display in New Martinsville declaring, “Paden City Schools, Keep Them Open.” Alumni have poured in money for months to fund the enrollment campaign and the costs of fending off any school closure.

McWilliams noted, “We have met with the Wetzel County Commission, our town’s City Council, and our elected state Delegate and Senator to bring this matter to their attention. A non-profit group, Challenge West Virginia, has been following this situation since last summer.

“People all over the state and Ohio Valley are aware of what is going on in Wetzel County and they don’t appreciate it. We are handling ourselves and our rebuttal in a dignified, educated manner and are confident the best decision will be made.”