South Middle holds town hall where students, teachers, parents weigh in on education bill

MORGANTOWN — Aaron Braun didn’t learn anything new Thursday night in the auditorium of South Middle School.
That’s not to say he isn’t a good student, however. The third-grader is a math whiz in his classes down the road at Mountainview.
It’s just that he’s had this homework assignment before.
The subject: Senate Bill 451, the bane of the recent 2019 Legislative session in Charleston.
Said bill was dead on the floor by the time the session was gaveled to a close earlier this month — but, like the monster in an old-time scary movie, it’s not staying that way.
Lawmakers will convene in special session this spring, likely in May, to again take up the bill, charter schools, cloaked pay raises and all.
Thursday’s gathering at South Middle was staged by the West Virginia Education Association.
The teacher’s union is holding its own town hall gatherings in tandem with the ones currently being hosted across the state the West Virginia Department of Education.
The one nearest to Monongalia is April 1 at Robert C. Byrd High School, in Clarksburg.
Meanwhile, about 50 people turned out at South, including Aaron and his mother, Melanie Braun.
“Here’s what they’re gonna tell you about Senate Bill 451 when everybody gets back together,” said Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, who was part of the audience.
“They’re gonna say, ‘We talked to parents about charter schools. Everybody loves charter schools.’ ”
The audience gave derisive hoots in response — which was Prezioso’s point.
“Tell us what we need to do,” he said.
They did just that in the form of questionnaires and talking points.
The audience broke off into the discussion groups, and reported that smaller classes were the issue, along with a dearth of counselors and other emotional health providers in the system.
Instead of introducing for-profit charter schools, to a group, they want West Virginia schools to improve on the resources they already have.
One of which is caring teachers, Aaron said.
“I love my teachers,” he said.
Suha Beck, who teaches eighth-grade science at Westwood Middle seconded the youngster.
She comes from a family of refugees in Palestine who fled to make a life in the U.S.
In her culture back home, teachers are revered and the act of learning is cherished.
“I’m honored to be in that classroom,” she said.
JBissett@DominionPost.com
Twitter @DominionPostWV

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