Sunday, May 11, 2014

Op-Ed: Support for the Morgan County School Levy

The following op-ed appeared in The Journal and Morgan Messenger last month. I am re-posting it here for those who do not subscribe to either newspaper in print or online.

Dear Editor:
I have the honor and responsibility this year of representing the education profession in West Virginia. It has taken me to areas that inspire me with their resilience and break my heart with the meager resources available to educate their children. My home county of Berkeley appears prosperous to areas of our state with struggling economies, dwindling population, and remote access to conveniences we take for granted.

Despite the circumstances, there is hope. I see teachers determined to succeed, devoted to students beyond the last bell. I hear the excitement of students when they learn new things. What I see and hear isn’t as important as what I know: that the community has unlimited potential to lift our local school systems up, to be what I call the “12th man in education.”  Much as football fans rallied around their favorite team during the Super Bowl, our community can support local schools without the frenzied excitement of the fourth quarter – and for a fraction of the cost of a game day ticket.

Residents in Morgan County have the opportunity to be game changers on May 13th by supporting the school levy. Strong schools produce strong graduates, and strong graduates are prepared to not only be successful employees, but to create jobs that strengthen the economy. Without a levy, our schools simply do not have the funding and materials to meet the needs of every student. For more information, visit

I passed the blazing yellow and black billboards against the levy en route to Berkeley Springs last week. I was on my way to meet Jenna Epstein, a guidance counselor at Warm Springs Intermediate. It was her Spring Break, but she was working with students and other teachers to construct the school’s garden area. Her passions for ensuring students succeed academically and socially are an asset to Morgan County Schools. I also met Superintendent David Banks, who knows his teachers by name and enthusiastically supports their efforts to provide quality education for every student. Last week I interview Michael Wilder, a former math professor at WVU who now works with students in the alternative education program at Berkeley Springs High School.

These are the people that want the best for your future caretakers, business owners, servicemen and women, and educators. They don’t want you to cheer wildly at their perseverance as you would your favorite professional athlete, but they welcome your empathy and respect. Instead of using billboards to discourage citizens from supporting the institutions that provide children with love, safety, and knowledge, we should emblazon them with the successes of our local school systems.

Voting “yes” for the levy shows support for the teacher working an extra part-time job in the evenings to save for her son’s college tuition – and to buy supplies for her own classroom. It’s a vote for your neighbor, a retired military veteran whose granddaughter will start kindergarten in the fall. You support the small business owner, who wants to hire skilled, local graduates to continue his business.

Levies aren’t about taxes – they’re about humanity. Please show you are a fan of the future on May 13th

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