Reader questions recent Leon education issues

January 11, 2014

Dear Editor,

After reading the press releases from the Mason County Board of Education to the Point Pleasant Register, I wondered if there are issues that remain to be addressed?

First of all, as a parent of students who attended Leon Elementary School in past years, I believe there are no finer professionals — more dedicated and honest teachers and staff. Past and Present.

I have spent a lot of time listening to parents and grandparents in the Leon Community. As one parent questioned: Could it be Leon may have been subjected to discrimination? More about that later.

As reported in the news, the Mason County Board of Education superintendent and members were summoned to a meeting with the WV State Board of Education (that included State President, Mrs. Gayle Manchin, and the executive SBA director, Mark Manchin) concerning the closing of Mason County’s Leon School and the consolidation with Putnam County. (Gayle Manchin is the wife of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin. While he was governor, Joe Manchin appointed Gayle and the other members to the State Board.)

Without so much as a public meeting with parents and citizens in Mason County, a news release announced that Mark Manchin of the West Virginia School Building Authority (SBA) had encouraged Putnam County School Board of Education to identify an architectural firm.

(“The Putnam board identified Williams Shriver Architects, Inc.; Putnam board members voted to contract services with the firm.” As reported from a Charleston newspaper.)

(Mark Manchin, was reported to have attended the Putnam County school board’s meeting to discuss the idea of combining Buffalo Elementary School and Leon Elementary School in Mason County.)

The Mason board members were “sold” on how wonderful it would be to bus students (from as far away as Route 87) to Putnam County — over twisting narrow roads to Buffalo.

(By the way, a board member described Mark Manchin to a Mason County grandmother — as a good “used car salesman.”)

Somehow, it would seem, the state board believed the “rural” citizens would bow to the state board’s “what’s best” for Leon Elementary?

Could it be that building a Putnam County elementary school would serve individuals on the state board politically?

Mason County ranks third from the bottom in employment. Would we wish to lose more teaching and professional jobs? And the approximately $300,000 in state funds per year?

There would be $13 millions involved in building a new facility — in Putnam County?

(Back to the discrimination: What is troubling is the reality that “rural” citizens are subjected to discrimination. “Ruralism” remains unacknowledged — indeed unrecognized, as a form of discrimination. Could it be that Leon may be discriminated against because it’s a rural community? After all, who is going to take the Leon Community seriously?)

After many national studies the value of the local schools’ are a central place in the life of rural communities. Schools play a vital role in sustaining rural community life.

As we speak to Leon parents, the most common reasons given to oppose school consolidation with Putnam County are the loss of local control over the county school; the loss to the local community; the quality of education for students. Larger school (e.g., bigger class sizes). Parents are concerned for their students who would have to be bused — spending too much time traveling to and from school — and especially safety.

Other unanswered concerns include taxation? That’s a big legal issue!

After reading the press releases from the Mason County Board superintendent and members, I remain concerned about unanswered questions — and that there yet will be a push to close county schools “at the will of” the state board” without resistance from the superintendent and local board members?

Alice Click

Mt. Alto, WV