CHIEF LOGAN STATE PARK — Building partnerships between business and education was the focus of yesterday’s Education Alliance meeting at the Chief Logan Convention Center.
The alliance is West Virginia’s premier, statewide, nonprofit research and K-12 public education fund.
W.Va. First Lady Joanne Tomblin said the alliance is made up of a diverse group from both education, business and community leaders, who have the goal of increasing student achievement.
Tomblin, who is the president of Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, is the vice chairperson for the organization and she has been a member of the board for a decade.
The first lady gave the keynote speech and talked about business leaders mentoring students to help them get ready for college and their careers.
“This is really an introduction to the Education Alliance to the community and to the region,” Tomblin said. “It is a statewide organization, but, a lot of times people don’t really understand what the organization does or how helpful it can be to the people of southern West Virginia. We’re trying to introduce them more or less to the projects the Education Alliance is interested in. I really think that it provides a great opportunity for business and education to partner for the betterment of the community.”
Tomblin said as the college president, she sees kids coming in who are unprepared for college. She said that West Virginia is going to need every student for its workforce and that, by the year 2018, the state will need 20,000 people with college degrees.
“We have this challenge ahead of us,” Tomblin said.
A program she said was near and dear to her heart is the e-mentoring program, in which a business leader mentors a student to help him or her get the encouragement and advice he or she will need to achieve in college.
Education Alliance Chairman Jim Thomas also encouraged business leaders to join the e-mentoring program. He showed a video about e-mentoring and its importance.
Education Alliance President and CEO Pat Kusimo discussed how poverty affects students. She said 56 percent of West Virginia students receive free or reduced lunch and that children who come from impoverished backgrounds have greater needs.
“We want to have a school system that causes all children to be successful,” Kusimo said. “We want to see more complete high school and go on to college.
Kusimo also spoke about the reading level of West Virginia students. She said that only 46 percent read at or above a third-grade level. She said only 37 percent of impoverished students are reading at a third-grade level or above.
“In the third grade, we know that 54 percent of students are going to struggle,” Kusimo said. “That’s simply not good enough.”
Kusimo discussed the school calendar, saying that students are not receiving a full 180 days of instruction and that they need to receive instruction every one of those school calendar days.
Kusimo said teacher quality also affects students’ learning abilities.
“More time with a poor teacher is not time well-spent,” Kusimo said. “We want the best people in the teaching profession. We want to really have the kind of school system that benefits from the best West Virginia has to offer. That teacher is key to giving the kind of learning experiences the student is going to need.”
Kusimo said teachers may be the only positive role model in a child’s life. She said teachers need to help kids get ready for the world that awaits after graduating high school.
“You need to be ready and you need to be ready to work for whatever you get,” she said. “Attracting and keeping a quality education force is vital to West Virgina.”
Logan County Superintendent of Schools Wilma Zigmond attended the conference, as did Burch Middle School Principal Jada Hunter, Logan County Chamber of Commerce President Jim Frye and Director Debrina Williams, Logan Bank and Trust President Eddie Canterbury and many others from the business and education communities in Logan, Mingo and McDowell counties.
The conference lasted a little over an hour. It was designed to also help business and education officials network.
Thomas called it a “friend-raiser.”
To contact Staff Writer Michael Browning, call 304-752-6950, extension 309, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.