Jackson County Schools will host an education forum April 23 to get public input on the special session of the West Virginia Legislature and to foster discussion of education topics in the state.

Superintendent of Schools Blaine Hess said the forum will take place from 6-8 p.m. at Ripley High School. Similar discussions are taking place at the state level across West Virginia, Hess said.

“We’re trying to replicate what has been happening at the state level,” he said.

The information to be discussed is particularly important in light of the recent legislative session, in which a controversial omnibus education reform bill introduced by Senate President Mitch Carmichael failed to pass in the House of Delegates. Additionally, a bill to raise the salaries of educators and service personnel failed in the Senate.

The event will begin with a short presentation in the auditorium, followed by a series of discussions in smaller groups. The small group discussions will seek input on core issues surrounding education and bring together a range of perspectives and opinions from around the area.

“We want to give everyone a forum to talk about their ideas,” Hess said.

State legislators, as well as members of the Jackson County Board of Education and others, will attend the forum, but most will be in “listening mode” rather than speaking about particular issues.

“We’ll have a facilitator at each table, and comment cards as well,” Hess said. “We don’t want this to be a debate, just a forum to share your ideas.”

Information gathered from the forum will be forwarded to the Legislature, including the Senate president and speaker of the House of Delegates, as well as Governor Jim Justice.

Hess said he attended similar forums

recently in both Kanawha and Wood counties and felt the events sponsored a good deal of positive discussion. Hess has said he believes educators in the state did not have adequate opportunity for input on the omnibus bill. That’s why input from educators and the public regarding the upcoming special session is particularly important.

“People feel some level of satisfaction when they are able to have their voices hear,” Hess said.

There are a number of important topics, including student support positions, the increasing challenges caused by the opioid epidemic, increase pay incentives for math and science certifications, charter schools, education savings accounts, and many others. These are topics the legislature may address in the special session, he said.

“I think everything is up for discussion,” Hess said. “It appears wide open.”

Anyone interested in education is invited to attend this event. Pre-registration is requested for planning purposes, but not required. Participants are asked to pre-register by visiting the Jackson County Schools website at boe.jack.k12.wv.us or my emailing your intent to attend to edforum@boe.jack.k12.wv.us