CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There were colored markers, there were white drawing boards, there were the usual education officials and there was a pre-recorded video from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin talking about the importance of education.
That was the backdrop for a community forum in Charleston Thursday night focused on how to fix education in West Virginia.
About 50 community members from around the Charleston area attended the fourth of a series of statewide forums at the West Virginia Culture Center to discuss a comprehensive independent education efficiency audit released by the governor in January.
The education efficiency audit, conducted by Public Works LLC at a cost of $750,000 to the state, found that West Virginia's education system is saddled with restrictive regulations and too much bureaucracy and advocated for a series of big fixes to make the system more efficient.
Thursday night's forum, sponsored by nonprofit advocacy group Vision Shared, was supposed to be a chance for the general public to provide feedback about the specifics of the sweeping Education Audit.
"We really just want to raise more awareness about some of the recommendations and discuss how we can move forward on improving student achievement," said Rebecca Randolph, president and CEO of Vision Shared.
But much of the discussion Thursday night devolved more into clarifications about the audit's findings rather than actual back and forth about core recommendations.
No members of Public Works LLC attended the forum, so Vision Shared members provided hard copy handouts of the recommendations to those with questions about specifics in the audit.
Don Scalise, a social studies teacher at Cabell Midland High School, said he liked the concept of the community forums, but didn't learn anything new. He said he wished there had been more teachers present to balance out the discussion.
"Everyone here has some sort of vested interest in the education system," Scalise said. "But it was interesting to hear what everyone had to say."