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Kanawha board divided, 3-2, on children of teachers attending same school if it is full

CHARLESTON, W.Va. --  What is the definition of capacity?

That was the question asked at the Kanawha County Board of Education Monday, where board members disagreed about whether children of teachers should be allowed to attend the school where their parents work if that school is full.

Superintendent Ron Duerring has already sent letters to about 20 out-of-area students who requested to transfer to George Washington High, but now two teachers at the school are asking that their children be able to attend the long-overcrowded but high-achieving school.

School board members recently put their foot down after dealing with years of congestion in the South Hills-area schools, which have some of the highest test scores in the state. Last month, the school board announced that GW is closed to transfer students due to program capacity -- the second year in a row it has had to implement a moratorium on transfers.

"We have denied 20 people in Kanawha County -- some with real hardships. There is no way I am going to vote to overturn the policy of this board. I think if we do that we're setting a terrible example," said board President Pete Thaw, who has long supported allowing students to attend the school of their choice, regardless of the district they live in.

"You've got two classes of people here: some that can and some that can't. I'm not going to say only a select few are allowed."

School board member Becky Jordon, who lives in the South Hills area and had children attend GW, was outraged by the thought of not allowing teachers' children to attend the same school as their parents and accused the board of micromanaging one high school.

"I'm tired of GW being singled out, and now it's the only high school that can't do something nice for our staff. I hope we close all of the high schools in this county to transfers and don't let anyone go out of district. Go where you live," she said. "There are two kinds of rules in this county: the GW rules and the other high school rules. Quit it."

Board member Jim Crawford, who has worked in the Kanawha County Schools system for more than 50 years, said schools have always accommodated teachers and their children, and to change that practice now would be unfair.

However, board members Robin Rector and Bill Raglin said that the board should stick to its guns, and worried that allowing teachers' children in would lead to some sort of recruitment tool, with more and more teachers moving toward GW.

"We don't have two sets of rules. The only rule I thought we had was that we wouldn't transfer students into a school that was already full. How in the world can we justify letting anyone else come in?" Raglin said.

Rector said she supports a policy that allows teachers' children to attend their parent's school regardless of whether they live in the district -- but only if that school is not at capacity.

"I was empathetic to the teachers. I understand how that could be a hardship. But it feels a bit hypocritical. I have no issue with honoring a teacher's request until the school is at capacity. Then it becomes a little trickier," she said. "The bottom line is what's the definition of capacity? If we're at capacity, I don't see how we can add another student, period."

The board did not vote on the matter at Monday's meeting, but called it a 3-2 show of "guidance" for Duerring to make the decision.

"You have a single parent that wants to take their child with them to school and it makes it difficult," he said. "But we've done a lot of working through that [transfer] policy, and I do understand the idea of capacity and overcrowding."

Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.


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