Wise asked for a show of hands: How many planned to leave West
The hands sprang up; he was surrounded by hands, a sea of hands.
Everyone, it appeared, had raised a hand.
This frustrates Wise. He says this is what the campaign is about:
keeping West Virginia kids at home.
Wise left the state himself after graduating from George Washington
High School in Charleston. He lived in New Orleans and North
Carolina. He returned to West Virginia 10 years later.
"West Virginia is changing," Wise said. "We need you on the ground
floor to make that change."
And then he made a pitch. "In West Virginia a person can move farther
and faster," he said. "I've never seen a place where a person can move
ahead as fast."
Wise fielded questions from the students. Most wanted to know his
position on student dress codes. (He supports them. Students oppose them.)
Joey Connard, Riverside's student council president, asked about Wise's
position on school size.
Riverside has 1,300 students. Some feel that's too many. Not Connard.
He wanted the congressman's opinion.
"How do you feel about big schools?" Connard asked. "Are you in favor
of a big school like Riverside?"
"I happen to believe education needs to be small," Wise responded. "But
that doesn't mean it cannot happen in a large school. You have to
make sure students don't feel isolated."
Another student jumped up and said many Riverside students feel left
out because they don't participate in extracurricular activities.
"There is a need for all of us to be engaged with one another," Wise
- - -
Mountain Party gubernatorial candidate Denise Giardina and Libertarian
Bob Myers also want to stop the outflow of students from West Virginia.
And they believe education can play a role.
First Giardina: Giardina was talking about consolidation months
before Underwood showed up in the Harts High gymnasium.
Giardina supports small schools - no more than 350 students in an
She thinks schoolchildren spend too much time on buses, not enough in
band and chorus.
She calls the state School Building Authority, which allocates
money for school construction, the "School Bullying
Authority." She says the authority forces consolidation on
communities, using policies that favor "massive educational factories."
She worries about the dozens of elementary schools across the state
that may close in the next 10 years.
"You take the heart and soul out of the community and you waste
resources," said Giardina, a novelist.
Giardina also supports a curriculum rooted in community.
Educators call it "place-based learning" or "experiential learning." A
social studies class interviews seniors about a town's hi
class tests the water in a local stream. An economics class organizes a
meeting of local business leaders.
"If you want to learn about plants," Giardina said, "you go out in the
community and explore plants."
Bob Myers, former president of the state Board of Education, also
"Consolidation is more of a public works project than an
education project," Myers said.
Myers wants to abolish the state Department of Education and
School Building Authority.
He wants to "shatter the education monopoly" (West Virginia has one of
the most centralized education systems in the nation) and establish
independent school districts across the state.
In Lincoln County, for instance, he'd encourage Harts High
School residents to set up their own school board, which, he
asserts, the state constitution allows.
"There are only two elements in our society we institutionalize," Myers
- - -
Bob Wise had just finished his clogging routine for Riverside students
- "Anyone have a zither or banjo?" and Connard and Arpan Kohli talked
about their efforts to unite their classmates. Many attended the former
East Bank and DuPont high schools.
They rattled off all the activities at the school - civil rights
club, Spanish club, foreign language club, and the "best football team in
the state." Connard plays wide receiver.
"But some people you can't help," Kohli said. "They just don't want to
"We've got a great group," Connard said. "Everybody still loves
And then they watched Wise, the AT&T folks and the television
reporters squeeze out the library doors into a mist of cold rain.
"You know, Governor Underwood came here last year," Kohli said. "He
gave us some money, too."
To contact staff writer Eric Eyre, use e-mail or call 348-5194.