Education Commission Recommends Redefining Regional Education Services
The West Virginia Board of Education's Commission on School District Governance and Administration is recommending the state board work to redefine the educational services provided by regional offices.
Those regions are known as RESAs, Regional Education Service Agencies, and there are eight in West Virginia. Those offices encompass all 55 county school districts in the state and help provide some services like professional development, bulk purchasing and technology support.
Wednesday, the commission met with the intention of realigning the regions, swapping counties assigned to regions to each RESA, to help them better access the services at those offices. Some of the realignment maps the commission considered also included an increase of RESAs from eight to 12.
But commissioners decided instead of recommending to the board the best way to align the regions, they would instead recommend the board define what services those agencies are to provide counties and how they'll do it, something that hasn't been done since their creation in the 1970's.
"They need direction," Doug Lambert said during the meeting. He's a commission member and Superintendent of Pendleton County Schools.
"The bottom line is I don’t think they’ve been given direction.”
Along with the recommendation that their services be defined, commissioners also recommend the state board remove restrictions on which counties can interact with which RESAs. Currently, counties are assigned to a specific RESA, but commission chair and state Board member Tom Campbell said counties should be allowed to work with whichever RESA best provides the services they need.
In additon, the commission recommends a set of performance metrics be put in place to measure the effectiveness of each RESA office. Campbell said it will be up to the full board, but he believes those metrics should be set with the state Department of Education and overseen by the state Superintendent of Schools.
Perhaps the most controversial recommendation, though, is what commissioners say should be taken away from the RESAs. Campbell referred to these as any non-student centered activities or entrepreneurial functions.
Those entrepreneurial functions include things like EMT certifications or trainings for volunteer firefighters. RESAs provide these types of courses to their communities in order to bring in extra cash, but Campbell said that takes away from their true mission: to provide a better education to West Virginia's students.
"The commission’s perspective on that is that if our single focus, the commission’s single focus, is on student achievement, that needs to be RESAs single focus,” he said.
The community and technical college system is better equipped to provide those course, Campbell said.
Next week, members of the state board of education are set to consider a policy relating to the governance of the RESAs which the commission’s chosen map was to be a part of.
With their latest recommendation, commission members are now asking the board to take on defining the RESAs’ functions and add it to that policy. The board would then have to put the policy on a 30 day public comment period and reconsider it next year.