Education and bullying were hot topics among the nonpartisan Randolph County Board of Education candidates at the candidate forum conducted by The Inter-Mountain Thursday at Elkins High School.
The candidates running for the board seats include incumbent Harvey Taylor of Dailey for the Tygart District; Norman A. Teter of Elkins for the Elkins District; Stephanie J. Shank of Elkins for the Elkins District; and incumbent Bruce Haddix of Elkins for the Cheat District. Teter and Shank were unable to attend the forum.
Each candidate in attendance was asked two questions written by the Inter-Mountain staff. First, they were asked, "What do you think the school system needs to do about the bullying problem?"
"We've got to get our teachers to see if they can spot it before it starts," Taylor said.
Taylor said the bullying problem starts at the elementary level, working its way up. He said that children need to be involved in training about where the problems are coming from.
Bullying is a widespread issue, and Taylor believes that it always will be a problem. He said that he felt seminars to train kids about bullying are needed and the board has already started on that. It's a problem that needs to be combated by talking about it in schools, he said.
"You can never eliminate it, but you can control it," said Taylor.
Even if the child who is being bullied is too afraid to report the problem on his or her own, Taylor feels that other kids in school who notice there is a problem should report it.
"Keep our kids involved, tell your kids if they see it, report it," he said.
Haddix explained that parents should realize how important they are because bullying starts at a young age.
"It starts in the home, as well as in the school," Haddix said of the need to prevent bullying. "It really is one of those areas that we have to work at."
Haddix believes one thing creating a lot of the bullying problems is the cell phone. He said children today are texting from the time they're picked up on the school bus through their time in the school yard. Haddix believes this is where the bullying starts.
"We hired a person to do some investigating for us and we figured that 50 hours a month or maybe a nine-week period would be all that we would need," Haddix said. That investigator used the 50 hours given to investigate bullying over a one-month period, he said.
The second question the candidates were asked was, "What would you do to enhance education for Randolph County youth?"
"The more training that our teachers get, the more training our students get," Taylor said. Teachers keeping up with training add to the quality of their teaching and of student learning, he added.
Randolph County teachers already are doing this by working with each other after school, Taylor said, adding that he has witnessed this happening first-hand.
Taylor mentioned that as a board member, he has seen many teachers enter requests for approval to go to seminars or out-of-state for further training.
"I think we've got the best teachers in the state of West Virginia right here in Randolph County, in my opinion," Taylor said.
Taylor also noted that Randolph County teachers' wages are low, but he's proud of the work that they do.
Haddix said the students' education can be improved by hiring a few more teachers, a project that he understands would cost more money.
"That is to reduce the class size, especially in the elementary level," Haddix said.
Haddix said there is a problem where some children aren't at the highest level they could be and some are behind that level. He also stated that the improvement needs to start in the elementary level.
"I'm not saying that our children aren't learning what they should be. I think the problem is when you put 20, 24 children in first, second and third grade, you're asking the teacher to teach that many different viewpoints," he said.
He also added that all children are different, with no two alike.
"They all will succeed if we give them that individual emphasis," Haddix said.