Coal Tattoo

Voices left out of Marsh Fork school groundbreaking

It will be a great moment tomorrow morning, when officials in Raleigh County gather for a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Marsh Fork Elementary School. As the Beckley paper reported:

Marsh Fork Elementary students will provide music for the event, and Kevin Crutchfield, CEO of Alpha Natural Resources, will be among the speakers.

Unfortunately, a few important voices — folks who played a huge role in making this new school a reality — aren’t on the guest list and haven’t been invited to speak.

Longtime community activist Bo Webb told me today that he wasn’t invited and that none of the other environmental and citizen group leaders who pushed for the new school in the first place are on the agenda.

I asked Sue Stover, a spokeswoman for the Raleigh County school system, why they weren’t included and she told me:

I can’t answer that … I don’t know. It didn’t come up. But I  think they definitely will be recognized from the stage for their role.

Photo by Vivian Stockman

As regular readers know, the current Marsh Fork school is located adjacent to a huge Massey/Alpha coal processing facility and just downstream from a giant coal-slurry impoundment.

Folks like Bo and Ed Wiley worked tirelessly on this new school, back when then-Gov. Joe Manchin wasn’t interested and local officials were saying the existing facility was just fine. Then, of course, the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd spoke out on the problem. Massey Energy donated some money and after the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, the Annenberg Foundation chipped in $2.5 million — paving the way for the state School Building Authority to fund the rest of the project.

The Beckley paper outlined the financial contributions:

The Marsh Fork Elementary School is funded through the Raleigh County School Board ($3.53 million); Alpha Natural Resources ($1.5 million); Annenberg Foundation ($2.5 million); the School Building Authority of West Virginia ($3.146 million); and Pennies for Promises, Coal River Mountain Watch ($11,000).

Maybe as a gesture in his company’s “Running Right” program, Kevin Crutchfield will take it upon himself to call the citizen leaders up to the stage and thank them for making this new school project a reality.