Extra Credit

Preston superintendent announces snow day in song

Snow days may be fun for students, but they’re often a nightmare for school officials and parents to work around.

While Preston County Superintendent Steve Wotring has only canceled school a few times since taking the job in January, he’s already fed up with snow days. After seeing winter storms shut down school all week, driving through whiteout conditions on his way home Wednesday gave Wotring a little inspiration to change the way he’d announce yet another cancellation.

“I knew we would lose another day of school, and I knew I’d have to put another robocall out,” Wotring said, disdain in his voice. “I got tired of putting out the same old message.”

Wotring said teachers and parents are frustrated with so many cancellations. While robocalls are effective in getting messages out, they’re cold, unpersonable and, well, robotic.

“I thought to myself, I have to find another way to get the message out,” he said.

wotringThat’s when a song popped into Wotring’s head, and during his 25-minute commute, he got to work.

When he got home, Wotring set up a camera and started to sing.

“There’s no school,” Wotring began, holding out a note before sliding into the familiar tune of “Tomorrow” from the musical “Annie.”

“Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there’s no school,” Wotring continued. “Just thinking about tomorrow fills my head with migraines and sad sorrow. That’s not cool.”

Wotring went out to sing several more lines before ending with, “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I hope I’ll see you soon, cause we’ll still be here in June.”

School systems must make up missed school days if students do not get the required 180-days of instruction. Preston County, which was set to send students home for the summer on May 21, will likely go through the first week of June.

Once finishing the song, Wotring immediately shifted his tone and announced school would be closed again Friday.

And scene.

The video has gone viral, and many who have commented have praised Wotring’s singing ability.

“I haven’t done any of that,” Wotring laughed when asked if he had any music or theater training. “I’ve sung in church though.”

Wotring didn’t expect the video to be as well received as it has been or that reporters from around the state and as far north as Pittsburgh would be calling him for interviews.

“It’s a little overwhelming,” he said. “Shocking really.”

This is Wotring’s first time being an Internet sensation, but he said he’s likely to be a one-hit-wonder.

“I don’t think I have the repertoire of songs to do it again,” he said.

Wotring said he hopes to see his students on Monday.

WVU President Gee: Lower the drinking age

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WVU President Gordon Gee

West Virginia University President Gordon Gee, an outspoken critic of binge drinking on college campuses, wants the legal drinking age to be 18.

In an interview with The Dominion Post, Gee said if he were “king for a day,” he would change the laws that set the legal drinking age at 21. He also said doing so may fix binge-drinking problems at WVU.

“If we could work toward a responsible drinking age where the university would take much more responsibility, we could have a much better environment,” Gee told The Dominion Post.

Giving younger students the opportunity to legally drink may seem counterintuitive, but Gee and other supporters of lowering the drinking age say it would bring alcohol consumption among college students out in the open.

Binge drinking on college campuses has been tied to alcohol’s restricted access to minors, who often resort to going “underground” or have older students buy them drinks.

While underage drinking in other cultures around the world lacks the taboo allure it does in America because children often drink small amounts of wine at family meals, critics of lowering the drinking age are skeptical things would change. Some say it would just shift binge-drinking problems on college campuses to teens in high school.

This isn’t the first time Gee has suggested lowering the drinking age. Gee, a devout Mormon who claims to have never consumed alcohol, made similar comments in 2008 while he was president of Ohio State University.

State superintendent hires new chief of staff

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Superintendent Michael Martirano has made a number of personnel changes to the West Virginia Department of Education since becoming the state’s schools chief in September 2014.

West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Michael Martirano has hired a chief of staff who will oversee the day-to-day operations of his office.

While the state Department of Education has not yet made an announcement, the hiring of Jill Newman is listed on the state Board of Education’s February meeting agenda in an attachment detailing personnel matters. According to that document, Newman will join the department on Feb. 23 and will be paid an annual salary of $125,000.

The department posted the job in December, and Martirano announced last month during a meeting with the state’s Senate Education Committee that he would soon fill the newly created position.

At that meeting, Martirano addressed concerns with the department’s staffing levels, but said the hiring and other personnel changes he has made since becoming superintendent in September will make his office more efficient and effective.

Legislators have been critical of the department’s staffing since 2012 when Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin commissioned an audit that concluded the department had a bloated administration that wasted millions.

Martirano already has a number of executive assistants, hired by former superintendents, who have job duties similar to those of the chief of staff. They each receive salaries ranging from $60,000 to $95,000.

The chief of staff, however, will have a more specialized role and, in addition to overseeing the day-to-day operations of Martirano’s office, will ensure there is effective communication and alignment between the department, the Board of Education and other education officials throughout the state.

The Daily Mail awaits more information on Newman’s hiring, including her education and professional experience and whether she is a local or out-of-state hire, but according to the department, qualifications for the position included a master’s degree in education or a related field and five years of experience working with superintendents or other executives.

Newman’s hiring is part of a larger reshuffling in Building 6 Martirano says will help the department better carry out his vision plan, “One Voice, Once Focus, All Students Achieving.”

In January, Martirano changed the organizational structure of his cabinet by reclassifying the titles of his senior administrators. The state’s four associate superintendents are now called chief officers. He also hired a legislative liaison.

The department incurred no costs by rebranding those job titles, and while the two new hires together will be paid about $215,000, department spokeswoman Liza Cordeiro said they will not be paid with new money. She said the new positions are funded with money leftover from not filling a number of vacancies within the department. Tomblin instituted a hiring freeze on new non-essential state employees late in 2013.