The Voice of West Virginia
West Virginia is just dipping its toe into charter schools.
The state Board of Education is putting out for public comment proposed rules on how charter schools will operate.
Those rules run 47 pages, single-spaced, which seems like a lot considering one of the supposed advantages of a charter school is that it can be more innovative by operating outside much of the bureaucracy of public ed.
I suppose even innovation, by government standards, can be complicated.
Nevertheless, this is a very modest beginning for charters. The legislation passed this year allows for the creation of only three charter schools starting July 1, 2020, and then three more every three years.
The teacher unions are furious. They argue, among other things, that the charters will drain money from traditional public schools. It is true that 90 percent of the per-pupil funding will follow the student to the charter. However, it is highly likely that any charter will be awarded to an existing school.
Fred Albert, president of the American Federation of Teachers West Virginia, said on Talkline Thursday that his organization plans to sue to stop charters.
“We have felt the citizens of West Virginia were shut out, were not listened to,” Albert said, adding that he believes charters are unconstitutional. He wants a statewide vote on whether to allow charters.
I don’t understand that argument.
First, the state Constitution specifies that “The Legislature shall provide, by general law, for a thorough and efficient system of free schools” and that “the general supervision of schools of the State shall be vested in the West Virginia board of education” as prescribed by law.
That gives the legislature and the state board broad authority to run the schools.
The AFT may be hanging their legal hat on the constitutional provision that prevents the creation of an “independent free school district” without the consent of the school district as expressed by a majority of voters voting on the question.”
However, the legislation says specifically that charters are public schools that are authorized by the county board of education.
Add in that courts are typically reluctant to extend their reach into the authority of the other two co-equal branches of government and you have what amounts to a legal longshot by the union. Of course, the teachers are influential, and they may be able to find a circuit judge to carry their water, at least temporarily.
There is plenty of research—much by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO)—on the effectiveness of charter schools and the results are mixed. It’s a great bell curve; some students do better in a charter, a few do worse and most are about the same.
According to the most recent studies by CREDO, New Mexico and Pennsylvania charter school students perform at about the same level as those in traditional public schools. However, Maryland charter students “experience strong learning gains” in both reading and math.
The recently released National Assessment of Educational Progress test results show West Virginia public school students performing below the national average in fourth and eighth grade reading and math. They also show students losing ground in three of the four categories.
The annual state Department of Education Balanced Scorecard also shows poor student performances in math, English language arts and even school attendance.
This extremely cautious entry into charters empowers a few county school boards, professional educators and concerned parents to try something different. That’s the kind of innovation and motivation we should embrace, not fight tooth and nail.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the West Virginia Democratic Party will have an opportunity to hear from the party’s candidates for governor and two U.S. senators at the annual Roosevelt-Kennedy Dinner on Friday.
The dinner, to be held at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center, will feature remarks from development specialist Jody Murphy, Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango, activist Stephen Smith and Boone County Sen. Ron Stollings.
The dinner’s keynote speaker is U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont..; Tester began his third term in January, having won last November with 50.3% of the vote.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and state party leaders are also expected to speak. The dinner is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
Before the event, the West Virginia Republican Party will hold a rally outside of the venue in support of President Donald Trump.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Even if offensive line was one of West Virginia’s strengths this season, it would be one of the primary points of emphasis in recruiting heading into next season.
The Mountaineers are losing both starting tackles to graduation, creating a pair of immediate needs. But given the struggles of the unit, there is an even stronger sense of urgency to bringing new bodies into the fold.
West Virginia ranks 128th in the country running the ball. Thanks to the play of senior tackles Colton McKivitz and Kelby Wickline, the team is faring far better in pass protection, ranking 33rd with 14 sacks allowed.
“It comes back to pure strength,” said offensive line coach Matt Moore. “It takes a lot more power to move people around then it does to slow them or stop them. We’ve got good feet and we move well, so we run the outside zone decent. We pass protect pretty good. But to move people around, you need power at every position. Having that power is the biggest thing.”
For the most part, power is built in the offseason.
“It comes with age, having some older guys,” Moore said. “Look at K-State — five redshirt seniors on the O-line. That’s what we’re trying to get to, not plugging and playing.”
Depth has been another issue.
Since right guard Josh Sills underwent season-ending surgery, only seven offensive linemen have seen serious playing time.
Offensive line coach Matt Moore has been trying to get the team’s true freshmen to a point where they can contribute, but that time may not arrive until the spring.
“We’re developing some younger guys,” Moore said. “The two young tackles, Brandon Yates and Parker Moorer, are really coming along. I’m excited to see them grow and add to the guys that we can bring in mid-year. We’re going to keep adding to this thing and recruit to get better and better.”
Moore said the plan is to bring in four offensive linemen in this year’s recruiting class with the possibility of adding a fifth.
Chris Mayo, one of the team’s three four-star commitments, is one of those players. So is Fairmont Senior’s Zach Frazier, a two-way player in high school who will be brought to WVU to play center. Junior college tackle Jacob Gamble is also committed to the Mountaineers.
In a roundabout way, WVU head coach Neal Brown brought up one of the factors in this year’s lack of offensive line depth. Asked separately about the importance of in-state recruiting on his Thursday night radio show, he noted that top two recruits in West Virginia last year are already starting for Tennessee and Virginia Tech.
“We have to get the FBS talent in the state,” Brown said. “A year ago, there was two kids now starting for Power Five programs as freshmen we weren’t able to get. We have to be like Georgia, Alabama, on and on. We have to sign the top kids in West Virginia to be a championship-level program.
“Let’s say there’s three Power Five players on average. Let’s say we sign them every year, that’s 15 in your program. Let’s say there’s another 8-10 walk-ons that earn scholarships like Dante Bonamico. Now more than a quarter of your team is from your home state. If we get to that, we get this thing rolling.”
Spring Valley’s Doug Nester has started seven games at right guard for Virginia Tech this season. Huntington’s Darnell Wright has started the past four games for Tennessee — two at right guard and two at right tackle. If those two were in the Mountaineers’ lineup, odds are there would be a different conversation about WVU’s offensive line at the moment.
Esdale the arm
Ben Queen/USA Today Sports
West Virginia has a recent history of turning quarterbacks into wide receivers, as seen in the form of David Sills and William Crest Jr.
After last Saturday, some WVU fans may want to see them try the same concept in reverse.
Wide receiver Isaiah Esdale looked like a pretty capable thrower against Texas Tech, completing a 24-yard trick pass to Kennedy McKoy for a touchdown. And as it turns out, that isn’t even close to the most impressive thing he’s able to do.
When Brown searched for receivers and running backs who could throw the ball downfield in preseason camp, Esdale ran away with the competition.
“One day we were out on the field and he asked everybody to stay after and throw the ball,” Esdale said. “I messed up on a couple throws. But then at the end of practice, I threw it from the opposite 40 and hit the goal post twice. So then they were like ‘Yeah… we’re going to use him.'”
That means that Esdale has the ability to throw 70 yards on a dime if needed. Esdale has a post-practice habit of engaging in competitions with the actual quarterbacks that are reminiscent of the old Quarterback Challenge competitions that used to air on TV.
That ended up being the scenario which won him the trick-play job rather than the actual tryout.
“I always mess with the quarterbacks to see who can throw further and who can hit what,” Esdale said. “Me and Trey Lowe were doing it and I hit it twice, right on the spot.”
West Virginia will go with what can be described as an icy look at Kansas State, wearing blue helmets, white jerseys and white pants.
Fortunately, there is no white stuff in the forecast as the kickoff temperature is expected to be in the neighborhood of 58 degrees.
— West Virginia Football (@WVUfootball) November 14, 2019
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The union that represents Huntington firefighters ratified the latest contract offer from the city.
The contract between the city and the International Association of Firefighters Local 289 will result in a 12% pay raise over three years and health care coverage at current cost levels. The contract also gives the city more management flexibility.
“We are proud of the partnerships we have developed with the unions that represent city employees,” Mayor Steve Williams said. “We are affirming that labor and management can come together to ensure certainty and security for our employees and certainty for the services that are provided to our residents.”
The Huntington City Council will next have to approve the contract. Councilmembers have already approved contracts with Fraternal Order of Police Gold Star Lodge 65 and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 598 this year.
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OHIO COUNTY, W.Va. — A former Ohio County student and the Ohio County Schools Board of Education have reached a settlement connected to a relationship between the individual and a former teacher.
Christopher Birch filed a lawsuit in April against Elizabeth Harbet and the Ohio County Schools Board of Education, accusing Harbert of sexually and mentally abusing him. Ohio County Circuit Court Judge Jason Cuomo dismissed Harbert from the case, citing a statute of limitations.
Harbert previously taught Birch at Bridge Street Middle School and Wheeling Park High School. The relationship between Harbert and Birch began in 2005 when she was 28 years old and he was 15. According to a criminal complaint, the relationship resulted in four children.
As part of the agreement, the board denies all liability.
“Mr. Birch is grateful and pleased the matter has resolved and is thankful for all the public support he received while the case was proceeding,” Birch’s attorney Teresa Toriseva said. “Mr. Birch is anxious to move forward and will have no further comment on these matters.”
Harbert agreed to an Alford plea in August and sentenced to between one and five years in prison for third-degree sexual assault.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As Charleston Mayor Amy Goodwin announced several steps following a use of force incident in October involving members of the Charleston Police Department, she stressed more actions moving forward: engaging in communication and coming together.
The mayor’s comments came during a chaotic set of events on Thursday at Charleston City Hall that led to a joint press conference with councilmembers, Charleston Police Department (CPD) officers, Concerned Clergy Coalition of Charleston members, and Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) members.
“Our phones need to start ringing again, we need to break bread with one another, we need have coffees with one another,” Goodwin told MetroNews. “It sounds simple but it’s not. It’s critical, though. It’s necessary if we are going to understand what each other is feeling and what we need to move forward.”
Among Goodwin’s actions, in a response to the clergy’s letter sent at a recent public forum, CPD Chief Opie Smith has referred the incident to the FBI for an independent investigation. The FBI could refer the matter to the U.S. Attorney or the Kanawha County Prosecutor’s Office.
The actions come on the heels of pressure from the clergy and members of the public to do more following CPD allowing two officers to return to work from administrative leave after a use of force investigation.
An Oct. 14 incident captured on video showed Patrol Officer Carlie McCoy struggling to arrest 27-year-old Freda Gilmore outside of a Family Dollar store on Virginia Street West. Patrolman Joshua Mena punched Gilmore several times in the head.
Other actions taken by the city include working with police leadership to review policing policies, and she intends to create a Charleston Police Citizen Advisory Council. The body will be made up of Charleston residents and act as a liaison between the police department and the city.
At the public forum on November 5, the clergy requested the FBI investigate the matter but also called for McCoy and Mena to be placed back on suspension.
Rev. Marlon Collins, Pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church in Charleston and member of the clergy said he had mixed emotions with the response.
“I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t completely satisfied but we did get some good dialogue done today (Thursday),” he told MetroNews. “The groundwork has been laid to get some change instituted and get the people and police officers safe.”
And while Collins wasn’t thrilled with how the joint presser abruptly ended after a back-and-forth between the crowd and some officers, he said there are more opportunities ahead because they came together.
“Without this forum today (Thursday), the members of the Charleston Clergy Coalition wouldn’t have had an opportunity to meet who we met today,” he said. “We are going to start a dialogue and start getting some understanding with the different groups. Ultimately, our goal is to make sure this does not happen again however we change policy or personnel.”
Collins referencing his group’s meeting with the state FOP. Initially, there were supposed to be two separate press conferences Thursday afternoon: The state FOP and some councilmembers with CPD and Goodwin’s with the city’s response to the clergy.
Goodwin, state FOP members, and clergy members decided to come together and speak as a group in the council chambers, which the mayor thought was the best idea. She said when it came down to it, all parties involved realized that they want to support the police while having better communication with community members.
“It can’t be an us versus them. It can’t be and that’s why we said enough,” she said.
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— By Bill Cornwell
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A possible preview of the upcoming Conference USA Football championship is on tap in Huntington Friday night. The conference’s East Division leader, Marshall, hosts the West Division leader and only unbeaten Louisiana Tech.
The game kicks off at 7 p.m., at Joan C. Edwards Stadium and will be shown nationally by CBS Sports Network.
Marshall (6-3, 4-2) is coming off its second bye week of the 2019 season following a 20-7 win at Rice on Nov. 2 that marked the Herd’s fourth straight victory.
Tech (8-1, 5-0) won its eighth straight game last Saturday, a 52-17 home triumph over North Texas, the West Division preseason favorite.
Marshall and Louisiana Tech have met only twice and the series is tied at a win apiece.
Here are some things to watch for in Friday’s game:
1 — Slowing the Bulldogs
Marshall’s defense faces a major challenge in finding a way to stop a Louisiana Tech offense that is among the nation’s best, ranking 17th as compared to Marshall’s rank of No. 50.
The offensive numbers for the Bulldogs are impressive — 38.1 points per game average, 479.1 yards per game and 292 passing yards per contest.
Tech has scored 35 or more points in six games this season and has scored at least 40 points in the last four games. The attack is led by fifth-year senior quarterback J’Mar Smith, who has thrown for 2,483 yards and 14 touchdowns along with only four interceptions.
Marshall’s potent pass rush must cause Smith problems, not allowing him to escape the pocket and make plays with his feet.
Also key for the MU defenders is slowing down Tech running back Justin Henderson, who has more than 700 yards to go with 14 touchdowns on the year.
Opportunities will abound for several Herd playmaking defenders such as Channing Hames, Omari Cobb, Darius Hodge, Jamare Edwards, Tavante Beckett and Tyler Brown.
2 — Converting in the red zone
Louisiana Tech’s defense is ranked seventh in Conference USA, two spots below Marshall, but the Bulldogs have shown a toughness in halting teams in the red-zone, allowing opponents to score on just 60 percent of their red-zone opportunities (21 scores in 35 chances). Tech is third in the nation in that category.
Marshall has converted on 22 of 29 red zone opportunities into scores, including 15 for touchdowns.
Junior quarterback Isaiah Green has been able to hit long touchdown throws to receivers such as Armani Levias, Willie Johnson and Talik Keaton in recent games, but Tech’s defense might make it tougher to hit high-impact plays.
That puts the pressure of MU’s veteran offensive line and running back Brenden Knox to produce when red-zone opportunities arrive.
3 — Emotion of the 75
Can Marshall’s football team ride the emotion of the 49th anniversary of the 1970 plane crash into a win?
The Herd hasn’t lost the anniversary game over the past six years.
In those games, the team dons black uniforms and player helmets contain the number 75 on one side in honor of the number of crash victims — and the 1970 MU helmet logo on the other side.
Emotion can only take you so far, so it will be up to MU head coach Doc Holliday and his staff to get the Herd ready for a fast start against the Bulldogs.
A big concern for MU will be not repeating the post bye week doldrums shown earlier this season. After a 2-1 start with wins over VMI and Ohio and loss at nationally-ranked Boise State, Marshall was off the week of Sept. 21, but followed the break with ugly losses to Cincinnati and Middle Tennessee.
With a Conference USA East Division title and possible opportunity to host the league’s title game on the line, there’s plenty of motivation for Marshall to combine emotion and effort into a strong performance.
All Marshall football letterman have been invited to be a part of pregame activities on Friday night as an encouragement prior to the game … Knox is putting together a special year, as he’s scored in six of Marshall’s nine games and totaled up four 100-yard rushing games. His top performance was the 220 yards gained in a win at FAU, allowing him to join Ron Lear, Ron Darby, Chris Parker and Ahmad Bradshaw as Herd backs with multiple 200-yard rushing games (Knox gained 204 yards last season in a loss at Virginia Tech) … Marshall is leading Conference USA in field goal percentage (.929), sacks (32, No. 8 nationally) and fourth-down percentage allowed (27.3) … Marshall punter Robert LeFevre has pinned the opposition inside the 20-yard line on 15 occasions so far this season while only suffering two touchbacks.
— By Shawn Rine
No. 11 Capital (5-5) at No. 6 Wheeling Park (8-2)
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Last Week: Capital dropped a heartbreaking, 20-16 decision to MSAC rival George Washington that caused it to slip to the No. 11 seed. Wheeling Park went to Moundsville and pulled away from its own rival, John Marshall, by a 48-28 score.
Why it’s important: Getting the obvious out of the way immediately, the winner advances to the Class AAA quarterfinals. Digging a bit deeper, this is the fourth time in the last six postseasons that these teams have met. Capital (2014) and Wheeling Park (2015) are the only schools not named Martinsburg to win titles this decade. The Patriots beat the Cougars, 23-15, in the 2015 championship.
Who to watch for Capital: Sophomore quarterback Evan Lander leads a potent attack after completing 117 of 202 for 1,488 yards and 19 scores against 11 INTs. Marshall recruit Kerion Martin is the leading receiver with 25 catches, 519 yards and eight scores. Chance Knox has accumulated more than 500 yards running and receiving.
Who to watch for Wheeling Park: The Patriots have also shown an ability to put up points in bunches, led by Kennedy Award candidate and QB Alex Dunlevy, a senior. He has been good on 149 of 216 for 2,481 yards and 27 touchdowns against two INTs. Rapheal Bradley (581 yards, five TDs) leads the running game, while Carson Namack (37-746-5) and Stevie Mitchell (34-565-11) are the top two in a deep receivers group.
No. 11 Wyoming East (8-2) at No. 6 Oak Glen (10-0)
When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Last Week: Wyoming East capped its turnaround from a 2-8 record in 2018, by handling Liberty Raleigh, 40-27. Oak Glen had already wrapped its regular season, so it was a chance to get some bumps and bruises healed up during a bye week.
Why it’s important: It was a season of first for the Golden Bears. It marked the school’s first unbeaten regular season and this will be the initial home playoff game. In addition, Oak Glen captured its first OVAC football championship since 1965. The Warriors are maybe a year ahead of schedule and want to make some noise at the dance.
Who to watch for Wyoming East: This one is a no-brainer. Nobody has been able to find a way to slow junior standout running back Caleb Boswer. During the regular season, Bowser chewed up 1,944 yards and scored 27 touchdowns on the ground, for an offense that averaged nearly 40 points per-game.
Who to watch for Oak Glen: The Golden Bears offense averages more than 430 yards and 43 points per-contest. Leading that charge is junior QB Nick Chaney, who has thrown for just short of 1,700 yards to go with 20 touchdowns. Hunter Patterson has 1,614 yards running and receiving, and has scored 23 times. Paxton Shuman is the owner of 794 yards and 13 scores rushing.
No. 10 Wheeling Central (6-4) at No. 7 Tolsia (7-3)
When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Last Week: Wheeling Central finished the regular season with a 52-6 rout of rival Magnolia. Tolsia, on the other hand, slammed Hannan, 42-6, to earn the seventh seed in the tournament.
Why it’s important: This is a chance for the Rebels to put a substantial feather in their cap. The two-time defending state champion Maroon Knights are wounded and will be playing on a grass surface, which they have struggled on at times during the last few seasons. Wheeling Central has been in this spot — banged up, lower seed — and went on to win the title. The Knights have a chip on their shoulder after some counted them out following the loss of all-state QB Curtis McGhee III to a knee injury.
Who to watch for Wheeling Central: The Maroon Knights have gone back to the spin series with senior Jacob Rine now in charge at QB. He’s thrown for roughly 300 yards the last two weeks. Jordan Waterhouse is the leading rusher with 813 yards and nine scores on 98 carries. Jalen Creighton paces the receiving game while two-time defending Huff Award winner Adam Murray has been more involved of late both running and catching the football.
No. 11 Cameron (7-3) at No. 6 St. Marys (8-2)
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Last Week: Cameron sat back and watched everything unfold in front of it as it enjoyed a bye week. St. Marys found itself in a battle with Tyler Consolidated before pulling out a 43-34 victory.
Why it’s important: The Dragons had plenty to replace, including their head coach. But Tim Brown kept the train moving as the school earned its fourth consecutive postseason appearance. The Blue Devils aren’t that far removed from a state title, but have rebounded nicely following a tough 2018 season.
Who to watch for Cameron: The Dragons rely heavily on their three seniors. QB Jessop Broughton has completed 111 of 179 for 1,575 yards, 26 TDs and six INTs. Noah Neely leads the ground game with 830 yards and eight touchdowns, while Garrett Scott is the main target with 44 catches, 475 yards and eight scores.
Who to watch for St. Marys: Quarterback Brennan Boron will test the Cameron secondary. He was good on 72 of 143 for 1,333 yards and 10 touchdowns.
No. 16 Madonna (6-3-1) at No. 1 Doddridge County (10-0)
When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Last Week: Doddridge hammered fellow playoff qualifier Tygarts Valley, 46-7, on the road. Despite not playing last week, Madonna squeezed into the 16th and final playoff position.
Why it’s important: The Bulldogs also went undefeated last season before falling to Wheeling Central in the state semifinals. Madonna, under the direction of Coach Darrin Hicks, is making its first postseason appearance since 2017 when it was upset in the first round at home by Sherman.
Who to watch for Madonna: The Blue Dons feature a potent passing attack, led by quarterback Santino Arlia. He has completed 179 of 328 for 2,022 yards and 22 TDs. He has been picked off 13 times. Brennan Secrist paces the receiving game with 61 catches, 787 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Who to watch for Doddridge County: Hunter America burst onto the scene last year and ran way — literally and figuratively — with the Curt Warner Award, signifying the state’s top prep running back. His numbers and usage are down, but his impact is not. America has churned out 1,689 yards and 20 touchdowns on 214 carries.
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Wood County School Superintendent Will Hosaflook says it’s impossible to predict when things will get back to normal in his school system following a ransomware attack that took place on Nov. 6.
“We now at least have one computer that has internet in every single school and that’s progress,” Hosaflook told MetroNews Thursday. “It’s coming up slowly and we just have to be very methodical in our approach in bringing the internet back up because we don’t want to re-infect our system.”
Wood County, like all other school systems, has protections in place to guard against things like ransomware but Hosaflook said, like one cyber expert told him, it’s like getting the flu after you’ve had the flu shot.
“This (computer) virus can be replicated and a different strain of that virus goes off and infects the machine,” Hosaflook said.
Ransomware is defined as “is malicious software which encrypts files on your computer or completely locks you out.”
A total rebuild of the school system’s computer system is taking place. IT workers are physically pulling out the hard drives of every computer in the county, checking them for the virus and putting them back in. Servers also have to be wiped clean, Hosaflook said.
“We’re getting help from other school systems, local companies, the Cyber Security Task Force, state Department of Education and the West Virginia National Guard,” he said.
Wood County has been able to keep its payroll on time and pay vendors thanks to the state’s centralized West Virginia Education Information System (WVIES). Hosaflook said he’s been able to send finance staff members to other counties where they’ve been able to sign on to WVIES and complete necessary work.
“This makes sure payroll doesn’t stop and vendors are paid. Thank goodness for WVIES,” he said.
Wood County has been given computer time at the Ritchie, Pleasants, Jackson and Wirt county school systems to complete the finance work.
Hosaflook said most phones, including individual school intercom systems are back up and running along with security camera systems and electronic doors. He said they wanted to address student safety issues first.
The most difficult part of the past week, according to Hosaflook, is the manpower that’s needed to do things the operating system usually takes of.
“It paralyzed the system to a degree. Sometimes you take for granted doors coming open at 7:45 in the morning and locking at 8 o’clock. Now you have to have someone at the door to let people in,” Hosaflook said.
He gives credit to faculty and staff throughout the county who have adjusted and gone above and beyond. He said there have been a lot of changes during the past week but one key thing hasn’t changed.
“The core process of learning hasn’t changed, the teacher and the student. The teacher and the student are the core process and it continues,” Hosaflook said.
The damage created by the ransomware attack is covered under the school system’s insurance policy through the state Board of Risk and Insurance Management (BRIM).
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Shady Spring and Mingo Central have returned to the very competitive Class AA playoff bracket after falling in the first round last season. Shady went 9-1 this fall after the Tigers answered a major offseason question mark with solid play on the line.
“With our line, that’s probably where we lost more people,” said Shady Spring head coach Vince Culicerto. “If they stepped up, we had some really good players in key positions coming back. The line did step it up.”
Shady’s defense is firmly established as one of the best units in Class AA. They have allowed an average of nine points and just 175 yards a game.
“We have a great defensive coordinator, who is my brother (Phil Culicerto). He does a super job,” Culicerto said. “He has been unreal with them. Once you have a couple good defensive shows, nobody wants to mess up. They like to take pride in it.”
The Tigers best victory came on the road in week seven. They defeated Wyoming East 27-20, handing the Warriors their first loss of the season.
“That was huge,” Culicerto said. “The kids really wanted that game. They marked that down as one they wanted.”
93 miles away in Mingo County, the Miners of Mingo Central have posted their second consecutive 8-2 regular season. Their offensive numbers are some of the best in the state. The Miners average 42 points and 305 passing yards per game with junior Daylin Goad running the show. A deep receiving core is led by senior Drew Hatfield. In four years in a Central uniform, Hatfield has racked up 5,093 receiving yards, 64 touchdowns and a state title in 2016.
“He is getting double-covered and triple-covered but he is still finding ways to get open and get the ball in his hands and make plays,” said Mingo Central head coach Josh Sammons. “He is a blessing to have. I am glad he is on our side and we are not having to play against him and scheme against him.”
Last fall, Mingo’s youth showed up on defense as they allowed over 29 points per game. This year, the Miners have shaved eleven points a game off that total.
“The experience for those guys, getting games under their belt is the main thing,” Sammons said. “We were young last year. But now they are improving week-to-week. I think that is one of our strong points right now.”
Contrasting strengths should make this opening round matchup one of the best on the board Friday night. “I have been a part of offenses like that too at Shady Spring,” Culicerto said. “They seem like they can get you anywhere they want. Defense is our specialty.”
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