By Hayley M. Cook
WILLIAMSON - According to Bill Rosenberger, communications coordinator for the Wayne County Board of Education, Mingo area and surrounding counties could use some good news.
“We are letting failures have the headlines, and we ignore the successes,” said Rosenberger, who spoke at the most recent Williamson Rotary Club meeting Tuesday. “People still want to hear about good news.”
Although Rosenberger was present at the Rotary Club meeting to discuss a Wayne County 2014 bond proposal, he thoroughly discussed the importance of communication between school systems and the community as well.
“It doesn’t take lots of money to work with the community,” Rosenberger said, stressing the importance of open communication.
“There has been this rift between the school board and the community,” he continued.
“When it comes time to do some big things, if they (the community) are not on your side, you have no support. We want them to have a say, because these are their schools.”
Also stressed was the importance of being honest with the community, which Rosenberger believes is important. He referenced the results of Crum Elementary School’s WESTEST 2 for the 2012-13 school year as an example.
The results were invalidated following a state investigation into questionable erasure marks on some tests, but Rosenberger adamantly stated, “We were honest with the community because they deserved to know what was really going on.”
Communication seems to inherently involve honesty, and Rosenberger stressed that he believes in sharing both the good and bad news, but firmly believes more good news would serve the community well.
Although Rosenberger came to Williamson on behalf of Wayne County, he had some ideas for Mingo County as well.
One suggestion involved holding a career fair in Mingo County, something that worked well for Rosenberger, who organized the first regional Career and Technical Education Expo last February in Wayne County. The event saw an overwhelming response from hundreds of students and employers from five different counties (Wayne, Cabell, Mason and Lincoln in West Virginia, and Lawrence County in Ohio).
“Imagine holding a fair and kids from Mingo County meeting employers from Pike County, and vice versa” Rosenberger prompted.
Also discussed were Spring Break Development programs, developed with the intention of providing students with stimulation, education and fun during their spring break.
“The demographics show us these programs are needed. In other words, parents aren’t going to Disney World for spring break in Mingo County,” Rosenberger said. “We need something more enriching than video games here.”
Continuing with the theme of open and honest communication, on the failure of the Board of Education’s 2012 bond, Rosenberger said, “We needed to fail to realize what needed to be changed.” Although Rosenberger wasn’t with the board at that time, he believes the consequential evaluation of the school system led ultimately to positive changes.
“You don’t realize how close you are to the bottom until you reach it,” Rosenberger said.
“I believe we have changed a lot of hearts and minds over the past 18 months,” he added, explaining that he was positive about the future of Wayne County schools.
“My hope, long term, in Wayne County, is that we change the stories,” he said. “We need to change the perspective and focus on the positive instead of the negative. I’m sure in Mingo County, you guys feel the same way.”
Rosenberger emphasized the importance of quality versus quantity, saying, “It can be disheartening, but there’s still hope.”
“Would you rather have 15 or 16 passionate Rotary Club members here, or 60 people who just show up for a free lunch?” he said. “Why are we here today? To be passionate and to make a difference, or to get free chicken? We have to believe in these values to move forward and see growth.”