Deaf, blind school workers protest changes

CHARLESTON – Workers at the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind have asked the state Board of Education to reconsider a policy that makes an associate’s degree a requirement for their jobs.

A group of workers and parents spoke out against the policy during the board’s meeting last week in Charleston.

The policy will affect 35 employees who work during non-instructional hours with students who live in the Romney schools’ dorms. Their jobs are being changed to residential care specialists, with higher pay. They have until 2018 to obtain an associate’s degree in child development, psychology, social work or a related field.

But there’s no guarantee they will be rehired.

Cathy Evans told the board that the workers don’t need additional training because they are separate from teachers and special education instructors.

“I’m the children’s mom, their friend, their protector and child-care provider … I provide love and understanding,” she said. “I teach them morals and ethics, so that they may grow into wonderful men and women and have productive lives with families.

Evans has worked at the Romney campus for more than 30 years. “Why do I need a degree to wipe noses and tears?” she asked. “What these children need are mothers with instincts who share compassion for what they go through.”

Board President Gayle Manchin said higher expectations are necessary.

“We hear what you say … but I would be remiss if I didn’t say to each of you that, as a board and as a state, we are raising the standards for every student in West Virginia because we believe that every child can learn, and (we are) raising those standards for teachers and principals _ everyone that works with children _ because we value the job that we do and we value that they want to be the very best person they can be to work with those children.”


EPA given OK: A federal appeals court is declining to stand in the way of the Obama administration’s efforts to block water pollution from mountaintop removal coal mining.

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued the ruling Friday.

It concluded that the Environmental Protection Agency was within its authority to consult with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about Clean Water Act permits for mining operations.

The panel rejected a 2012 District Court ruling that that the EPA had overstepped its authority under federal water pollution and strip mining laws when the agency tried to reduce water pollution from Appalachian coal mining operations.


Aiming for happier West Virginians: State officials are launching an initiative to help Medicaid members with behavioral health diagnoses live healthier and happier lives.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau for Medical Services said it launched the Health Homes initiative for behavioral health on July 1.

As part of the program, a team of professionals coordinates to help manage medical conditions and medications, remember doctor appointments and understand medical tests and results.

Teams will also work with doctors, counselors and specialists to support recovery and prevent other illnesses or complications.

The program is available in Cabell, Kanawha, Mercer, Putnam, Raleigh and Wayne counties. Officials say those locations were selected because of the high rates of individuals who are already being treated for behavioral disorders.



Praising litter picker-uppers: West Virginia officials next month will recognize thousands of volunteers who pick up litter along the state’s roadways.

The West Virginia departments of Environmental Protection and Transportation say they’ll host the 18th annual Adopt-A-Highway Volunteer Appreciation Day Picnic on Aug. 2 at Snowshoe Resort in Pocahontas County.

More than 40,000 volunteers representing in excess of 1,400 organizations keep more than 3,300 miles of West Virginia roads litter-free.

Officials say volunteers remove more than 4 million pounds of trash from state highways each year. They also recycle about 10,000 pounds of glass, 5,000 pounds of plastic and 8,000 pounds of aluminum annually.


Parole in WVU beating: A 23-year-old man who beat a West Virginia University student into a permanent vegetative state in 2009 has been granted parole.

Austin Vantrease last week had his parole approved by a three-person board. He will be released within the next 90 days.

At a hearing at the St. Marys Correctional Center, the parole board said the move will keep him under supervision for up to six years.

Vantrease has served four years of his sentence, which could have lasted 10 years. He was convicted of malicious assault for kicking Ryan Diviney.

Diviney, a sophomore, was punched and kicked in the head during an argument about the World Series. Diviney has been in a vegetative state since the attack and receives 24-hour care at home in Ashburn, Va.



Movie theater shooting: West Virginia authorities say several people fled a Nitro movie theater after one customer threatened to shoot another.

Cpl. B.D. Humphreys of the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office says one witness told him the Friday night incident made him think about the 2012 shooting that left 12 dead in an Aurora, Colorado, theater.

Moviegoers told deputies that a disruptive man threatened to shoot another audience member who told him to be quiet. Customers reported the threat to a security guard as they left.

Employees stopped the movie, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” while deputies arrested 52-year-old Tod A. Ingram of Cross Lanes. Humphreys says Ingram was unarmed.


GOP re-elects state chairman: Conrad Lucas of Huntington has been re-elected to a full four-year term as chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party.

State GOP officials said in a news release Saturday that its Executive Committee unanimously re-elected Lucas at its annual summer meeting in Huntington.

Lucas served as the state party’s general counsel and chairman of the West Virginia Young Republicans before being chosen chairman in 2012. He succeeded Mike Stewart, who resigned to focus on career and family.

Anti-cancer development: Marshall University is teaming up with an international biosciences company to develop potential anti-cancer drugs.

The partnership is between the Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research and the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and Shanghai’s HD Biosciences Co. Ltd. The partners will share the costs and risks of discovery and development of new drugs.

They will jointly own any intellectual property and commercialization rights to products developed through the arrangement.

A representative with HD Biosciences says the Marshall medical school has developed viable drug candidates over the years. He said the collaboration will speed what is typically a long process and spread the costs.


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