POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — One of West Virginia’s former governors returned to Mason County this week, not to ask for votes but to talk education in terms of being an economic development tool.
Former Gov. Bob Wise was welcomed to the new central office of Mason County Schools (the former home of the Moose Lodge) to attend a roundtable discussion organized by the Mason County Development Authority and Mason County Area Chamber of Commerce.
Wise joked, though he had been to “the Moose” several times over the years as a politician, this was the first time he’d ever visited and didn’t ask for votes.
Known as the “education governor,” Wise created the Promise Scholarship and other initiatives meant to boost the educational opportunities of all West Virginians. Since leaving office in 2005, Wise joined the Alliance for Excellent Education, a nonprofit organization that has become a leader for the nation’s high schools. Its aim is for all students to graduate from high school prepared to succeed in college and a career. Wise, who is now president of the alliance, spoke about education and the economy being “inextricably mixed.”
He asked some of those gathered for the roundtable what they were looking for in a workforce. Answers ranged from a strong work ethic to problem solving skills. He then brought students into the discussion – specifically students from Point Pleasant High School, Hannan High School and Wahama High School, who are in the culinary arts program at the Mason County Career Center. Those students also prepared the appetizers and desserts for the event.
“You’re always going to be continuing to learn how to learn,” Wise told the students.
He then paraphrased Superintendent Jack Cullen, who also assisted in hosting the event: “It’s not enough to graduate, it’s what you graduate with.”
Wise then asked students how they learn with those students preferring a “hands on” experience, like that in their culinary arts class where they actually create dishes, as opposed to taking notes in a classroom.
“The education system is our best economic development tool,” Wise told those gathered, saying the trends are turning toward personalized learning experiences that are more than going to class.
“They (the culinary arts students) are learning in a way that matters to them,” he said, adding “students are learning by doing.”
The most “political” Wise got in his presentation, was when he was asked by State Sen. Mitch Carmichael (R-Ripley) about his opinion on more dollars spent on education resulting in, well, results. Wise said more dollars spent on education doesn’t always turn into “results.” He explained, it’s important to identify what needs to get accomplished and to have a plan when it comes to funding education. He also personally said he was concerned about the cuts to higher education and that: “We pay for that in the end.”
John Musgrave, director of the Mason County Development Authority, thanked Wise and those in attendance, saying he hopes to assist in organizing more roundtable discussions in the community regarding economic growth and development.
Reach Beth Sergent at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.