New Superintendent meets with Chamber of Commerce committee

by Wilson Harvey, Staff Writer, The Exponent Telegram, July 30th, 2014

Harrison County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Manchin, center, meets with the Education Committee of the Harrison County Chamber of Commerce Tuesday. Staff photo by Wilson Harvey

Harrison County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Manchin, center, meets with the Education Committee of the Harrison County Chamber of Commerce Tuesday. Staff photo by Wilson Harvey

CLARKSBURG — Harrison Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Manchin spoke Tuesday at the Harrison County Chamber of Commerce’s Education Committee meeting and heard panel members’ ideas on how to connect business and education.

Manchin spoke highly of the work of the community in making education a better experience for students. “I made an effort to travel around the county to see the people who make this school system great,” Manchin said. “What has impressed me the most is that I spend half of my day talking with people who are trying to make this system great.”

Manchin added that the Chamber is important in the education process. “The Chamber of Commerce plays a very, very integral role in our success,” he said. “It’s not lost on me how important a role education plays in that process. We recognize what an important role we play.”

Manchin added that not only does the education system produce individuals who become a part of local commerce, but it also does much to impact the economy itself with nearly 1,500 employees in Harrison County Schools. And in his experience, he said, Harrison County has more people willing to help education than anywhere else he has been. After his opening remarks, the Education Committee presented Manchin with various ideas to help benefit the education system. The first of these involved a pavilion and sundial for the Salem Elementary Fitness/Science Trail. Manchin said he hopes the board can provide the required services.

“What I’d like to do today is establish a scope of work and then ask the professionals what needs to be done,” he said. “That’s outstanding (the trail), particularly the fitness part of it. We’re going to be more active with the school system and keeping our children healthy. If we can intervene early, we can have a more healthy clientele, because children and even teachers miss a lot of school with health issues,” Manchin said.

The committee also mentioned the possibility of a Career Day event for students in either the sixth or seventh grades, something Manchin said he would be interested in if Harrison County school principals agree. “We have an incredible amount of things going on in the school system,” he said. “When community suggestions are made, we are receptive, and career days are terrific.” He added that a Career Day would ultimately be a great idea to help prepare students for life after school.

“Education is not the end; it’s the means to an end,” Manchin said. “The end is having the means to go into this world and be a productive citizen. Every child who graduates from a Harrison County school should be ready to go into the world of work. I will make the schools available for a career day; if you determine it, we’ll listen.” Later, he asked the committee to submit the Career Day idea in writing once panel members had worked out concrete details and specifics.

Manchin also discussed the possibility of partnering with the Chamber to open a job shadowing program, saying it could provide students with great insight into the work world. “If we send students out into the world without any skills, we’re almost assuring their failure,” he said.

Kathy Wagner, president of the Harrison County Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Education Committee, said the purpose of the meeting was to begin communication with Manchin and the school system. “I wanted Dr. Manchin to meet our Education Committee and to relay to him our willingness to work with them and help prepare students for a better future,” she said. Wagner said she thought the meeting was successful. “We’re building that relationship with the school system. Anytime you have a new superintendent like Dr. Manchin, you want to reconnect and re-energize that relationship between the Chamber business system and the schools, and look at ways to improve,” Wagner said.

James B. Swiger, chairman of the Education Committee, agreed. “I think it was a fairly good meeting,” he said. “There’s always a little apprehension when there’s a change, but we wanted to open the communication between Chamber businesses and the school system. I’m happy to see that Dr. Manchin understands that it’s beneficial when the business community combines with the education system. It makes a stronger community as a whole,” Swiger said. He added that the committee has been working since last fall to redevelop relations in the education community, and said the meeting with Manchin was the first step in that process.

Manchin agreed that Tuesday’s meeting was a good first step in showing cooperation with the community. “What I hoped to say is that we recognize a lot of people are prepared to work with us,” he said. “I wanted to show that the Board of Education is willing to work together with the community. I want people to know that we’re all in this together — to try and make this the best school system in this state.”

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