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Marshall students looking forward to hearing from Virginia Tech survivor

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall University students, faculty and staff will hear a unique story of personal safety and ideas of how to keep schools safer across the country.

Kristina Anderson

The Society of Yeager Scholars at the institution will host Founder of the Koshka Foundation for Safe Schools Kristina Anderson on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Don Morris Room in the Memorial Student Center on Marshall’s Huntington campus.

Anderson, who is a survivor of the Virginia Tech massacre shooting, will share her story as part of the annual Yeager Symposium. Her message is titled “Lessons Learned as a Survivor of the Virginia Tech Tragedy,” and will outline what it was like to live through such an experience. She was shot multiple times in her classroom at Virginia Tech.

Langley Sonnenberg, a senior at Marshall and student organizer for the event, said the group chose Anderson because of the controversy surrounding the campus carry bill last legislative session. They want to hear from her point of view.

“We thought that Kristina Anderson could bring an interesting viewpoint and help open up the discussion here at Marshall,” Sonnenberg told MetroNews of her group.

“I don’t think it’ll necessarily be a pro or anti-gun talk at all, though. It’ll be tailored to her own experiences and how the lessons she learned from them could be applied in our lives.”

A release from Marshall said Anderson will also discuss details of interest to emergency responders and the idea of utilizing a risk assessment team. Marshall’s Chief of Police will join Anderson on a panel after she speaks.

Sonnenberg, an Economics and Finance major from Yokota Airbase, Japan, said 31 students are apart of the Society of Yeager Scholars and additional student groups will attend Tuesday.

The event is sponsored by the Marshall’s Society of Yeager Scholars and the Office of the President; Dr. and Mrs. Kenneth Wolfe; and the St. Mary’s Medical Center. The event is open to the public.

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Huntington next up after Ohio counties settle opioid suit

Two Ohio counties have settled with drug companies in a landmark case over responsibility for the opioid epidemic.  The settlement came just hours before the trial was scheduled to begin yesterday in Cleveland.

Under the agreement, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, McKesson Corp. and Teva Pharmaceuticals will pay $260 million to Cuyahoga and Summit Counties to help those communities battle the drug crisis.

The settlement did not include any admission of wrongdoing by the drug companies, but Joseph Rice, a lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said payments of over $323 million, including previous settlements, constitute “a pretty good admission.”

The agreement does not settle the remaining suits by some 2,400 communities, counties and Native American tribes against the drug manufacturers and distributors.  Huntington Mayor Steve Williams is among those pushing for justice.

“I want our day in court,” Williams said.  “People in Huntington and West Virginia have been asking the question ‘how has this happened in our city and our state.’ I want the opportunity to be in court so those sons of guns have to reveal just what happened.”

It’s uncertain whether that will happen.

The settlement with the two Ohio counties may serve as a template for agreements in the rest of the cases.  “The agreement also buys the companies time to try to fashion a more wide-ranging settlement with other governments,” the Washington Post reported.

West Virginia has been ravaged by the opioid epidemic.  Drug companies and wholesalers dumped millions of pills here.  Doctors overprescribed and pill mills popped up like dandelions.

As attorney Paul Ferrell, co-lead plaintiffs’ attorney, famously asked an official with the Drug Enforcement Administration, “Is there any basis that you can make up in reality or otherwise where a town of 400 people (Kermit, WV) have a medical need for five million pills of opium in a span of 24 months?”

The answer from the official was, as you might expect, that there is not.

So an accounting for this ongoing tragedy is essential.  Cuyahoga and Summit Counties are getting theirs.  An Oklahoma judge ruled earlier this year that Johnson & Johnson must pay that state $572 million for the damage done there by the opioid crisis.

The Cabell-Huntington case is next up.  Mayor Williams, who has witnessed first-hand what the pill dumping can do to a community, desperately wants a trial to get the drug companies on the record.

But a trial comes with a risk of losing and getting nothing, or less than what the community could have gotten with a settlement.  That will have to be sorted out by the lawyers, the drug companies and the judge.

It is evident, however, that West Virginia has been severely damaged by the opioid crisis. It’s going to take a long time and a lot of resources to clean up this mess. It’s also likely that some communities have been harmed in ways that can never be accurately measured or repaired, no matter how much money the companies have to pay.

 

 

 

 

 

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Manchin anticipates meeting with Trump’s intended Energy Secretary pick

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he is looking forward to meeting Energy Department Deputy Secretary Dan Brouillette about the Energy Secretary position.

President Donald Trump announced on Friday his intention to nominate Brouillette to replace current Secretary Rick Perry, who is slated to leave the position at the end of the year.

“Deputy Secretary Brouillette has served our nation well as Deputy Secretary and I look forward to meeting with him again to determine if he shares my commitment to making the proposed Appalachian storage hub a reality and moving forward on critical energy technologies like carbon capture, utilization and sequestration, energy efficiency and battery storage,” Manchin said.

Brouillette was confirmed to his current position in August 2017. The Senate voted 79-17 to confirm him, with Manchin and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., among the senators approving the nomination.

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Blankenship announces campaign for president

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Former coal executive Don Blankenship is running for president.

The Associated Press first reported Blankenship, who last year unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate, announced the move during the Constitution Party’s national committee meeting in Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Blankenship finished third in last year’s Republican primary and attempted to run for the office representing the Constitution Party. The state blocked Blankenship’s second attempt, citing West Virginia’s “sore loser” law.

Blankenship previously served as the CEO of Massey Energy and served a one-year sentence for conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards in light of the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion.

Blankenship switched his party registration earlier this year to Democrat. According to state records accessed Monday, he is re-registered with the Constitution Party.

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Fairmont University improves financial situation

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — Fairmont State University closed the recent fiscal year in record-breaking fashion. The institution continues to build on cost containment and strategic initiatives implemented in January 2018.

“The efforts of the entire campus community to be conscious of costs and implement changes to improve efficiency proved to yet again be successful in helping us end the year with an increase in net position of $5.3 million, the largest increase recorded in over 10 years,” said Christa Kwiatkowski, the university’s chief financial officer. “To have two years of positive net position changes is quite a feat in today’s higher education environment.”

University President Mirta Martin noted the university’s cost containment initiative to stabilize costs; the effort was launched around 18 months ago.

“Our continued, and growing, financial strength is impressive, but I am most grateful for the fact this was a campus-wide effort,” Martin said. “The entire Falcon community understood the importance of long-term financial health, and we worked together to find strategic initiatives that not only contained costs, but did so in a way that ensured we maintained our high standard of academics and service to students and other constituents.”

Martin also said state Secretary of Revenue Dave Hardy has warned of the possibility of a mid-year cut to higher education of 4.6%, which is equivalent to around $1 million.

Suttle and Stalnaker conducted the audit, which will be presented during the Dec. 5 Board of Governors meeting.

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State leaders want West Virginians to help set priorities for drug recovery efforts

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State officials are developing a plan to combat West Virginia’s drug problems, and they’re asking the public for help.

Bob Hansen

“It isn’t like we’ve been planning and not acting,” Bob Hansen, director of the state’s Office of Drug Control Policy, told a crowd of a couple hundred people who gathered at a public forum.

But, Hansen said, the state is almost ready to formally roll out a substance abuse response plan and needs West Virginians to help guide priorities.

A forum at the University of Charleston on Monday evening was the third public forum so far, and more are ahead in Martinsburg, Wheeling and Fairmont.

Those planning to attend may download and review the plan prior to the meeting. Those who are unable to attend can download the plan and provide online feedback.  All feedback must be received by this Friday.

Hansen said participants have been enthusiastic so far, motivated by how the opioid epidemic has affected West Virginia and wanting to help.

“The amount of people wanting to address our substance abuse crisis is overwhelming,” he said.

Organizers said public participation will help make the plan better.

Brian Gallagher

West Virginia’s limited resources mean not everything can be done at once, said Brian Gallagher, chairman of the Governor’s Council on Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment. So the public’s help is necessary to help set priorities.

“We’ve got to start somewhere,” Gallagher said.

The event in Charleston drew some regular members of the public, some people who are already involved in areas of recovery or workforce training and elected leaders. A couple of candidates for governor, Democrat Ron Stollings and Republican Woody Thrasher, were among those who turned out.

Participants rotated among tables, discussing aspects of getting West Virginia back to health. Breakout tables focused on issues such as employment opportunities, transportations and law enforcement.

As participants rotated from table to table, their questions were meant to help guide priorities on various strategies that have been proposed so far.

One group at the transportation table, for example, discussed the amount of regulation necessary for overseeing transportation programs for those who need a way to work or gather groceries.

The law enforcement table fielded a question about the intent of a proposed strategy to enhance sentences for drug offenders who commit violent crimes with a firearm.

The employment opportunities table had a discussion about what safeguards are in place when individuals in recovery interact with vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, while in training programs.

The employment table also had discussions about what training programs are available and how to encourage employers to participate.

Ashley Shaw

Among those going table to table was Ashley Shaw, director of Creating Opportunities for Recovery Employment with Marshall Health.

Shaw said the program she oversees is starting to gather momentum. It is focused on a 12-county region to help people prepare for employment.

Getting employers to participate sometimes requires a nudge, Shaw said.

“We have to start the conversation. That’s where it begins,” she said. “It’s really sitting down with companies and organizations right now that champion recovery and figuring out that buy-in, what was said to make them want to assist people in recovery?

“The other piece of that is figuring out where the barriers are. Why is it that they don’t want to get on board in providing education and support to move the Maybes and the Nos to a ‘Yes, I’ll hire somebody in recovery.'”

 

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National expert shares insight on school culture with W.Va. principals

DANIELS, W.Va. — More than 100 school principals gathered at the Glade Springs Resort and Conference Center on Monday for the beginning of a two-day discussion of the role and impact of group culture and group tendencies among educators and administrators.

Dr. Stephen Gruenert, co-author of the book “School Culture Rewired: How to Define, Assess, and Transform It,” presented members of the West Virginia School Leadership Network for Experienced Principals with the findings of his research into what he described as a self-contained culture that tends to develop within school environments, including traditions and expectations that can influence day-to-day functions in ways that may undermine educational goals.

“I’m just fascinated by why people do the things they do and what kind of factors influence their behaviors, especially professionals, because this is something that we would find in athletic teams, churches, fire departments, hospitals,” Gruener told MetroNews. “You always have your groups of people who come together and create their own unwritten rules of how we do things around here. And, if a leader is aware of that, it makes it a little bit easier to negotiate.”

Gruenert said the development of an unhealthy culture among teachers often is an incremental, subtle process that develops over several years or decades.

“One of the examples I tend to use is the idea that teachers are supposed to turn in lesson plans, all the time, and you’ll have some teachers who say, ‘Well, I just don’t have time to do that,’ or some teachers might say, ‘My lesson plans change all the time.’ And so, you’re always going to have a few negative people who push back on any kind of idea, whether it’s good or bad,” he explained.

“The negative people will recruit each other. They’ll look for other people who don’t want to do lesson plans, either. And in doing so, they can create a small group and begin to leverage other teachers, as this group begins to expand. Eventually, their loyalty to each other will outweigh their loyalty to the school. So, once they come together as a group and they have bonded tightly, they might use the excuse, ‘I don’t have time,’ for whatever the principal asks them to do. And because they have this social unit, there’s some strength in that.”

According to Gruenert, charter schools are not always the laboratories of innovation proponents of such institutions often make them out to be, in terms of addressing cultural factors that may be undermining a particular school’s mission or its educational outcomes.

“Thirty, 40 years ago, we called them lab schools. We called them schools where people were allowed to innovate and experiment, and we could see what works and what didn’t work, but since they’ve become for-profit, for the most sake, you might have some people out there who don’t really get learning to the degree to which they need to understand it. It becomes more of a business. But, a charter school done right can really provide us with a lot of good research,” he said.

Gruenert, a former middle school and high school principal, chairs the Educational Leadership Department at Indiana State University and was a founding member of the Indiana Principal Leadership Institute. He received a Ph.D. in Educational Governance and Supervision from the University of Missouri in 1998.

Among the topics to be discussed during the conference are the West Virginia Standards for Effective Schools, data-driven decision making, strategies to best impact student learning, and tips for hiring, training, and retaining teachers who will actively work to improve a school’s culture.

The forum is being hosted by the West Virginia Department of Education’s School Leadership Network.

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GW, Huntington, Riverside seek key wins in Week 9 (Class AAA previews)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Greg Carey and Joe Brocato discuss the best matchups we will be following in Week 9 of Class AAA football.

  • Cabell Midland (8-0) at Huntington (4-3)
  • Greenbrier East (5-2) at Parkersburg South (8-0)
  • George Washington (4-3) at Riverside (4-3)

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Winfield Boat Ramp and Dock closed for four weeks

WINFIELD, W.Va. — The Winfield Boat Ramp and Dock upstream of the Route 34 bridge will be closed for the next four weeks.

The Putnam County location closed on October 18 to replace the concrete launch ramp. Boaters and pedestrians will not be able to use the ramp and courtesy dock during construction.

According to the Division of Natural Resources, the replacement will be done under the contractor’s warranty at no additional cost to the state.

“We understand this is an inconvenience for people who use the facility,” said Zack Brown, assistant chief of the Wildlife Resources Section said in a release. “However, the DNR wants to ensure the facility is properly constructed so that it will serve the public for many years to come.”

The release said that during the repairs, boaters and pedestrians may use the city of Winfield’s launch ramp east of the site for fishing, kayaking and paddle boating.

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Bethlehem man identified as victim of three-vehicle Wheeling crash

WHEELING, W.Va. — A Bethlehem man has been identified as one of the victims of a fatal three-vehicle crash in Wheeling on Saturday.

Wheeling Police said Monday that David R. Burke, 72, was killed when the SUV he was driving collided with two tractor trailers on Interstate 470 eastbound near mile marker 3.

The department’s Crash Reconstruction Team is continuing their investigation into the accident that left the interstate shutdown for nearly five hours after the collision occurred at 3:15 p.m.

Another person was killed in the accident, believed to be a driver of one of the big rigs, but the victim’s name has not been released. A Wheeling Police officer was taken to Wheeling Hospital for minor injuries, where they were treated and released.

One of the two tractor trailers caught fire and burned for several hours. A conclusion on what caused the first tractor trailer to crash is still under investigation.

Investigation Continues Into Fatal Crash on I-470
October 21, 2019 pic.twitter.com/EJIj8UEPDS

— Wheeling, WV Police (@WheelingPolice) October 21, 2019

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