If you have read more than a few of my blog submissions, you are undoubtedly aware of the very high regard in which I hold teachers, school administrators and school service personnel. I believe very strongly that the folks who are charged with the duty of educating and caring for our young people have the most important job there is. It is their responsibility to prepare our children for the challenges of adulthood, and no job could possibly be more significant. They are often asked to deal with difficult children, disrespectful parents and a public who has little knowledge or appreciation of the challenges inherent in what they do. All of this while receiving a salary that is modest at best. For those reasons, I always do my best to make sure our local school personnel get the recognition they deserve. Schools in West Virginia are periodically evaluated based upon a set of standards developed by the West Virginia Office of Education Performance Audits (OEPA). OEPA sends teams of teachers into every single school in West Virginia, and the teams rate each school according to certain standards which have been adopted state-wide. With respect to each standard, schools are rated as Distinguished (4 pts), Accomplished (3 pts), Emerging (2 pts) or Unsatisfactory (1 pt). A report is then generated and provided to the Superintendent of Schools, detailing the ratings received in each school for each standard. All of the ratings for the county in each category are then totaled and broken down into percentages. This morning, I learned that the schools in Marshall County were rated higher than any other school system in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Our schools were rated as “Distinguished” on 16 percent of the applicable rating standards, and as “Accomplished” on 82 percent of the standards. None of the other school systems in the panhandle received ratings that equaled or exceeded the percentage of Distinguished and Accomplished ratings achieved here in Marshall County. A complete chart of the ratings appears below. In a nutshell, this evaluation demonstrates that not only are our teachers, administrators and service personnel doing the best job of any school system in the Northern Panhandle, but that we are among the best school systems in the entire state! I have known Marshall County Schools Superintendent Michael Hince for nearly 30 years, and I don’t know that I have ever seen him quite as excited as he was this morning when he reported the results of this study. In his typical fashion, Mr. Hince gave all of the credit for this tremendous accomplishment to everyone else in the school system. I suspect he may have had more than a little bit to do with this success story as well. He is just too modest to talk about it. We all know how important a top-flight education system is to the economic development of any area. The current oil and gas boom has given us all hope that Marshall County may soon see a return to the economic prosperity of 40-50 years ago. This report brings that hope closer to reality. Congratulations to Mr. Hince and all of the teachers, administrators and service personnel in the Marshall County Schools! Keep up the good work!