WVU to Research Community Data about West Side

By Molenda, Rachel | The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV), August 2, 2014 | Go to article overview

WVU to Research Community Data about West Side


Molenda, Rachel, The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)


The West Virginia University School of Public Health has begun to examine research collected and work completed by community groups on Charleston's West Side. "What we're trying to do as an institution, as the flagship institution, is to come in and validate the work, say, Yes, this does make sense. Yes, they have done this research according to scientific standards,' WVU chief diversity officer David Fryson said at a regional meeting of the school's diversity committee held Friday.

Fryson said investors don't always give merit to work done by local organizations.

The university's College of Human Resources and Education has already agreed to offer its expertise to schools on the West Side. The Gazette reported in July that the department wants to offer expertise in counseling, child development, family studies and teacher enhancement to the area that has been challenged for years by drug-related crime and poverty.

"We're not trying to do things that look good. We're trying to do things that are good, Fryson said.

Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary, where Friday's meeting was held, ranked 398th out of West Virginia's 494 elementary schools last year, according to standardized test scores. Watts Elementary, J.E. Robbins Elementary (both of which have been consolidated and whose students will attend Edgewood Elementary in the fall) and Grandview Elementary School had similar low scores.

The Legislature approved last year a Community School project for four schools on the West Side to connect schools with social services and implement innovative teaching methods.

The Rev. Matthew J. Watts, of HOPE Community Development Corp., asserted to the committee Friday that such poor results don't come on their own. The West Side faces many challenges, Watts said, including the breakdown of two-parent households; a disproportionate amount of public and Section 8 housing, which he said contributes to a high concentration of poverty; disinvestment; and a large number of vacant houses. The West Side, Watts said, also has a lack of safe, affordable housing that might otherwise attract young home buyers; a lack of coordinated social services; a disengaged community; and a lack of "political and business champions to help advance the area. …

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