Tuesday, July 15, 2014

R.I.P. David Ice

I was saddened to learn yesterday that David Ice died recently. Although I wasn’t fortunate to have him as a teacher at Parkersburg High School, I had admired his reputation there. I started attending PHS Student Council meetings during my senior year, even though I was just observing (I never thought I could get elected to Student Council at PHS, although I did write a few interesting anonymous letters to the editor of the PHS Journal about school issues). Dave was the faculty advisor for Student Council, and he took note of my interest in governance at the time. I could tell he was a great teacher. Partly because of his encouragement, I decided that when I went off to college, I would get involved with student government. [That plan worked out pretty good for me at UC.]

I later crossed paths with him at WVU, when he spent the summer of 1981 in Morgantown taking graduate classes in Public Administration with me. It was really special for me to have a teacher I had looked up to sitting with me as a student. I felt we bonded well over that summer.

In between my Masters in Public Administration and my law degree, I worked for the West Virginia House of Delegates’ Government Organization Committee during the 1982 session of the Legislature. By then, Dave was taking a leave of absence each winter from his PHS teaching position to serve on the staff of the House Education Committee, and he “taught me the ropes” about working as a staff member. We spent many late nights in the Capitol. Later that year (after the session ended but before I started law school), I decided to run for the House of Delegates myself. He was very helpful during my campaign, although I finished sixth out of ten in (what was then) a five seat district.

After graduation, I took a federal job in Washington, DC. Dave wanted to visit DC with his wife and young daughter, and contacted me for visitor tips. I ended up meeting them at their hotel in the suburbs, and played tour guide during their weekend visit.

By 1992, I was once again living in Parkersburg and decided to run for the Wood County Board of Education. As with my first attempt at elective office, Dave was very helpful—and this time I led the ticket. I have fond memories of long talks at his home on Quincy Hill on campaign ideas and educational issues.

Not long after I took office, I found myself in trouble, because I wanted to see the schools for myself, but the county superintendent decided that board members were not allowed to tour the schools. Dave was a key confidante during this major controversy, which resulted in an affirmation that board members do indeed have the authority to visit schools.

Dave had left PHS to take a full time position as the Assistant Secretary of Education and the Arts (under Steve Haid and then Barbara Harmon-Schamberger) when Governor Caperton was in office. He was later appointed by Governor Underwood to the top position as Secretary of Education and the Arts. During my eight years on the school board, his office in the Capitol became a regular stop during my frequent visits to Charleston. I learned a lot from him during those years, and I’d like to think we worked together well on several educational issues.

For example, I was appointed (perhaps with his help?) to a "blue ribbon commission" to determine how to expand the implementation of Governor Caperton’s initiative to put computers into all West Virginia schools. Originally, the program put computers in a different elementary grade each year. Caperton gave the Commission members a kick-off speech that clearly indicated that he assumed we would recommend a continuation of that one-grade-per-year program, and would start putting computers in all seventh grade classrooms around the state.

However, I was part of a sub-group that started arguing that the same implementation plan that worked for elementary schools would not necessarily work well in secondary schools, where classrooms are not necessarily assigned by grade level. We came up with an alternative proposal to allocate computers to secondary schools based on a formula, and allow the county school systems propose how they would allocate their usage. It provided more flexibility to local schools, and allowed immediate needs to be addressed better than the rigid “one-grade-per-year” plan. Our commission’s recommendation was not what the Governor had envisioned, but it ended up getting selected. Working quietly behind the scenes (as he often did), Dave played a big role in convincing “the powers that be” that this was a better solution.

I also was appointed to two other big committees to grapple with thorny state-wide education issues. One was on teacher evaluation forms, and once again, it seemed as if the committee had been appointed merely to adopt the solution that the State Board of Education members had already decided upon. However, I questioned whether a simple (acceptable/unacceptable) personnel evaluation system that the president of the State Board of Education proposed was the best solution. I felt that there needed to be more choices so that better feedback could be given to those who needed to improve, thus it made sense to me that teachers be “graded” on an “A/B/C/D/F” scale just like their students. Once again, Dave quietly urged me on to challenge the conventional wisdom, and as I recall the committee ended up going along with me (I think the representatives from the employee associations didn’t like either version, but they liked seeing me challenge the State Board’s position).

Of course, the third major committee comprised of folks around the state to examine an issue was school calendar reform. It was my efforts on this committee that primarily caused my defeat by the unions—although much of what we were trying to achieve was eventually passed in recent years by the Legislature.

My point with all this is that David Ice supported my efforts (sometime covertly, sometimes overly) on these difficult decisions. Whatever success I had as a school board member often came as a result of careful and confidential deliberations with him. He was definitely a mentor to me, and I was a better board member because of his advice and support.

I hate it that we had lost touch over the years after he moved to Colorado. We exchanged a few Christmas cards and such, and I remember unsuccessfully urging him to get on Facebook. I guess I just always thought I would see him again and be able to tell him how much I learned from him (even though I never had him as a high school teacher) and how much he meant to me. In his quiet and competent manner, he taught me to “speak truth to power”—and I don’t think you can give a government teacher a higher compliment.

This is one of the ways I can tell that I am getting old—people who meant a lot to me and who helped to mold my life are starting to disappear. Don’t wait too long to tell folks how important they were to you. I had shared some of this with him in the past, but I wish I could have told him one more time. He really meant a lot to me!

[After posting this tribute on my Facebook page, it quickly became apparent that he meant a lot to my friends as well, many of whom “liked” my tribute and some shared comments with me about their experiences with him. Indeed, Dave was a very good person!]

R.D.: I had the good fortune to work with him in Gov. Underwood's administration. He was a great guy...nice...integrity beyond measure...

G.D.: Good man. sorry to hear of his passing

K.B.: One of my favorite teachers at phs! He took a hand full of us kids to gov Rockefeller's first Inauguration. Wood co schools was closed because of cold weather, but he got the okay and still took us kids to Charleston.

P.S.B.: I was very fortunate to be in Student Council at PHS with Mr. ice as my advisor,he was one of my favorites,great educator.Thanks David beautiful tribute.

J.K.S.: I remember him from when he was with the Office of the Education and the Arts and served on our Grant Advisory Council. What an impressive man! He always had the students in mind and what was best for them plus he was so down to earth & genuinely a nice human being. RIP

R.S.: I had classes with Mr. Ice my senior year at PHS, learned a lot from him. Mr. Ice and Mrs. Harvey along with some of the best USAF Sergeants I had the privilege to serve with help to round me out for better or worst. Both Mr. Ice and Mrs. Harvey help instill in me to question the status quo and not to rely on what the experts preach as the "gospel". Mr. Ice is one of the few teachers I had that I remember very well and glad to have had.

S.McH.P.: I just read your informative note that really shares to us how extra special Mr. Ice was. To be honest, I have tears in my eyes and a tug at my heart. These are beautiful memories you have. I'm so sorry you have lost such a special and influential person in your life. I know as you said, we are starting to lose people in our lives that we just thought would always be here. I was hit hard with Dads death. I always thought he would be here. Now I know different and it hurts when we have to realize that we are losing loved ones and special people in our lives and , yes, it's because they got older and we have entered into the age of getting old. It's scarey to me. Im so glad that you DID get the chance to tell him at different times what he meant to you. What an extraordinary career he had! I didn't realize all that he had accomplished. I sent his death notice to my older sister. I told her I found out from you via FB. She had Mr Ice in high school and he made an impact in her life too.

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