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State figures show that nearly a third of West Virginia's public school students were truant during the 2013-2014 academic year. According to Department of Education data, 58 percent of McDowell County's students were marked as truant. That was the highest rate in the state. Jefferson County had the lowest rate, 7 percent. The statewide rate was about 31 percent. Students are marked as truant if they miss at least five days of class without an excuse. McDowell County Superintendent Nelson Spencer tells The Sunday Gazette-Mail that truancy cases are a byproduct of poverty and drug abuse, and "graduation coaches" have been hired to work with at-risk students in high schools.
Robberies over the weekend have some neighborhoods on edge. Saturday morning around 4:30 a 7-11 store in South Charleston was robbed, and Saturday evening someone held up a Rich Oil gas station in Sissonville. Then on Sunday somebody tried to rob a retail store in Kanawha City. Police are still looking for the suspects, and anyone with information is asked to call with tips.
Nine health care centers in southern West Virginia are sharing in more than $2.2 million in federal funding. U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall announced the funding Thursday and said it's aimed at increasing access to quality care in the region. Health centers receiving the funding are in Princeton, Camden-on-Gauley, Beckley, Hamlin, Scarbro, Rainelle, Gary, Huntington and Williamson. Funding ranges from $187,000 to $406,000. The awards are through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Charleston Police Department unveiled a memorial for fallen officers last night. The Wall of Honor pays tribute to all Charleston police officers who have died in the line of duty, including Charleston patrol officer Jerry A. Jones, who was killed in the line of duty on September 13th, 2009.
Are pregnant women heeding the warning not to smoke? It turns out, more than 25 percent of pregnant women in West Virginia from 2008 to 2011 said they smoked during their pregnancy. Federal data and a state health organization say pregnant West Virginia women continue to smoke at the highest recorded rates in the nation. West Virginia Kids Count released the data this week, which shows that every year but one from 2000 to 2011, more than a quarter of West Virginia mothers surveyed said they smoked in the last three months of their pregnancy.
Enrollment at an area private school is higher than it's ever been. The University of Charleston has more than 2,100 students signed up this semeseter, which is an all-time high for the school. The university says it's seen an enrollment increase of 36 percent over the past two years. Last year, UC took over Mountain State University campuses in Beckley and Martinsburg. That followed the revocation of Mountain State's accreditation because of a series of leadership problems. The Charleston Gazette says that the university's full-time student enrollment last year was then the second highest in UC's 125-year history.
A Martinsburg doctor already facing a disciplinary hearing by a state medical board has been indicted on federal charges that she illegally prescribed prescription painkillers. Dr. Tressie Montene Duffy has been indicted on 100 felony counts of aiding and abetting the distribution of four controlled substances from April 2010 to February 2012, according to a U.S. Attorney. She's the CEO and owner West Virginia Weight and Wellness Inc. and she's accused of signing blank prescription orders, then allowing employees to issue 157 of them to 96 patients without being seen by a physician. Duffy faces a hearing Nov. 17-19 before the state Board of Medicine in Charleston over her medical license.
Charleston police have their man. 36-year old James Arthur Smith from California has been arrested in connection with three separate breaking and enterings at local bars. Police say he broke into Boulevard Tavern, Dome Bar and Vino’s and took a safe from each spot. He was taken to South Central Regional Jail and will be extradicted to Ohio for sentencing there on other crimes.
The state Racing Commission could request legislation to drop the number of days racetracks have to hold live races under law. The Charleston Gazette says the commission this week talked about reducing the required number of racing days to 185 at the state's four racetracks. Tracks face a 10 percent cut in state subsidies this budget year. Money from wagering is also on the decline. Racing Commissioner Bill Phillips said it's clear that racing purses have dropped too much to maintain a full racing calendar. A vote on a resolution will likely come at the commission's Oct. 14 meeting.
The son of a well-known Charleston reverend has been arrested on a drug-related charge. WCHSTV reports 30-year old Matthew J. Watts was arrested for allegedly selling a quantity of suspected heroin. His father, the Rev. Matthew Watts is a senior pastor at Grace Bible Church, and he's an active community leader who works against violence and drugs on the West Side.