Speaking Up

PARKERSBURG – Community members gathered Tuesday to weigh in on Wood County Schools’ search for a new superintendent.

Public discussion of the superintendent search was the only item on Tuesday’s Wood County Board of Education agenda. The board this evening will interview Ronald B. Cantley II, an assistant superintendent in Fayette County, W.Va.; John Flint, a retired Wood County Schools administrator; and Thomas Graves, a principal in Russell County, Va. The closed-door interviews begin at 5:30 p.m. at the board’s 13th and Plum streets offices.

A fourth candidate, Kenneth Moles, an assistant superintendent with Raleigh County Schools, withdrew his name from consideration Tuesday morning.

Seven people, including some current and former Wood County Schools employees, addressed the board Tuesday evening.

Community member Tom Stark said he believed any choice for superintendent must have experience beyond school administration. He also said the superintendent should be dedicated to improving the school system for students.

“There should be no doubt about the desire of Wood County to move forward for the betterment of our kids,” Stark said.

Woody Wilson, a retired Wood County Schools teacher who is still in education, said the school system faces numerous issues, from low employee morale to unengaged students to an “ideological persuasive curriculum at all three levels,” elementary, middle and high school.

“We need a superintendent that understands and accepts the fact that he is the leader of learning in Wood County and that the prime directive of Wood County or any other county should be student learning and achievement,” he said.

Wilson said in recent years the district’s administration has been distracted by other issues, such as construction at Stadium Field.

Those issues “pale in comparison to the vast importance of student learning and achievement,” Wilson said. “Every school in the system needs to become a culture of learning.”

Vicki Squires, who often represents Wood County Schools service personnel, spoke Tuesday representing only herself and said she believed Flint would be the best candidate for superintendent.

“He is a great, personable guy to work with,” she said. “He loves this county, he loves our students in this county, that is his number one focus, and he also loves the employees.

“I ask each of you to consider John as a possible superintendent.”

Millie Stoneking, president of the Wood County Education Association, said the superintendent should have instructional and leadership qualifications and should build “consensus and support” among all shareholders in the county.

The superintendent should have “a vision for the school system and must be able to communicate those long-range goals,” she said. She also said the new superintendent should be accessible and fair to all parties.

Georgiana Atkinson, who has been a teacher in Wood County Schools for 40 years, said she hopes to see the school system return to a time of pride and high ideals. She threw her support behind Flint, saying he has the knowledge of the school system and rapport with the community to hit the ground running.

“We don’t need an academic for this job, someone who would take a lot of time to become familiar with this job. We can’t afford the luxury,” she said. “A dynamic leader is what we need, and that leader in my opinion is John Flint.”

Doug Kiger spoke to the board as a representative of the district’s technical and career programs, which he says are in need of support and an influx of resources to expand and serve more students. Kiger said he hopes the new superintendent will be a friend to those programs, which he believes will be critical in coming years as the area seeks to draw more technical and industrial jobs, like a planned cracker plant, to the area.

Christina Smith, executive director of The Arc of the Mid-Ohio Valley, was the last to speak, urging the school board to make sure the new superintendent better understood state and federal laws designed to provide services and protections for special needs students.

The special education system in Wood County Schools “is broken. It is way broken and it has been broken for a long time,” Smith said. “We want a superintendent who will fully implement and enforce state special education policy. We want teachers and administrators to have more training. We want folks held accountable, that is the bottom line. “

Board member Jim Fox said while he would have liked for more people to attend Tuesday’s meeting, he was pleased with the opinions voiced and the issues brought to the board’s attention.

Fox said choosing a new superintendent “is the most important decision we make as a board, and we take this very seriously.”

The school board hopes to have a new superintendent chosen by April 8.