Wood County residents weigh in on search for superintendent

Photo by Michael Erb Tom Heywood, left, a managing partner in Charleston-based law firm Bowles Rice who moderated Wednesday’s public forum for the Wood County Board of Education, gives opening remarks while board member Ron Tice, center, and Superintendent John Flint listen. The board solicited public comments about the qualities needed in a new superintendent. The board hopes to have a new superintendent in place by June 1.

PARKERSBURG — Community members gathered Wednesday at the Wood County Schools central office to weigh in on the search for a new superintendent.

The Wood County Board of Education held the public forum to give people the chance to say what qualities they believe will be needed in a new superintendent. The board last month voted to not renew the contract of Superintendent John Flint. His contract expires June 30 and the board must have a new superintendent named by June 1.

The event was organized by the West Virginia School Board Association and moderated by Tom Heywood, a managing partner in Charleston-based law firm Bowles Rice.

“This is a vital and important part of a bigger process,” Heywood said. “What is said tonight and heard tonight will be condensed into a report. It will first go to the board and then released as a public document. This will help the board as part of its process in this very important superintendent search.”

More than a dozen people addressed the board, with many submitting written comments as well.

Photo by Michael Erb McKinley Elementary School teacher Cheryl Fiedorczyk holds an award given to her father while he was superintendent for 25 years at Wirt County Schools during Wednesday’s public forum for the Wood County Board of Education’s superintendent search.

Many of the speakers represented groups with specific interests. April Pennell with SW Resources talked about the need for special needs students to be put on a transition track so they are prepared for careers after graduation. Shelene Shrewsbury with Consumer Credit Counseling talked about the need for better financial education among students. Ben Shuman with the Parkersburg Boys and Girls Club said he hopes the new superintendent will value collaboration with the countless organizations which help care for and educate students after the school day ends.

Jill Parsons with the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley said the new superintendent must address infrastructure, teacher morale and better preparing students for careers or higher education. Christina Smith with the Arc of the Mid-Ohio Valley said the new superintendent should have an “expert understanding of special education law” to effectively implement and enforce inclusive programs.

The board also heard from several current employees, including VanDevender Middle School Principal Darlene Parsons and Fairplains Elementary School Principal Liz Conrad. Merideth Hahn with the Wood County American Federation of Teachers and Bruce Boston with the Wood County Education Association both delivered comments on behalf of their memberships.

Cheryl Fiedorczyk, a second-grade teacher at McKinley Elementary School who has been in education for more than 35 years, said a good superintendent must wear many hats and effectively communicate and manage multiple facets of public education.

“Superintendents infuse purpose in the school system and become an advocate for the education of others,” she said. “We need to make sure we find a superintendent who does have a vision that takes us forward to an end result where everyone benefits.”

Pam Reynolds, a school bus driver with Wood County Schools, said she wants a leader who treats all employees and departments with equal respect and consideration.

“We are all one group,” she said. “I want someone to foster that kind of environment so we can work together.”

Cathy Grewe, coordinator of assessment and student services for Wood County Schools, said the new superintendent must address all of the social and economic factors affecting student behavior, as well as the loss of students who are unwilling or unable to continue their educations for a variety of reasons.

The school system needs “a person who cares about all students,” she said. “A person whose mantra is ‘Every student counts.'”

Community member Angela Summers said the new superintendent should have a “fundamental appreciation of parental rights,” including the ability to opt students out of state and federal assessments, and should work to keep local control over curriculum and student data.