Schools Superintendent candidates meet the public
Three applicants for the Pocahontas County Schools Superintendent position addressed the public at a forum April 15 at Pocahontas County High School. Two other applicants, George Aulenbacher, of Charleston, and Chris Perkins, of Fayetteville, dropped out of the race for the position.
C.C. Lester, of Richwood; Ruth Bland, of Dunmore; and Tab Mathis, of Huntington, were each given a half-hour toﾠ introduce themselves to the audience and to answer five questions.
Prior to the forum, each candidate met with the board of education in a private interview.
C. C. Lester served as principal at Richwood Junior High School and Marlinton Middle School and has more than 35 years experience in the school systems of West Virginia.
Addressing a question of critical issues facing public education, Lester focused on involvement of the public and educators in all decisions made by the central office for the betterment of the students.
"I believe we need to get more involvement from the public, more input on decision making and get the trust and faith back from the people," Lester said. "We are here for the kids as a decision maker for the kids. I've said it since day one, the most important resource we have in America are the students."
Lester added that he likes working with people and explaining issues the school system faces.
"My leadership style has always been one of shared decision making," he said. "Get as much input from as many people possible because everybody is a stakeholder in the education of a child. It takes a community to raise a child and it takes a school system to educate a child."
Ruth Bland is principal at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School and previously served as speech pathologist in the school system. She has been employed by Pocahontas County Schools for 26 years.
Bland believes the critical issues Pocahontas County Schools are facing include the current economic status of the country and adult literacy.
"I've seen more and more children moving from reduced lunch to free lunch and the opportunities for our students are not there as they have been in the past due to the economic decline of the nation as well as the ability of the family and school system to support these children," she said.
"Our county has one of the highest rates of adults without a high school diploma and because of that, we see students who do not value education because their parents do not value education," she continued. "We have a GED program at [GBEMS]and we've put through over 14 parents. As we saw the parents earn their GEDs, we saw the children's interests in school rise."
Bland said that in her 26 years in the school system, she has seen a high caliber of staff and students that she wants to lead.
"The people in our school system are entrusted with 13 years of a child's life and we have one shot, really, at educating those students and doing it the right way and I just think that my passion about education and my enthusiasm about education would fit what the other employees feel about our students."
Tab Mathis has served as an educator in Wayne County for 20 years. He was a teacher, assistant principal, principal and director of transportation/service personnel for Wayne County Schools.
Mathis said a critical issue faced by not only West Virginia schools, but schools in the entire country is safety.
"We're living in a time that is scary and we live in an area where we sometimes take that for granted," he said. "We have outside influences and inside influences that are dangerous for our kids and your superintendent needs to know and understand the patterns of these.
"On the elementary and middle school level, violence has come from without," he elaborated. "There have been adults who come into the school to do violence, so we have to very closely guard who comes in and out of our schools. At the high school level, violence comes from within. We have a lot of kids that are very angry. We need to make sure to identify if kids need special attention and counseling. We need to watch closely as we deal with those issues."
Mathis added that his main focus is the education of every child in the county.
"We're here to educate our kids, no excuses," he said. "Doesn't matter what their background is, doesn't matter what success they've had in the past. It is our responsibility to educate them to their fullest potential."
Members of the audience were given a chance to assist the board with their decision by filling out an evaluation form for the three candidates.
The board will announce their decision at the next meeting on April 26 at 7 p.m. in the board of education conference room.