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New Putnam school board member takes seat

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- For Robert Cunningham, his three young children and his commitment to his home county are what pushed him to apply to become Putnam County's newest Board of Education member.

"I started kindergarten at Winfield Elementary School and went straight through," Cunningham said. "The shift since then has been very progressive. Putnam County schools are very well-respected throughout the state, and the recent bond that was passed shows the commitment of not only the board, but the people in the community -- they want to have quality education and quality facilities for our children to learn."

Cunningham, 44, was chosen from a pool of roughly a dozen applicants to fill the unexpired term of Deborah Phillips, according to Karen Nowviskie, director of early childhood education at Putnam County Schools.

Phillips, who was elected to her latest term in 2010, resigned in September. Her term was set to expire in June of 2014, and Cunningham said he hopes to run to keep his spot then.

"I want to make sure we have safe schools, and I want to make sure we recruit and retain the best and the brightest teachers we can," he said.

Cunningham's daughter Hollie, 12, attends Winfield Middle School, and his two younger children, Jaxson, 8, and Caden, 6, attend Winfield Elementary School. He has served for the last year as president of Winfield Midget League football and the Mountain State Elite midget league conference.

Cunningham said he "inherited a good situation" with the league, which had a fair amount of reserve funds and allowed him to help the organization prosper.

"My involvement with the midget league drove me to seek out this position," he said.

Cunningham sat as a board member after he was sworn in Monday, and will attend his first full meeting Nov. 18. He joins fellow board members Jack Coyner, Sam Sentelle, Craig Spicer and board president William Legg.

"The board discussed the kind of person they were looking for to serve the people of Putnam County, and made their choice based on that," Nowviskie said.

Phillips stepped down earlier this year to focus on her new business venture, Government Solutions LLC, which she started after leaving the Arnold Agency public relations firm. She told the Gazette in September she hoped the board would be able to select a candidate able to work well with the current membership.

"I hope someone is appointed who has the same ability to work together with no drama. You need to disagree and debate, but once you make a decision, you have to work together, because it's about the kids," she said.

Cunningham said he believes his appointment will be a positive step for Putnam's school board.

"I fell like I'll be able to help the board continue to reach their goals for success," he said.

The next Board of Education meeting will be held Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. in Winfield. For more information, visit http://putnam.schoolspan.com.

Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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