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Board reacts to West Side takeover talk

By Mackenzie Mays, Staff writer

Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Ron Duerring said one state school board member’s suggestion to take over the schools on Charleston’s struggling West Side is a non-issue.

But some Kanawha County school board members are upset at even the thought of it.

“I want to know that we’re handling this ridiculous claim that we ought to give up the West Side as a separate district. It’s an issue when you’ve got a state school board member saying he wants to carve out a part of our district,” School Board Member Pete Thaw said during a public meeting Thursday. “I can’t believe the board isn’t any more concerned.”

West Virginia Board of Education Member Bill White told the Gazette on Wednesday that some officials were discussing making the West Side — which is undergoing a Community School reform project — its own district, which would allow the state to oversee it.

White later retracted those statements on Wednesday, saying he had been contacted by other education officials about the issue. White first brought up the idea of a West Side takeover at a public state school board meeting last week.

Kanawha County school board member Becky Jordon also took offense to White’s comments.

“I think that board member is out of line. It’s crazy,” Jordon said at Thursday’s meeting.

Duerring assured board members on Thursday that it is a misconception, and that he’s working with the state Department of Education on the issue.

“I just don’t think at this point there’s something to oppose... [I don’t know] how accurate this information is,” Duerring said Thursday. “I assure you I’m addressing all of your concerns.”

White had said that a takeover of the West Side would ensure that the county’s large to-do list for the crime-ridden neighborhood’s schools would get done, and would also help secure funding for the project.

As part of the pilot project, Kanawha County School administrators and West Side community leaders are working to connect Stonewall Jackson Middle, Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary, Grandview Elementary and up-and-coming Edgewood Elementary with a slew of social services and also implement new teaching strategies in the schools.

While White had previously said that he hoped to get the issue on next month’s state Board of Education meeting, Department of Education Spokeswoman Liza Cordeiro said Thursday it will not be on the agenda.

“That’s not to say that individual board members can’t be passionate or have strong feelings about lots of different topics,” Cordeiro said. “In this case, the board as a whole has not discussed nor voted upon that issue.”

Also at Thursday’s Kanawha County school board meeting, new school board member Ryan White asked the board to consider hiring a full-time communications specialist to promote the school system’s events.

While White said most districts in the state already have a similar position, Thaw was outraged at the projected $50,000 salary the job might require.

The board also announced a new website redesign for Kanawha County Schools and a phone application set to be unveiled with the start of school in August.

The board also announced its lowest employee travel cost report in recent history — citing efforts to cut back on the budget.

Reach Mackenzie Mays

at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com, 304-348-4814 or follow

@mackenziemays on Twitter.


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