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Finding Best School Leader Available

April 29, 2015
Wetzel Chronicle

To judge by comments Tammy Ignacio made during an interview with Wetzel County Board of Education members, she would be an excellent school superintendent. Add to that her resume and background - she is a Hundred High School graduate - and Ignacio sounds appealing.

But is she the very best person available for the job? Until a thorough search for a new superintendent is conducted, school board members cannot answer that question.

Board members talked with Ignacio, who is chief of staff for the Alexandria, Va., school system, for about an hour earlier this month. But the interview process drew criticism from Wetzel County Education Association Co-President Elliott Kendle. He suggested the process board members are using "hardly equals aggressive recruiting" of a new leader for the school district.

Kendle's contention was disputed by board President Mike Blair. "We received a resume that was impressive, and we want to talk to that lady," he said prior to the interview. He added he believes the superintendent's position "right now is more important than it has ever been."

Indeed, strong, effective leadership of Wetzel County schools is critical - both because of changing rules and expectations for education at state and federal levels and in view of local needs.

Like so many counties in West Virginia, Wetzel is losing population. That translates to fewer school-age children and more challenges for educators.

Some schools in the county simply are not measuring up to what is needed to prepare our children and grandchildren for the future. At Hundred High School, for example, the West Virginia Department of Education website indicates that during the 2013-14 school year, just 18.2 percent of students met grade-level expectations in state assessments. That is about half the state average.

Neither board of education members nor the public can afford to simply dump such problems on a new superintendent and hope for progress. Ensuring all Wetzel County schools are good is a community-wide challenge.

Still, leadership matters.

After interviewing Ignacio, board members spent about 15 minutes in a closed session. They took no action after emerging, indicating they plan to continue looking for a new superintendent.

As Blair suggested, simply setting up an interview with a promising candidate does not indicate a lack of board commitment to a thorough search. Just such a process is imperative - and, at some point, it should include representatives from both the community and Wetzel County teachers. This is a decision, as Blair noted, that the board has to get right.



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