Board Members Address PCHS Issue At Forum
The subject of the possible closure of Paden City High School was broached during Monday’s Wetzel County Farm Bureau Candidates Night held at the Wileyville Fire Department.
Four of the county’s five board of education candidates were in attendance: Incumbent Willie Baker, incumbent Mike Blair, Barbara Amos King, and incumbent Bob Patterson.
Baker said he has served for eight years on the board. “We’ve made some real inroads,” he said. “Almost every classroom now has a whiteboard. I care about our kids. I have no agenda except to provide for our children the very best education.” He also added that they need to make sure our children aren’t indoctrinated by unAmerican ideas.
Blair has served as president of the board for the past eight years.
He said the board has worked diligently to improve technology and safety. “We have some of the best facilities in the state, paid for by Wetzel County citizens,” he declared.
King noted she there is only one position on the board open in her district. While her daughter, Amy Dieffenbauch, is on the board, she promises that will not be a problem. A county commissioner for 18 years, King said she feels very strongly for kids and wants to make sure there is more communication with the home.
Patterson, who joined the board in July 2002, has two daughters in the school system. After serving two terms, he has found that change is difficult and time consuming. The Wetzel County Board is facing some of its most difficult decisions in the next few years and experienced, seasoned, passionate representation is needed.
The first question addressed to the board dealt with the difficult decision concerning Paden City High School. The candidates were asked to offer the costs and benefits of closing or keeping the school open.
Baker said that Paden City votes about 90 percent for the excess levy which generates about $3 million. If closed, 30 employees would be out of work, freeing up about $1.5 million per year. Paden City families say they will go to Tyler County Schools if PCHS is closed. That would cost the county about $700,000 per year. If PCHS students go to Magnolia High School, the curriculum for both schools would improve. He also mentioned that MHS’s athletic fields are in the flood plane and PCHS has great test scores.
Blair said it is up to the board to spend its money, from federal, state, and local sources, wisely. The system has run in the black since the mid-1980s. “We are capable and we can run it as it is,” said Blair, who added that they can also make it better. They do not want to interrupt or affect the quality of the system’s product-its students. Blair further noted that Monday’s vote on the Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan is not a vote to close or keep PCHS. Closing a school would be a long drawn-out process. The CEFP is a plan that includes the closure of PCHS in 2012.
Further, he noted that school consolidation is nothing new to Wetzel County.
King said she knew some history of school consolidation as Reader, Pine Grove, and Smithfield high school consolidated right after she graduated in 1959. While it was difficult, in a few years they all became friends.
She further noted that when she attended the public meeting March 25 she was struck by how the entire community was behind not closing PCHS. “The people of Paden City back their schools,” King said, adding other communities need to look to PCHS for inspiration.
Patterson quoted information from the Paden City Foundation’s Cornerstone Project that says PCHS has the highest test scores and lowest absenteeism in the county. “That doesn’t sound to me like the kind of school you want to close the doors on,” he said.
Clarification: Willie Baker prefaced his remark about possible the loss of 30 jobs at Paden City High School with the 12 percent unemployment rate. He says the loss of the jobs would be detrimental to the local economy.