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Raleigh groups honor Brown's request to drop petition

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By Jessica Farrish 
(Beckley) Register-Herald Reporter 

A teacher’s union and a service personnel group in Raleigh County on Wednesday abandoned a petition drive to ask the  Raleigh County Board of Education to “revisit” the resignation of Superintendent Jim Brown.

The groups dropped the effort at Brown’s request, officials reported.

The Raleigh County American Federation of Teachers and the Raleigh County School Service Personnel Association had planned and approved the petition effort Saturday, during a meet-and-greet event for BOE candidates, AFT President Mary Moye said.

The AFT move stood in opposition to the public stance of the West Virginia Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association.

Marie Hamrick, an Independence Middle School teacher and co-president of the Raleigh WVEA, stated March 18 that her group does not support a continuance of Brown’s leadership.

The RCAFT/RCSPA petition would have been circulated among the groups’ members and in the community, and representatives of both groups had planned to appear at the regular April 8 BOE meeting to ask board members to reconsider Brown’s resignation, according to an e-mail sent by Brown to AFT members.

In the e-mail, Brown thanked supporters for the effort but asked them not to circulate the petition.

Brown wrote that he had spoken with BOE members and that he wanted to “respect their positions to move forward with new leadership.”

“More efforts would not result in a different outcome and would further divide the district,” Brown wrote.

He added he was “humbled and appreciative” of the support he’s been shown and felt proud to have served as the superintendent of schools in Raleigh County.

Brown announced his resignation March 18, citing health concerns of a family member, following a two-hour meeting with BOE President Rick Snuffer and board members Cindy Jafary, Larry Ford, Sally Susman and Richard Jarrell.

On Wednesday, Hamrick said, “I agree with the superintendent’s statement that it’s time for the district to move forward.”

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Moye and RCSPA Treasurer Mitzi Akers said Wednesday that both groups had honored Brown’s request to drop the petition.

Moye said around 200 teachers are represented by AFT and that while she did not speak for all of them, most of the ones she had personally spoken with “were pleased with Mr. Brown.”

She said Brown quickly addressed any complaints that AFT members brought to her.

“I was really pleased with Mr. Brown, myself,” she added. “There were some things that didn’t go smoothly, that were going to happen with any superintendent.”

She pointed to the iRaleigh Initiative — Brown’s signature effort of launching the first one-to-one initiative in West Virginia by placing iPads with each student in the district — as one such issue.

“The iPads were necessary,” she said. “We started way back when with computer labs, then we moved to laptops and so then the next progression is iPads.

“That would’ve happened no matter who (was superintendent.)”

Moye agreed with Hamrick and several other WVEA members that implementation of the iPads was “handled poorly” but added it was unclear whether Brown should be held solely responsible for that part of the iPad initiative.

She said she hopes BOE members will hire a superintendent with an open communication style.

Akers said she also would’ve liked to continue working for Brown.

“I’ve appreciated (Brown),” added Akers. “I’ve worked with a lot of superintendents, and I’ve gotten along with all of them, but the leadership focus that he had, whether we liked it or not, was one that he gave you respect and therefore, you owed him respect.”

Akers said she appreciated that Brown had an “open communication” style and that he understood legal matters and procedures and applied them fairly — traits she hopes BOE members will consider when selecting the new superintendent who will start July 1.

She added there is a “rift” in the county that the new superintendent will inherit.

Akers’ supervisor, payroll supervisor and RCSPA member Wilhemina Goins, urged board members to hire a superintendent who is not currently working in the school system.

She said if the superintendent is hired internally, there is currently too much potential for the superintendent to show partiality to one group or another.

“I hope it’s someone who will come in and be fair and maybe continue on what Mr. Brown has started,” said Goins. “The main concern is the children, to get them ready to go out in the world.”