Wetzel Board Interviews A Superintendent Candidate

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Wetzel Board Interviews A Superintendent Candidate
By Amy Witschey - Editor  Wetzel Chronicle

The Wetzel County Board of Education did not make a motion for or against hiring a woman they interviewed for the superintendent's position that evening.

The board held a 15-minute executive session after an approximately one hour open interview of Tammy Ignacio.

Prior to the interview Elliott Kendle, co-president of the Wetzel County Education Association, read a prepared statement to the board.

It said, in part, "Friday morning I was dismayed to learn that the board was scheduled to interview an individual for the position of superintendent. This came as a complete surprise since the position has not been posted as it has in the past, and no search was conducted.

"Although there is no legal requirement to post a vacant superintendent position, Wetzel County Schools Policy CBB states, 'the Board shall aggressively recruit in an effort to fill the position with the most capable person.' The use of the word shall in a legal sense means that this is something that will be done. It is not optional and it is not subject to the desires of any one individual. Quite frankly, one candidate chosen from unknown efforts hardly equals aggressive recruiting."

He further said that Policy CBB further states that "applications for the superintendency shall be screened and the board will select the most highly qualified to be interviewed." He asserted, "If this was done, it was done outside of a legally posted meeting without a proper agenda and all the other requirements set forth in WV Code. At the very least this would clearly violate West Virginia's Open Meeting laws."

Board President Mike Blair took exception to Kendle's protest. He said all of the requirements have been followed. "The board has the authority to hire a superintendent," said Blair. "It's my job as an elected official of the county." The superintendent is the only person in the whole system they can hire and fire according to contract.

He continued to say he believes this a critical time to find the right person for the job. "I'm not telling you we're throwing our authority around. We received a resume that was impressive and we want to talk to that lady," said Blair. "I think the position right now is more important than it has ever been."

He also refuted Kendle's implication that the issue was complicated by the candidate being related to a former board member. "Although this may be a completely innocent coincidence, this combined with the suddenness and surprise leading to the interview has already colored many peoples' perception of the board's actions," said Kendle. "This in turn will further erode staff morale at a time of the year when we can least afford the distraction."

Ignacio graduated from Hundred High School and then Fairmont State College. Once she realized she was interested in administration, Ignacio completed further schooling at George Mason University-graduating with honors in curriculum, instruction, and school leadership. She is the Chief of Staff for Alexandria (Va.) City Public Schools.

The interview consisted of questions from each board member.

Their conversation often focused on the differences between the challenges in her current school district where 62 percent of the students are Hispanic and the population includes children from 250 countries that speak 43 languages.

However, Ignacio said, "I think children are children, wherever you go. I don't believe it is about race; I believe it is about socioeconomics. The issues are the same if you look at data across the United States."

When asked what tools she possess to help achieve higher academic standards and success scores, Ignacio said the key is in giving teachers the tools they need to succeed. "In some cases you have to work with people. One size doesn't fit all," she noted. "There is no one structured way to do it. We have a lot of great teachers who really want to do what's right."

Ignacio often talked about policies, being a believer that they are necessary, as is consistency. "I am quite pleased with your policies," she noted, saying they have obviously worked hard to keep them up to date.

"Policies are a great guide, because they keep us in boundaries and boundaries are very important," she said.

She would like to see liaisons to each of the schools at a board level and to see administrators in the classroom more- "not to breathe down their neck" but to observe and help them along.

"We have to put a plan in place and get out there and be visible," she said.

When Blair asked her about Common Core, which Virginia has opted out of, Ignacio said, "I believe in the Common Core. I think they are a good guide," then added, "I definitely don't think they are the end all, beat all, as I don't think anything is."