MORGANTOWN — Class was in session Monday morning for three of the six candidates for the Monongalia County Board of Education (BOE).
Sara Anderson, Ethan Moore and Matthew Kirby sat down for an hour-long session with The Dominion Post Editorial Board.
Topics included the search for a new superintendent of schools to the politics and particulars of the state Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA).
Sara Anderson, a WVU professor who specializes in early childhood education, is the mother of two young daughters who attend public school in the county.
Matthew Kirby is an environmental health and safety specialist at WVU whose two sons are in elementary school here.
Attorney Ethan Moore grew up in western Monongalia County and is a product of local schools.
The current school board is scrambling to find a replacement for Superintendent Frank Devono, who announced his retirement last month.
By state code, the board must have a new superintendent hired by June 1, if it wants to offer a multiyear contract.
All three favor that idea, with varying degrees of caveats, stipulations and caution.
Moore said a multiyear contract would make the job more attractive — but he worries that June 1 is coming up too fast.
“I’m not sure they can achieve it,” he said of the deadline. “But I would support them, just for the stability.”
Two of the board’s five seats will be opening due to retiring members. A third seat is also contested.
That means, Kirby said, the possibility of three new board members working for a candidate they won’t be allowed to interview or hire.
“It might be more stable for the school system as a whole,” he said. “It might not be as good for the Board of Education.”
Anderson initially had trepidation over that June 1 timetable, which she thought may have been overly aggressive.
She said she appreciates the tempering of the mission by current BOE president Barbara Parsons.
Parsons said previously that she didn’t want the board to “settle” on a replacement just because of a deadline.
“I thought it was reasonable and well thought out,” Anderson said.
Which was also the collection impression of all three during the statewide work stoppage when teachers across the state walked to protest low pay and rising premiums through PEIA
Battles were won, all three said, but the war still isn’t over. And teachers are still leaving the state for better paying school districts, especially in border counties, such as Monongalia.
Overhaul PEIA, Kirby said.
“My mother was an educator when I was growing up, and the insurance was amazing,” he said. “PEIA was one of the best insurances there was. Everybody wanted it.”
Keep raising hands for pay raises, Anderson said.
“In order to attract and retain quality teachers, we have to have them fairly, adequately and generously compensated,” she said. “We all know that PEIA isn’t what it used to be, but fortunately, we have a lot of support in our county for the levies.”
Improve on what you already have, Moore said.
“‘Fixed and funded,’ is what I think we can do with PEIA,” said the candidate, while lauding the policy’s optical and dental plans.