MORGANTOWN — Eddie Campbell Jr., the newly hired Monongalia County Schools superintendent, is all about adventure and new experiences.
Even so, he said, he had to wonder, at least for a few seconds, about just what it was he had done as he stepped off that airplane in Shanghai in 2004.
Yep. That Shanghai.
“I was in a place where I didn’t know how to say ‘hello,’ ” he told The Dominion Post on Wednesday, the day after his hiring. “I said, ‘Well, this might be interesting.’ ”
It was. He was in China for six years. He met his wife, Zhilan, there. His son, Wenkai, now 12, was born there.
When the family flew back to the U.S., it was to another place that Campbell had to get acclimated to, in every sense of the word.
He spent a year as principal of a small high school in Alaska’s Arctic Circle before a job in West Virginia came open. It was for the superintendent of Tucker County Schools, and Campbell didn’t think twice.
“I always knew I was going to get back to West Virginia sooner or later,” he said.
No snowing the budget
Morgantown will be an academic homecoming when he moves here next month, in preparation for the job he’ll assume July 1.
Campbell, 53, a Wheeling native, earned a history degree from WVU in 1988.
He wanted to be a social studies teacher and baseball coach, he said, but he was “a little on the impatient side,” as he remembered, with a chuckle.
“Back then, you got on the substitute list,” he said. “Especially if you were a social studies teacher. There were a ton of us then.”
So, he kept going. Virginia, in this case. He earned a graduate degree in education from George Mason University and a doctorate in that field from the University of Virginia.
He became a teacher, then a principal, at schools in the Old Dominion state.
At Tucker County, he makes a big deal about the minutia — because he has to, he said.
The mountain county, with just three schools and 1,000 students, is the third-smallest school district in West Virginia.
Residents there have been known to message him on his personal Facebook page to ask if school is canceled in the winter. They usually know the answer. Wintry Tucker averages 17 snow days a year.
When he says he knows what goes out to the penny in the district, he isn’t kidding.
Tucker County’s schools budget is $13 million, he said, with no levy for additional support.
“I sign every purchase order. I like to say I buy every pencil.”
For fiscal comparison, the 2019 operating budget that Monongalia County school board members will say yay or nay to this Tuesday clocks in at $127 million.
Campbell said he’s proud of the professional and academic partnerships he helped establish in Tucker County and the surrounding region.
The administrator, who describes himself as “being into everything” in Tucker, will be less so in Monongalia.
“Yeah, that’ll be a little bit of challenge, maybe,” he said. “It’s a bigger district. You have a lot good people working here who really know what they’re doing. A lot of my job will just be to stay out of the way.”
‘Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there’
Barbara Parsons, the president of Monongalia’s school board, said she likes Campbell’s enthusiasm and curriculum vitae. She also appreciates that he’s an intellectual seeker.
“If you want to stay home there’s not a thing wrong with that,” Campbell said.
“But don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. “Give yourself a shot. The world’s a pretty amazing place.”