New superintendent talks about upcoming school year

MORGANTOWN — The latest gathering of educators to hit Morgantown is right out of the teaching manual for Eddie Campbell Jr., Monongalia County’s new superintendent of schools.

Educators and administrators from across the state will arrive in the University City starting Wednesday for the annual “Student Success Summit,” which is hosted by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC).

The two-day summit runs through Thursday at the Morgantown Marriott at Waterfront Place, in the Wharf District.

A highlight will be the unveiling of a HEPC initiative, “West Virginia’s Climb,” which aims to equip some 60 percent of state students with degrees or professional certificates by 2030.

Campbell, who most recently headed Tucker County’s school district, said Monday the mission of secondary schools in West Virginia is to simply get students ready for life after they graduate.

That’s whether they go to college, enter a post-secondary training program or join the workforce immediately by way of the vocational education they received while in high school.

He wants the state’s high school seniors to turn their tassels with a sense of mission, he said.

“We want to make sure everyone has a plan,” he said.

Talking in class

While West Virginia does a good job of moving seniors through high school — the state currently has the highest secondary school graduation rate in the nation at 89.4 percent — communication between the school community and the business community doesn’t always make the grade statewide, the superintendent said.

“They keep saying, ‘Every kid doesn’t need to go to college,’ ” he said. “Well, we already know that. They don’t always tell us what they need.”

Calls for a total overhaul of school curricula and other policies aren’t always realistic, Campbell said.

“Public education is like an oil tanker,” he said. “It takes a while to make it stop. You can’t just put the brakes on. You can’t make things happen overnight.”

Of commutes and construction Campbell said he’s currently devoting every minute he can spare to get ready for Aug 21. That’s the first day of school for students in grades 1-12 in Monongalia County.

Those minutes count, he said.

It takes about 90 of them from the time he starts his car in his driveway in Parsons, Tucker County, to when he pulls into his parking space at the Central Offices of Mon’s Board of Education, on South High Street.

Campbell is commuting for now while he settles affairs in Parsons. He, his wife and young son will be local residents here when the bell rings for the first day next month.

In the meantime, workers are cruising along with major renovations at Morgantown High School and South Middle School.

The $5.5 million project at Morgantown High includes the addition of four new classrooms, new fire alarms and a new, secured front entrance.

South Middle is gaining nine new classrooms for its $4.2 million work, which also includes the addition of offices, science rooms and a conference area.

Mon Schools’ building project manager Bob Ashcraft told WAJR Radio last week that both schools will be ready for the first day of classes next month as the work is ongoing.

No child left behind (literally)

Campbell has experienced lots of first days in his career. He was a teacher, coach and principal in Virginia, before jetting to China to direct an American school in Shanghai.

He was principal of a high school in Alaska near the Arctic Circle when the Tucker County opening brought him back to his home state.

He was hired for the Mon job last month, replacing Frank Devono, who retired after 13 years.

No matter where he is, he said, grinning, his first day of school routine is the same.

“I’m thinking about kids on buses,” he said. “I’m getting with the transportation director and the end of the day asking, ‘Did we forget one? Did we lose one?’ The important thing is safely getting kids where they need to be.”

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