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3 vying to win 2 Mon BOE positions

This article is from The Dominion Post editorial board virtual meetings with Monongalia County Board of Education candidates. The editorial board is made up of Publisher David Raese, Editor Pam Queen, Opinion Editor Jessica Nelson and Assistant to the Publisher Adam Raese.

It’s all about the kids, say the three people vying for the two open seats on the Monongalia County Board of Education.

Two incumbents, Nancy Walker and Ron Lytle, and challenger, Micah Weglinski, who is running for the first time, met in separate, 30-minute video conferences   with The Dominion Post’s editorial board. Topics that were discussed included COVID-19, charter schools, childhood hunger and the Bible studies bill that was passed during the last legislative session.

The candidates also discussed why they’re seeking election to   the five-person board that oversees policies for the school district’s 11,000 students.

Nancy Walker

Walker has been on the board since 1996 and represents the Eastern district. During her tenure, Walker, an abdominal vascular and ultrasound technologist, has served as board president. She and her husband, Craig, are the parents of three grown children and have three grandchildren.

Walker said she is concerned how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the mental health of school children. In addition, Walker said she is worried children don’t have access to computers to keep up with their studies.

“It’s an interesting and different time,” she said. “Its important people stay connected.”

Walker said she is against charter schools, which has become a contentious issue since lawmakers voted into law House Bill 206, and Policy 3300, its charter school statute.

HB 206 allows for the possibility of three such schools — with all coming under control of the respective local board of education — by 2023.

“I do not support charter schools with public education money,” she said.

“There are other things that can be done.”

Ron Lytle

Lytle, and his wife, Jennifer, are the parents of two daughters, one a Morgantown High School graduate, where the other is currently a student.

Lytle, owner of Lytle Construction, who was first elected to the board in 2012, said he is worried how children, many of whom get their breakfasts and lunches at school, are being fed.

“There is food insecurity in Mon County,” said Lytle, who does volunteer work distributing food to local families in need.

“We have to look at what we can do to help the kids, like creating a food bank.”

Lytle, who is serving as the current board president, also said he does not support charter schools mostly because some of the teachers who work at these schools are not certified.

“Why would we want to send our kids to one?

“People are going to have to understand the value of a good teacher,” he said. “Also, there are not enough people going into school administration.”

He admitted the district, like many school districts across the state and country, got caught off guard by the COVID-19 pandemic. But, he said, he is grateful the district had the foresight to give each student a Chromebook, enabling lessons to be accessed online.

“It was a godsend we had the money to buy the Chromebooks,” he said.

Even though the Bible studies bill has been passed, Lytle said anything taught to district students should be fact-based. Religion can be discussed outside school hours, he said.

Micah Weglinski

Weglinski, a former teacher and elementary school librarian in Pennsylvania, is a stay-at-home father who moved to Morgantown 12 years ago. He is vice president at Pantry Plus More, a nonprofit with the goal of ending childhood hunger in Monongalia County and is a community organizer. Weglinski’s wife is a physician at MedExpress.

“The schools made the right decision to close because of COVID-19,” said Weglinski, who is running for a board seat “to give back to the community.”

Like Walker and Lytle, Weglinski said he is against charter schools because of a lack of accountability.

“I don’t think West Virginia, or Monongalia County, would succeed with them.”

He also said he draws the line at having religion taught in the classroom. He said if people want religion, they should attend church.

When it comes to the pandemic, he said the district, and most everyone, was “caught off guard.”

“There was a lack of a coordinated response,” he said during his interview with The Dominion Post editorial board. “Information was not being released on a regular basis.”

The biggest challenge of the board, Weglinski said, is to get Monongalia County students ready to enter the workforce or ready for college.

“We want all of our students to achieve their maximum potential,” he said.

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