Nancy Walker apparently won’t need a note from home to keep her seat on the Monongalia County Board of Education — even if absentee voters gave their good grades early on.
Walker, who has served more than 20 years on the board, quickly emerged as the top vote-getter in the three-person primary, which also included Ron Lytle, her fellow incumbent and current BOE president.
They were challenged by Micah Weglinksi, a former teacher and community activist making his first go at the board.
By 9:30 p.m., two hours after the close of polls in the 2020 primary election, Walker had pulled in nearly 44% of the vote.
That translated to 12,915 notches next to her name on ballots across Mon.
Lytle had netted 9,029 votes by that time, followed by the 7,719 garnered by Weglinski.
It won’t be business as usual for Walker, an ultrasound and vascular technologist first elected in 1996.
During her tenure, she’s had to vote to close beloved schools with shrinking enrollments — and also helped bring in the county’s first all-green school, Eastwood Elementary, on Mileground Road.
That vote wasn’t an easy A, as many in the county contested the address.
With its densely packed businesses and bustling traffic, the Mileground, opponents said, was already the place for an environmentally friendly school.
Now, COVID-19 is putting everyone in their place.
Different candidates, shared vision
The BOE was forced to create an online curriculum at a virtual address, as a surge of coronavirus cases prompted the state to close schools in all 55 of its counties.
It’s not immediately known if students will return to school this fall, even as Walker’s colleagues on the state board continue to work through the pandemic particulars.
There’s also the possibility of charter schools ringing the bell for classes here.
That’s courtesy of House Bill 206 and Policy 3300, its charter school statute which allows for the creation of three such schools in West Virginia by 2023 — all of which are coming under control of local boards of education.
Walker would rather work with what’s already here, she said.
“I do not support charter schools with public education money,” she said.
“There are other things that can be done.”
Lytle, a construction company owner who was voted to the board in 2012, said keeping students fed through the summer and into fall will be his immediate priority.
Children still go hungry, he said, even in relatively prosperous Mon County.
“There is food insecurity,” he said.
The elected official who has been volunteering to deliver meals wants to change that by establishing a food bank here.
He isn’t a fan of charter schools either, saying the county already provides the stellar educators and diverse classes that are the pitches for such institutions of learning.
Weglinski, a husband and father to young children, was a teacher and school librarian in Pennsylvania before his physician wife took a job opportunity in Morgantown.
He’s a community organizer who also serves as vice president of Pantry Plus More, an area food outreach that has also been providing meals to Mon youngsters during the pandemic.
As a former teacher, he says charter schools wouldn’t work in West Virginia because they
don’t operate under accountability.
As a BOE member, his biggest mission — which he also says is the board’s biggest challenge — would be ensuring that youngsters are ready for either the workforce or college.
“We all want our students to achieve their maximum potential,” he said.
BOE, by the numbers
Meanwhile, vote totals won’t become official until canvass is complete.
There’s also the potential, County Clerk Carye Blaney said, of about 2,300 additional absentee ballots coming in after election day.
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