Education, Latest News, Preston County

BOE to vote on new high school principal

KINGWOOD — Seventeen people applied to be Preston High School’s next principal, and the winning applicant will be introduced at Monday’s board of education meeting.

Principal Steve Plum left the job last month to accept the position of county school transportation director. That launched the search for his replacement, who will be at the meeting when Preston School Superintendent Steve Wotring recommends the board hire the applicant.

The candidate will be introduced to the board during the public recognition portion of the meeting, prior to the vote.

The applicants included people with more than 30 years experience in administration to those looking for a first principal’s position. They came from within the system and from West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

It was a big change from the last time the county selected a principal, Wotring noted when only two people applied.

“I do think it’s an enticing job for many,” Wotring said. “And our county is viewed differently than it used to be. I think we have a much more positive image. I know we do throughout the state of West Virginia and even some of our surrounding states; I think that we’re viewed much more positively than we used to be. So I think that makes coming to Preston County even more enticing.”

A committee comprised of Wotring, Assistant Superintendents Brad Martin and Ange Varner, Director of Secondary Curriculum Amanda Layton and Special Education Director Jana Miller interviewed the applicants over two days.

A couple applicants withdrew their applications before the interview process, and three were eliminated prior to interviews.

After the committee interviewed applicants, it asked the hiring committee at PHS for its thoughts on what it wanted to see in a principal. The hiring committee included high school teachers and administrators.

Wotring gave the example, “Which qualities are most important for you? For example, is experience more important than innovation, or is innovation more important?”

All that input was combined with the interview information and a decision made.

“We are super excited about the candidate we are recommending for this position. Of course, the board has that ultimate vote Monday evening.”

The new principal will face challenges. Teachers and administrators have been at odds, teachers say, on the school’s decision to try mastery learning, a decision reversed when the board of education said it didn’t match current grading policy. Student achievement is not at the level Wotring wants either he told the board last month.

“Obviously, student success and student achievement is always at the very top of my priority list,” the superintendent said. “I think it’s all about kids. But we really spoke to all the candidates about restoring pride to Preston High. It is our one county high school, and we really want it to become the hub of our system. I just think we’ve lost pride in what we had, and we’re going to be working to restore that culture.”

And the new principal will be coming in midway through the COVID-19 crisis, which will add another level of difficulty.

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