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6 vie for Wayne BOE seats

Apr. 20, 2014 @ 10:59 PM

WAYNE -- The Wayne County Board of Education will have three newcomers after the May 13 election, and six people are vying to fill those spots being vacated by current board members.

At the heart of the race are concerns about the state of the county's school facilities and finances as well as a desire for more transparency and building more trust in the school system, according to those who are seeking election to the board.

Board members Darik Adkins, Christopher Dean and Rob Pennington, vice president of the board, are not seeking re-election. The other two board members, board president Joann Hurley and Vickey Boyd, are not up for election during this election cycle.

Those jockeying for the open seats are Alvra "Junior" Adams, Shawn D. Francisco, Trey Morrone, Tina Turner Sarver, Johnita Jackson and Lois (White) Little.

Those elected to the board will take on the tasks of implementing policies, setting the school system's budget, dealing with major disciplinary matters with students and approving the hiring, suspension and firing of all Wayne County Schools employees.

Board members are paid $160 per meeting for up to 50 meetings a year.

The three people who receive the most votes will fill the seats on the board, as long as no more than two of the top three are in the same district.

There are five voting districts in Wayne County: Butler, Ceredo, Stonewall, Union and Westmoreland.

Adams is the only candidate in the Stonewall District; Jackson is the only candidate in the Union District; and White is the only candidate in the Butler District.

Francisco, Morrone and Sarver are running out of the Ceredo District, so only two of the three of them could be elected to the board, even if they are the three top finishers in the election.

Boyd currently represents the Union district, so no more than one person could be elected to represent that district.

There are no candidates in Hurley's district of Westmoreland.

The candidates

Alvra "Junior" Adams, 64, is a business owner who said his ability to manage the finances of his three businesses will help him in distributing county funds wisely.

Shawn Francisco, 41, is a pharmacy technician at Griffith & Feil Drugstore. Francisco said he wants to do his part to help make the school system something students can be proud of.

Trey Morrone, 52, has practiced law in Wayne County since 1988, and he also works as a substitute teacher in the Wayne County Schools system. Morrone said he wants to use his professional experience to give back to the county.

Tina Turner Sarver, 50, is a pre-trial officer at the Western Regional Day Report Center. Sarver said she is open and honest, and wants to see the public and the board office work better together.

Johnita Jackson, 67, worked for 34 years as an executive secretary in the school system's central office before her retirement. Jackson said her background gives her the knowledge and experience needed to be an effective board member.

Lois (White) Little, 56, also is a retiree from the school system, having worked as an executive secretary for 33 years. Little said she worked at schools on each level of education, and she said that knowledge, along with her love of children, would make her an asset to the board.

Key issues

Five of the six candidates said they support an $18 million bond measure that would be matched by another $18 million from the West Virginia School Building Authority, $4.2 million from the county and $2 million from Qualified Zone Academy Bonds. The bond measure also is up for a vote on May 13.

The funds would be used to construct a new Ceredo-Kenova Elementary School and a Pre-K-to-8 facility in Crum as well as for renovations to Wayne High School to include additional classrooms, a safer main entry and enclosed breezeways between buildings.

The candidates who support the bond varied in their reasons for doing so.

Sarver and Jackson each said they were concerned about the safety of students in their existing facilities and how the potential loss of schools if the bond proposal fails could harm the county's communities.

Francisco and Little said they were concerned that failure to pass the bond not only would compromise the facilities, but it would further compromise the school system's already thinning finances as the facilities continue to deteriorate over time.

Morrone said the bond would be the first step in putting a dent in the county's financial issues, noting that the large student population and broad geography of the county makes any action more expensive than it would be in other counties.

Adams, who said he does not support the bond, said he was worried that the tax increase associated with it would create a financial burden on seniors. He also said he was concerned about the management of finances in the board office.

All of the candidates also addressed the issue of the still sluggish level of confidence in the school system.

Little said the issue could take some time to resolve as residents rebuild their trust with new school officials.

"The board there now has worked hard and come a long way," she said. "When you lose people you've had around for so long, it's hard to build that trust in new people, and you have to prove yourself. I think we have to get out into the schools and talk to everyone to see what the big problems are and what we need to be doing to solve them."

Morrone said he didn't sense a lack of trust as much as he sensed a feeling that people are feeling lost in terms of the system, which has seen three superintendents in the past two years, including an interim superintendent before Lynn Hurt was hired to fill the position.

"It's almost like the wheels have fallen off," Morrone said. "I think we need to restore the confidence in the public education system in Wayne County, so everyone has faith and confidence in the system and to see that the students get the education they deserve."

Adams said he thought it was time for the school system to have new leadership, which he said was the first step in rebuilding faith in the school system.

"That's the reason I'm running," Adams said. "I'm trying to correct it. I will do the very best I can. I think I could do a little better than what people are trying to do there now."

Francisco said he thought the biggest blow to the county's education system came with the failure of the bond that was proposed in 2012.

"It all came about with the last bond when they tried to put in the extra upgrades to the football fields and those kinds of things," he said. "We need to be a little more transparent and let people know what we're doing. We need to be having meetings with people, so they know what is going on."

Jackson also said she was an advocate for transparency with the goal of increasing trust and faith in the school system, an issue that she said is common in the public forum.

"I think it's the case you see in a lot of other places," she said. "People disagree with the way the schools are run and how their money's being spent. We need to be very open with our actions and very transparent in everything we do, so people can see that we as a board of education are working together."

Sarver said she felt like there already have been steps taken to increase the openness of the school system, but she said there was room for improvement.

"I think the board in place now, they've started taking measures to fully disclose things, especially online," she said. "You can go online now and see the agenda. I don't think you can ever have enough openness because we're talking about taxpayers' money. We need to be totally open as to what's going on in our school system."

Follow Reporter Lacie Pierson on Twitter, @LaciePiersonHD.

MORE ONLINE

For answers to more questions from this candidate and others, visit Herald-Dispatch.com. Click Elections 2014, then "West Virginia candidates and profiles." If a candidate has submitted his or her profile information and questions, the candidate's name will link to that information.

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