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WAYNE — Three candidates are running for two open seats on the Wayne County Board of Education.

Current board member and President JoAnn Hurley is guaranteed her seat on the board, while Bryan E. Thompson (Butler District) and Randy Trautwein (Stonewall District) will race for the remaining seat. The top vote-getter between Trautwein and Thompson will win that seat.

No more than two members from the same district may serve at the same time. Representation from each district is not required on the five-member, nonpartisan body elected by county voters.

Current board members Johnita Jackson (Union), Dennis Ashworth (Ceredo) and Missy Perry Hall (Butler) are not up for re-election this year.

Hurley has served on the board for 12 years and said those dozen years have been some of the most rewarding in her nearly four-decade career in the Wayne County School System. She spent 37 years as a principal and teacher in Wayne and five years as a principal in Lawrence County, Kentucky.

She said she believes introducing new curriculum to district schools has and will continue to be beneficial to students and teachers alike.

“We have been increasing course offerings to give students relevant, interesting and challenging classes. We must see that students have academic skills, while providing the opportunity for them to reach their highest potential,” she said. “Students need a varied curriculum to meet the needs of those entering the workforce as well as those entering our universities.”

She added that providing relevant professional development, positive learning experiences and the opportunity for staff to work together with data is essential to increasing rigor and quality education.

Trautwein, a lifelong county resident and current lawyer at Lamp Bartram Levy Trautwein & Perry PLLC, said he brings a unique perspective to the board with his legal background.

“I am not a professional educator, but I am able to bring something different to the board from my 40 years of law practice. I bring a knowledge regarding legal issues and how that can affect a school system,” he said.

Trautwein said he believes finances are a major challenge for the county moving forward.

“The most pressing needs are intertwined. A declining population and declining financial support, along with the opioid crisis, confront us with challenges,” he said. “Remaining financially sound requires us to be imaginative in seeking funding. We have successfully maintained and updated our facilities, increased student safety and improved academic achievement. We must stay the course …”

He added that the county has continued to innovate unique education opportunities for students, such as STEM programs at Buffalo and Vinson middle schools and the Project Lead the Way program in the county, and those innovative plans benefit students.

“It is important to continue to increase opportunities and innovation, from an upcoming personal finance course, to Project Lead the Way, to our award-winning robotics program and dozens of CTE programs, including an upcoming aircraft maintenance program,” he said.

Trautwein was appointed in December 2018 following the resignation of former BOE member Tom Jarrell earlier that year.

Thompson, a 1986 graduate of Wayne High School who has two children in the Wayne County school system, said his goal if elected would be to expand core skill vocational classes and provide equal opportunities to all three district high schools.

“I don’t believe there is an equal opportunity for students at all three high schools to take these classes,” Thompson said. “Right now, there’s not an industrial electricity class in any of the schools.”

Thompson, an electrical contractor who has more than three decades of experience in the industry, said improving the vocational school to offer a wider range of core skills could allow for students to have successful trade careers, much like he has.

Additionally, he would look to establish a student mentorship program for the county, which would give students the chance to get to know industry professionals in the area and would assist them in career readiness from the time they enter the school system to the time they leave.

“We have students that graduate and leave the county for certain job opportunities. There are still good jobs in this area. If we let these jobs and students continue to leave Wayne County, we’re going to go down a bad road,” Thompson added.

His goal would be to involve members of the community in that mentorship program, and he believes they are a valuable part of the educational process that isn’t being used.

“If we have electricians, doctors, nurses or carpenters here, they need to be involved with these kids and encouraging them to seek careers that are going to provide a livable wage,” Thompson said. “All occupations are important, and we need those people talking to our kids to give them appropriate steps to achieve those careers so they don’t spend their first few years out of high school stumbling.”

Board members may receive compensation at a rate not to exceed $160 per meeting attended, but may not receive pay for more than 50 meetings in any one fiscal year.

The primary election in West Virginia takes place Tuesday, June 9.

Luke Creasy is a reporter for HD Media. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook @HDcreasy or reach him by phone at 304-526-2800.

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