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Jefferson County Board of Ed. accepts Keeler's resignation

June 14, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The Jefferson County Board of Education accepted the resignation of Jefferson County High School Principal Richard A. "Doc" Keeler on Wednesday morning, and started the process of finding his replacement.

Keeler announced his resignation four days after commenting at the school's graduation that one important choice students would make would be to "choose God," a comment that sparked controversy.

Keeler has said planned to step down as principal before the graduation, and that he wanted to return to the classroom as a teacher.

Board of Education member Peter Morgens told the board Wednesday morning he wants to make sure that candidates for the position are questioned about their educational philosophies and what they think are the best management policies for running a school the size of Jefferson High School.

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Superintendent of Schools David W. Markoe said he always concentrates on those areas in interviews.

"I get into a lot of nuts and bolts things," Markoe said.

Markoe said he also likes to go to the schools where the candidates are currently employed to ask co-workers about the person's qualifications.

Keeler told about 500 graduates during the June 4 graduation there are three important choices they will make in life: to choose God, choose a mate and choose a career.

Keeler's reference to God sparked controversy among several people who said they felt the comment was inappropriate.

Markoe said the comment should not have been made and plans to talk to other principals in the school system to stress to them that religious issues must remain separate from public education.

Keeler has said he does not believe his comments posed a problem, saying they are no different than when students recite the Pledge of Allegiance and refer to "one nation under God."

Charles Town resident Charles Hall told the School Board Wednesday morning that Keeler's comments were "poorly thought through." Keeler could invite students to his house or a park and talk about religious issues "to his heart's content," but not at a government-sanctioned event, Hall said.

Markoe said he had been concerned that someone would raise similar objections when U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., talked about God during last year's graduation.

Hall said the board has little control over what an invited guest talks about. When Keeler makes a comment, it's like him telling students to be quiet in the hallway, Hall said.

"He's the principal. He speaks with an authoritative voice," Hall said.

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