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Jefferson Co. school board field is crowded

April 11, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - With issues like cost overruns on Jefferson County's second high school and other funding issues, the 12-way race for four seats on the Jefferson County Board of Education is turning into a closely-watched contest.

The nonpartisan race will be decided at the May 9 primary election.

No more than two people can serve from one magisterial district.

Board members are paid $160 per meeting and with the exception of one seat that is up for grabs this year, the term for the job is four years.

Jody Ebbitt, from the Shepherdstown, W.Va., district, is filling an unexpired term of former board member Jud Romine, but Ebbitt decided not to run for a two-year unexpired term of the position.

Incumbent board members Lori Stilley, Delores Milstead and Cheryl Huff are among those running. Stilley is board president.

The other board seat, which is held by Alan Sturm, who represents the Shepherdstown district, is not up this year.

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Susan Pellish said Sunday her name will appear on the ballot, but she is not campaigning. Pellish said she is concerned about the future of the school system, but some excellent candidates have filed to run and Pellish said she has decided to throw her support behind candidates Pete Dougherty, A. Scott Sudduth, Mariland Dunn Lee and Gary M. Kable.

The candidates, listed in alphabetical order, are:

J.J. Cook

Harpers Ferry district

Age: 84

Address: P.O. Box 102, Halltown

Occupation: Former security consultant

Top issue: Cook, who is running from the Harpers Ferry district, said he does not think the school system is operating as well as it can. Cook said he did not want the incumbent from the Harpers Ferry district, who is Stilley, to think that no opposition for her in the race would be a mandate from the voters that she serve.

Sandy Collier

Shepherdstown district

Age: 47

Address: PO Box 1089 Shepherdstown, WV 25443

Occupation: Telecom Coordinator/Rambler Card Manager, Shepherd University

Top issue: Collaborating with the four other board members, the superintendent, teachers, staff, service personnel, bus drivers, students, administrators, parents and the community on issues like securing the funding due to the system. Collier said she hopes that the board can bring more money back to Jefferson County so it can guarantee an excellent education for the children and competitive pay for qualified educators. The battle in Charleston has only begun and the county must continue to fight for what belongs to it, Collier said.

Pete Dougherty

Charles Town district

Age: 53

Address: 1101 S. Samuel St., Charles Town

Occupation: Federal employee

Top issue: Dougherty said Jefferson County is in a crisis. That is demonstrated through the fact that employees are unappreciated, he said. Also, curriculum and instruction, the core to education, is forgotten. Educators are not consulted, the budget is out of balance and impact fees are being used to cover cost overruns, not to build new schools, which are being delayed, Dougherty said. The current board blames others, Dougherty said. Dougherty said he wants to be a force for positive change.

Timothy Hayden

Charles Town district

Age: 46

Address: 601 S. Mildred St., Charles Town

Occupation: Antique dealer

Top issue: Hayden said his top concern is that the three incumbent board of education members who are running seem to dominate the agenda and there is little flexibility in how operations are managed. Hayden said it appears there is more interest in playing politics than serving the needs of the county. Hayden said he is also troubled by the fact that there seems to be a poor relationship between the school system and the state School Building Authority.

Cheryl Huff

Charles Town district

Age: 50

Address: 74 Porter Way, Charles Town

Occupation: Mother, student and board of education member.

Top issue: Huff said she feels the most pressing issue facing the Jefferson County Board of Education is recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers. Currently surrounding counties outside of West Virginia offer starting salaries $7,000 to $15,000 per year higher than allowed currently in West Virginia. Until the Legislature changes laws that allow more flexibility and provides more funding, things will not change, said Huff.

Ed "Pootie" Johnson

Charles Town district

Age: 76

Address: 17 Johns Court, Charles Town.

Occupation: retired accountant and currently a real estate agent in West Virginia and Maryland.

Top issue: Johnson decided to run after having many conversations with county residents who were concerned about school impact fees. Johnson said citizens have told him that it is hard to determine how impact fee money is spent and they want to know how the money is used. The citizens want information about all funds from state, local and federal sources and how it is used.

Gary M. Kable

Kabletown district

Age: 65

Address: P.O. Box 621, Charles Town

Occupation: Professional photographer

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