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School board candidates want to share experience

May 01, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD
  • Robert E. "Bucky" Strauch
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Editor's note: As part of our continuing coverage of the May 11 primary election, we are profiling five of the 10 candidates running for a seat on the Berkeley County Board of Education. The five remaining candidates will be profiled in Tuesday's Herald-Mail. They are Pam Brush, Art Thomm, Darin Gilpin, Andrew Michael and David Woods. If you've missed any of our candidate profiles so far, go to our website at http://www.herald-mail.com and click on Tristate elections.

Ten people are vying for four open seats on the Berkeley County Board of Education in the May 11 election.

No more than two board members can be elected from any of the county's six magisterial districts.




Ron "Coach" Gray



Retired Berkeley County Schools teacher Ron "Coach" Gray of Martinsburg said his more than 40 years of experience as a student, educator, coach and athletic director would be a benefit to the school system.

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"The basic platform that I am running on is 'for the kids, for the employees, for the community, for the future," he said. "And when we talk about 'for the kids,' we're talking about all the kids in the school system, from preschool, for special needs, all the way up to the gifted. I'm concerned with all the kids."

Thomas "Eric" Gates



Thomas "Eric" Gates, 42, said he previously served on the Wood County (W.Va.) Board of Education for two years beginning in 2002.

"I just look it as an opportunity to give back to the community," Gates said. "I try to teach my kids the importance of doing that, helping others, and I saw this as an opportunity to lend some expertise, prior experience of serving on a very similar school board."

Gates said he moved to Martinsburg because of his work as an agent for State Farm Insurance.

If elected, Gates said he would continue to work to build on community support of the school system with Superintendent Manny P. Arvon, who he said is one of the best in the state.

Gates said his prior school board service, combined with his business management experience, would bring "unique skill sets" to the position.

Robert E. "Bucky" Strauch



If elected, Robert E. "Bucky" Strauch, 44, of Martinsburg, said he believes he could help improve the school district's business partnerships.

"There are businesses out there that are probably able or willing to give and just haven't been approached or asked," Strauch said.

A regional sales representative with Expressway Office Solutions, Strauch said the business partnership and community volunteer relationships could be strengthened through opening lines of communication.

As the parent of a special-needs child, Strauch said he would bring positive input to helping improve how such students are handled as the school system strives to comply with standards, including No Child Left Behind.

"I'm asking whether or not we're providing some of our teachers with the necessary tools and training because we're really asking a lot of them as we integrate special-needs kids into the classrooms," he said. "And having been through that process, I really feel I could make a positive impact."

Todd M. Beckwith



Incumbent Todd M. Beckwith, 61, of Martinsburg, who is seeking a fifth four-year term, said he is "very passionate" about being on the school board.

"Over the time that I've been on the school board, we've restored professionalism and respect for the Berkeley County school board and I'm proud to have been part of that," Beckwith said.

Beckwith said the school district has been "coping with growth fairly well," but there always is room for improvement in facilities, classroom instruction, overall student achievement and competitive pay for teachers and staff.

A commercial loan officer with City National Bank, Beckwith said the theme of his campaign has been "experience counts and continuity on the school board is important."

"We have been very successful in many areas and I'm proud of what we've done," Beckwith said.

Richard A. "Rick" Pill



Richard A. "Rick" Pill, 58, of Martinsburg, is running for a third four-year term from the Potomac District.

"My goal is to continue the successes and certainly continue to improve (the school system) also," Pill said.

Pill, who has a law practice in Martinsburg, said he has a passion for helping the community and believes his legal background is an asset for the board.

Pill said he would work to retain the school district's "fine administration that we have."

Through continued lobbying of state leaders, Pill said he would continue efforts to increase the salaries and benefits of teachers and service employees as well as improve facilities.

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