The Tyler Star News mailed questions to all candidates in the hotly contested race for three seats on the Tyler County Board of Education. Their provided biographies and responses are printed below in alphabetical order.
The five candidates are Bonnie Henthorn, James Eric Mason, Kevin Roberts, Scott W. Strode, and Jimmy Wyatt, incumbent.
Mason did not respond to the Tyler Star News' questionnaire.
Clockwise, beginning at top right: Bonnie Henthorn, Kevin Roberts, Jimmy Wyatt and Scott Strode
Henthorn graduated from Tyler County Schools and says she is passionate about the education of our children. "I am interested, available, and qualified to be actively involved in preparing our children for a successful life in an ever-changing world, as lifelong learners and as active members of our communities," said Henthorn.
Married to her husband, Jamie, for 16 years, they have two children in Tyler County Schools. Their family is active in church where she teaches Sunday School to primary aged children on a regular basis.
"I have management experience, understand the importance of attitude, personal relationships, and technology," said Henthorn. "And will apply an open door policy to my role on the board. I believe that that the education, values, and confidence instilled in me by Tyler County Schools, encouraged me to learn new things dovetailing into career success. I would like to preserve this culture so that our children develop the attitudes for lifelong success, no matter what their career path."
She particularly likes a quote by Einstein, "It is better to try new ideas, rather than expecting different results from the same tired actions." Henthorn says it is time for a new dawn in Tyler County.
A lifelong resident of Tyler County, Roberts graduated from Tyler County High School in 1992 and pursued an engineering degree at West Virginia Tech. Roberts has been married to his wife Laura for 11 years. They have two children: Raylynn, age eight, and Bryson, age two.
"In the past year I have enjoyed being a volunteer football coach for the Tycon Youth football league," said Roberts. He is also an active member of Middlebourne Baptist Church where he is a trustee and a Sunday school teacher.
"There has always been a sense of pride and excellence in Tyler County, whether talking about sports, band, or academics," said Roberts. "For whatever reason, I feel like Tyler County is slipping into a rut. If elected I promise every decision I made will be in the best interest of our kids. Thank you for your support and vote."
Scott Strode did not provide a biography.
Wyatt is married to JoAnn and they have one daughter, Jennifer Weekley (David) and one grandson, Austin, who is a senior at Ritchie County High School. Wyatt worked as a high school principal and JoAnn as a kindergarten aide at A.I. Boreman Elementary School for several years in Tyler County. Daughter Jennifer and son-in-law David work for Ritchie County Schools.
Wyatt taught vocational agriculture for nine years at Magnolia High School, was assistant director/job placement director at Roane Jackson Vo-Tech, and principal at Ravenswood High School prior to coming to Tyler County in 1975. "We found a home," he states.
During his career as principal in Tyler County, Wyatt served as president of two athletic conferences-the LKAC and the OVAC. He also was elected to the National Federation of High School Board of Directors after serving two terms as SSAC president.
Most recently Wyatt served the last three years on the (county) West Virginia School Boards Association Board of Directors and is immediate past state president of that 55-county organization. As past president, he is eligible to maintain a post on that board and be a voice for Tyler County at the state level.
Why do you want to be on the board of education and what makes you qualified to serve in that capacity?
Roberts: I believe there is a need for positive change in our community and it starts with our school system and our sports programs with our kids. I have always loved Tyler County and never want to leave. Now I have kids of my own and believe that I can be a voice for the Tyler County public.
Strode: I'm seeking the BOE seat because my love and respect for this county and school system. I think us as a county and school system will see some big changes coming from all directions in next several years, and we need to have people leading the way with a vision looking forward.
Henthorn: I was compelled to run for the Board of Education upon suggestion from friends, family, and the community because of my willingness to ask hard questions and discuss school-related issues. My qualifications include:
Knowledge of Tyler County and its children: In addition to the bio included above, I volunteered as Boreman Boosters President for about six years, also serving on the Local School Improvement Council during that time. I'm open to community discussions and believe that my background in the county, my family, and approachability give me unique perspectives from multiple sides of the system.
Management Experience: Working remotely from my home for 12 years allowed me to learn to work independently, do my own research, and see things from all sides. The management roles I performed in this research/publications company taught me the importance of an open-door policy. I also learned to understand the importance of technology as I worked extensively in technology management.
Personal skills and desire: I have the strong desire to see that our children are able to excel in the changing world around us. I am committed to honesty, professionalism, respect, fairness, and ethical behavior for everyone-integral parts of a culture that will foster the same qualities in our children.
Wyatt: I would like to serve another term on the board to support our teachers, staff, and administrators, to continue working at improving our ever-increasing student achievement test scores, our low drop out rate, and diligence in teaching young folks the difference in right and wrong, and at moving our athletic programs back to prominence. Progress has been made, but more needs done. The dedication of our teachers make it a pleasure to serve-you see cars at AIB, SES, and TCMHS all hours.
What do you think is the one main thing people would like to see changed in the school system and how would you propose it be improved?
Roberts: I believe the main reason people approached me and asked me to run is that the school system now, most parents don't feel that they are approachable. I believe that any parent, teacher, bus driver, janitor, etc. (Tyler County citizen) should be able to talk to anyone in the school system without fear.
Strode: If I had to take an educated guess on what people wanted to see changed to most it would be the school calendar. But as we've found out, slowly and surely the state department of education is taking that flexibility away. The elephant in the room is common core and is a concern for a lot of folks. I have the unique perspective as a parent who has one child who has started out in that system, and one child who made the transition a few years ago, while having a wife that also teaches it. I'm the only candidate in this election that has that perspective. From that, I know all of its positives and negatives, and contrary to popular belief, there are both.
Henthorn: Since filing to run for the Board of Education, I have had the opportunity to talk with many individuals (parents, students, staff) about the changes that have taken place in Tyler County Schools over the past few years. As a board member, and an elected representative, it would be my job to address these issues, rather than push an individual agenda. The common theme throughout most of those discussions has been the attitudes being presented and fostered within the school and thus being filtered down to our children.
We have good students and schools in our county and that is demonstrated through the complimentary comments from those outside the county regarding their behaviors and accomplishments. But there is always room for positive change. Improving attitudes, transparency, and approachability are keys to unlocking the full potential of our students and community. By listening attentively to concerns and ideas, from whatever direction they come, we can all work together to make our schools and children better. I never want parents to feel helpless, teachers to feel blamed, support staff and drivers to feel unimportantwe are all a very important part of the community culture that I would like to help instill in Tyler County.
Wyatt: I think our folks want to retain what local control we have and work hard with the S.B.A. to create legislation and negotiate with the state board to put more control back in the hands of the taxpayers of the county. A centralized system as we now have makes a strong system, but it has removed too much local control.
How do you think the attendance and drop out rates could be improved?
Roberts: We need to improve the pride in our county and teach our kids that education is fun. And the extracurricular programs should be encouraged. They help individuals to work in a team setting for their whole life.
Strode: I think this issue is state and regional specific. So many kids are not prospective college students, but rather ready to join the workforce. As of right now, there are more jobs in our area and region that do not require a degree, but may rather require some vocational training. I think this is an area that we as a county should look as an option for our kids in that category and help them further that specialized education in our own county with a program that is unique to other vocational training. This will require some "out of the box" thinking, but it's possible.
Henthorn: According to the WVDE "2012 - 2013 Attendance Rate" report, Tyler County Schools enjoy a 98 percent attendance rate and the "Dropout Rates: School Year 2012-13" report, shows a rate of 1.3 percent. These are exceptional! Students, parents, and staff should be very proud, considering the national drop-out rate average is about 20 percent.
If Tyler County had a problem like this, we should go to work with all the tools at our disposal to correct it. A variety of tools could be used (data analysis, brainstorming, comparative research, networking with other counties, etc.), but in order to do so, the correct policies need to be in place to accommodate those actions. It is not about the board micromanaging these tasks, it is about the children! The staff of Tyler County Schools is well-qualified to handle these challenges and should be trusted to do so. As a board member, I would ensure that policies are put into place that will allow and encourage the staff to excel and secure the best interests of our children.
My personal belief on attendance is that attitudes play a massive role in a student's motivation to attend/complete school. Personal relationships hold everything together, and that is what should be fostered.
Wyatt: Attendance rates in Tyler County Schools remain in the mid to high 90 percent range each month. Our dropout rate is low compared to other counties. Both areas are excellent but can be improved with parent support, improved athletic programs, and continued emphasis on improving positive communication between parent, student, and the school system.
Early voting is now in progress, through May 10, in person at the Tyler County Courthouse. Voting takes place between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday; 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Friday; and 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Saturday. On Election Day, Tuesday, polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. A list of polling places an be found on page 21. Sample ballots are printed on pages 19-21.