Residents missing the mark
Although we concede that the “right” thing might never have happened in Nicholas County without state intervention, we believe some residents are short-sighted and simply wrong when they advocate removing local control of public schools.
For perhaps the first time ever, four Nicholas residents addressed the state board of education today, urging a state takeover of their local school system.
We have watched as numerous national, state and local organizations have fought for local control of the classrooms. Often, their efforts have been futile. But the last time we saw citizens fight to get rid of local control was … well, never.
Disgruntled Richwood residents have a right to be perplexed about their county school board. After all, they either conspired or led the charge to strip Richwood of its high and middle schools or were at least complicit in the execution.
The 1,000-year flood of 2016 devastated the existing Richwood schools and a middle school in the county seat of Summersville. Richwood city officials were originally assured by Federal Emergency Management Agency officials as well as their school board that the schools would be rebuilt in Richwood.
Over a circuitous period of months, that decision was changed to consolidate the Richwood schools and Summersville Middle with a trade school on a campus near Summersville. Richwood resident are rightfully outraged.
Now, the state Supreme Court has agreed with Richwooders and the state board. They have overruled the local board decision. Many Richwood activists, led by Mayor Bob Henry Baber, celebrated and then said they were prepared to work with their elected board to find common ground.
Not so for people like Jeromy Rose of Richwood, however. Wednesday, a day after the court ruling, he virtually begged the state board to seize control of Nicholas schools during their regular meeting in Charleston. While wrong in that demand, Rose did say that a petition has been started to remove current county board members. That is proper and, if it succeeds, should be the path to different leadership.
Richwood resident Stacy Raffo said she believes a takeover by the state is the only way to “heal the wounds” in the county. She said she will run for a board seat next year. That is a proper approach, as well. Probably, as a sitting county board member, Raffo would not be so enamored with state control.
Normally, as noted, local residents demand “local control” of their school systems. Nothing has happened in Nicholas County to alter that ideal. Unlike some county school systems in distress, Nicholas is not included in that number.
We urge the leaders, including State Superintendent Steve Paine who said he is willing to work with the county board, of our educational systems to come together for the good of the children. That’s a oft-repeated phrase we hear almost daily.
This time, the children really should come first and Nicholas County’s elected representatives should be permitted to get their own affairs in order. Outside control is likely the last thing the county needs.