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New Ohio County schools chief gets 4-year contract

Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register photo to by Joselyn King Ohio County Board of Education members Sarah Koegler, left, Gary Kestner and board President Shane Mallett speak on issues during Monday night’s board of education meeting.
Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register photo to by Joselyn King
Ohio County Board of Education members Sarah Koegler, left, Gary Kestner and board President Shane Mallett speak on issues during Monday night’s board of education meeting.

WHEELING, W.Va. — Woodsdale Elementary School Principal Kimberly Miller will get four years to prove herself – and a starting salary of $138,000 annually – when she takes over as superintendent of Ohio County Schools on July 1.

Board of education members voted 3-1 Monday night to approve a four-year contract for Miller that pays her $138,000 the first year, $142,000 the second year, $146,000 in year three, and $150,000 for the final year. The contract becomes effective July 1, and extends through June 30, 2020.

Under the agreement, Miller gets 20 days of vacation annually, as well as 1.5 days of personal leave each month. She will have the option to be paid for any unused days at the end of the year, or carry them over to the following year.

Miller also will get a vehicle and a credit card in the school district’s name to be used only for school-related purposes, and benefits.

Board President Shane Mallett and board members Gary Kestner and Tim Birch voted to approve the four-year contract, with Sarah Koegler voting in opposition. Member Christine Carder was not present at Monday’s meeting, and did not phone in to listen.

Koegler said she still supported Miller to be the next superintendent, but she was not in favor of offering any superintendent candidate a four-year contract. Koegler instead wanted to see Miller offered a two-year contract.

Superintendents are required to have a minimum of a one-year contract, but no more than four years, according to Koegler. Sixteen of the 55 county superintendents in the state have four-year contracts.

“My concern still stands. … This has nothing to do with Dr. Miller. I’m confident she is going to do a great job or I wouldn’t have supported her hire,” Koegler said.

Mallett negotiated the contract with Miller, and called the agreement achieved “a middle-ground contract.”

“I believe Dr. Miller is a known commodity,” he said. “She is a nationally recognized teacher … a nationally recognized principal. I have to disagree with you, Mrs. Koegler. The last meeting you said you would do everything you could to support Dr. Miller. The best support we can give her under the circumstances is a four-year contract to show her that we do believe in her and support her work.”

Koegler responded she does support Miller, but that she and Mallett just had a difference in opinion as to what to offer her.

“I’m disappointed in the four-year contract,” she said.

Miller will succeed current Superintendent Dianna Vargo, who is paid $150,000 annually in the final year of her four-year contract, which board members voted 3-2 not to renew on Dec. 29.

Kestner said during Monday’s meeting he was informed by the West Virginia Ethics Commission on March 3 that Carder filed a complaint against him, Mallett, and Birch. This was dismissed by a probable cause review board “on the grounds the allegations did not constitute a material violation of the ethics law,” he said.

Kestner said what followed the Dec. 29 action by the board was a “concerted effort of name-calling, and petty self-serving comments on social media and conventional media” directed at the three board members – Kestner, Mallett and Birch – who voted not to renew Vargo’s contract.

“We were called sexist, uninformed … sleazy… and pursuing some nefarious, undefined personal agendas,” Kestner said. “Fellow board member Christine Carder went so far as to accuse the three majority board members of intentionally trying to destroy the future of Ohio County Schools.”

This was done to foment public opinion against the board members prior to a Jan. 29 town hall meeting at Wheeling Park High School to discuss the hiring of a new superintendent, according to Kestner.

“Again, the filing of a groundless ethics complaint by Christine Carder, and the accompanying statement of facts to support the complaint, indicate to me we have a board member willing to violate the confidentiality of executive sessions in an effort to further her own political goals,” he said.

When contacted after the meeting, Carder said she had no response to Kestner’s statement.

She did explain the complaint she filed against Kestner, Mallett and Birch accused them of collusion, and working together to plan their vote on Vargo’s contract prior to the Dec. 29 meeting.

“I asked them before the meeting, are you planning not to renew Dianna’s contract?” Carder said. “They wouldn’t answer me. I will say if I had been there, I would have voted with Sarah. I would have voted against the four year contract.”

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