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Ohio County board names new superintendent

Photo provided to The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register Woodsdale Elementary School Principal Kimberly Miller was named the next superintendent of Ohio County Schools.
Photo provided to The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register
Woodsdale Elementary School Principal Kimberly Miller was named the next superintendent of Ohio County Schools.

WHEELING – Woodsdale Elementary School Principal Kimberly Miller offered solutions to improve student learning when she interviewed to be the next superintendent of Ohio County Schools – and that’s what got her the job, according to board of education President Shane Mallett.

By a vote of 4-1, board members Monday night chose Kimberly Miller over a second finalist, Buckeye Local Schools Superintendent Mark Miller, to lead the school district. The decision ends nearly two months of bitter controversy among the board that began in December when a split board voted not to renew current Superintendent Dianna Vargo’s contract.

Board member Tim Birch made the motion to accept Kimberly Miller as superintendent, with Sarah Koegler seconding the motion. Mallett, Birch, Koegler and Gary Kestner voted in favor, with Christine Carder opposed. Carder and Koegler were in the minority in voting to keep Vargo, whose contract runs out on June 30, as superintendent.

The board next unanimously voted to direct Mallett to enter into contract negotiations with Miller. A time frame previously set for the superintendent’s search calls for the new superintendent to sign her contract on Friday.

Miller did not immediately answer calls seeking comment late Monday night. She has been principal at Woodsdale Elementary since 2012, and under her watch the school was selected as a 2014 National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence winner, a 2013 West Virginia Success School, and a 2013 West Virginia High Performing School.

Miller holds a doctorate in education from West Virginia University.

Following Miller’s selection on Monday, Carder said she had no comment. Koegler, though, urged community support for Miller going forward.

“My initial concern about the decision made about Dr. Vargo’s contract is still present. … I still don’t fully understand why my fellow board members wanted to make this change, or have a clear understanding of what they wanted to be different. But at this point, I am focusing on ensuring that Dr. Miller is set up for success, that she has the training and support she will need to set up our fantastic staff … ,” Koegler said. “I also hope the rest of the community will lean in to make sure Dr. Miller is given every shot at success in this critical role. We need (everyone in the community) to trust the leadership of this board, and to offer and do everything they can to make sure this person succeeds. The stakes are too high for her not to succeed.”

Koegler called for the board to initiate an “onboarding,” or orientation, process for Miller, with guidance from the West Virginia School Boards Association and its director, Howard O’Cull.

After the meeting, Mallett said both Kimberly Miller and Mark Miller came to their interviews well-prepared, and had impressive resumes.

“Mark Miller was qualified,” Mallett said. “But Kim knows our system better and where the problems are, and came with solutions for those problems.”

Low standardized testing scores for math at specific schools in the county have been a concern for Mallett. He said Kimberly Miller brought to the interview data identifying that students’ math issues are beginning in the second and third grades, and worsening as as they transition between fifth and six grades.

She showed how student progress levels are tracked at Woodsdale Elementary, and how students needing help can be identified and assisted. She said she wanted to enact the system throughout the county.

Mallett said he was also impressed that former Superintendent George Krelis sent a letter of recommendation for Kimberly Miller. She served as director of student services under Krelis when he was superintendent, and the two are neighbors in Woodsdale.

“He called her one of the hardest working employees he had, and one of the best employees,” Mallett said.

Kestner said both Millers were “outstanding candidates” to be the next superintendent of Ohio County Schools.

“But I believe the one we chose shows compassion for the students, is dedicated and a creative thinker – and is definitely high energy,” he said. “I agree with Mrs. Koegler that the onboarding process is needed.”

Birch said he was “glad we finally have a name for our successor,” and had no further comment.

In other business Monday, board members voted to accept Vargo’s recommendation to suspend mechanic Michael Grimes without pay for three days while students are in school. The suspension began Feb. 11.

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