Three school board seats open in Hancock County

NEW CUMBERLAND — Three seats with the Hancock County Board of Education are up for grabs during Tuesday’s primary election, and six candidates throughout the county will look to claim those seats.

This year Toni Hinerman of Weirton, Michelle Chappell of New Cumberland and Larry Shaw of New Manchester are seeking to retain their seats for another four-year term, which begins July 1. They will be challenged by Gabriela “Gabby” Fighiroae of Chester, Seth Cheuvront of Newell and Danny Kaser of New Cumberland.

Hinerman, school board president, is seeking her third term on the board, while Chappell is seeking her second. Shaw is seeking his first full term after being appointed to succeed longtime member John Manypenny, who stepped down last fall.

Chappell was first elected in 2014.

“The issues that the Hancock County Board of Education will face over the next few years are extremely important, and commitment to the position as well as the consistency needed to continue to move our public schools in the right direction is critical,” she said. “I am confident in my ability to continue this progress.”

Chappell has been the Hancock County representative for the West Virginia School Board Association and with RESA-6 as a co-chairperson.

“These two important roles have given me the opportunity to expand my reach and bring updates, concerns and resources before the superintendent and staff of Hancock County,” Chappell said. “I bring input and involvement forward from these boards and engage our community as we work together to deliver the best possible educational programs for our students.”

She is married to Chip and they have two children.

Chappell said the district needs to have a board that remains consistent and innovative in order to provide focus to the district’s mission of providing education and success to the students.

Chappell is a graduate of the University of Maryland and obtained her master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University.

With a career in the banking and technology industries along with years of volunteerism, Cheuvront says he is looking to continue his service, this time on the Hancock County Board of Education.

Cheuvront said he will work toward the board’s mission of affording all students the academic and social skills needed to be productive in life.

“I believe that being part of a younger generation, I can see items that may ‘fall on deaf ears,'” Cheuvront said. “I believe I can help our county work toward a 21st century learning experience to further advance our mission.

“I believe relationships are a large part of our community and having a clear line of communication between our board and the community is critical,” Cheuvront said. “I have many relationships in Hancock County and hope to use these to strengthen our board. I want to be part of the success and do anything I can to enhance our vision for the students and staff of our county. Without strong leadership, our students will suffer.”

An Oak Glen High graduate, he holds a bachelor’s degree in information security and assurance and plans to pursue a master’s degree.

He is a graduate of the Weirton Leadership group of 2015, a West Virginia Global 21 completer in administrative support and accounting, and has a gold-national Career Readiness Certificate from ACT.

Cheuvront resides in Newell.

Fighiroae said she looks to bring innovative ideas to the table and bring a unique and creative perspective to the board.

“I decided to run for the board of education because I believe that the parents of tomorrow’s leaders deserve to have their concerns voiced and heard,” Fighiroae said. “If elected I will give my input on countless issues. Since I have children of my own in school in this district, I would be able to give a voice to their generation in ways that other candidates may not have considered.”

Fighiroae has spoken at board meetings about issues, including assistance for special needs students, spending of taxpayers money and transparency and accuracy in board activities.

Fighiroae noted she believes the 7 a.m. start time is too early for students and down the road can result in health issues. She based her belief on studies and information conducted on the issue.

“Studies have shown that there is a direct connection between early school start times and diabetes, obesity, depression, cardiovascular disease, drug abuse, car accidents, sports injuries and more,” Fighiroae said.

Through her research of the subject, which she provided to the school board and the Hancock County Board of Health, Fighiroae has started the Hancock County chapter of “Start School Later” — a nonprofit foundation favoring a later start time for schools based on studies conducted by scientists and experts.

As a board member, Fighiroae said she would bring more board accessible to the public, whether it be for teachers, parents or residents, and wants board meetings to be recorded and placed on the internet.

“Back in 2010, the board stopped recording their public meetings,” Fighiroae said. “This is unacceptable. In the year of 2018, the Hancock County taxpayers have a right to view any meeting from the comfort of their home.

“If elected, I will use all the tools I have from my own personal experience and my education to make Hancock County’s school board more effective, open and productive, and less of the self-serving bureaucracy that it has become.”

A native of Romania and an American citizen since 2004, Fighiroae holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and is the owner of Country Corners in New Cumberland.

She is married to Simeon, and they have two children.

Hinerman is a lifelong Hancock County resident and has expressed gratitude for being able to give her insight in several projects throughout the past eight years on the board.

“I have been fortunate to be able to support, review and accomplish so many successes for our county,” Hinerman said. “As I look back to the hard work and dedication of the board members as we painstakingly started with making decisions about repair, replacement or rebuilding, I’m amazed at what we’ve done.”

Some of those projects Hinerman mentioned included the remodeling of Oak Glen Stadium and completion of the high school’s Field of Dreams for its baseball and softball teams; the relocation of Jimmy Carey Stadium to near Weir High School; and the new Weirton Elementary School, now the largest elementary school in the state.

“It’s a glowing example of how important education is to the people of Hancock County and its stakeholders,” Hinerman said. “Without the bond call passed by our citizens, none of what was done would have been possible.

“Hancock County has excelled in many areas especially academically,” she noted. “Our board and superintendent will continue the growth academically by providing the teachers with the technology needed and the students with the necessary tools to function as responsible citizens in the 21st century.”

Hinerman taught at Wells Junior High School, Broadview Elementary, New Manchester Elementary and Weir Middle School. She is a graduate of Weirton Madonna High School, a graduate of West Liberty University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a graduate of the University of Dayton with a master’s degree in school counseling.

She is married to Dave and they have two adult children.

Kaser is a longtime educator, administrator and past superintendent.

“I have been in schools in every county in this state. There is no county that has facilities that compare to Hancock County Schools,” Kaser said. “I can say the same for the administrative, instructional and support staff, I have a great amount of respect for all of these people because they go above and beyond for the students and community every day.”

Starting his career in education as a teacher at Weir High School and the John D. Rockefeller IV Career Center, Kaser moved into administrative duties in 1989, where he served several positions including director of school finance, director of vocational and adult education, director of special education and pupil services.

He became Hancock County Schools’ superintendent in 2000 until his retirement in 2007.

During his seven years as superintendent, he sought and was awarded several building and modernization grants through the West Virginia School Building Authority, which provided funding to replace roofs, windows, restrooms, doors and address accessibility issues throughout the count. The largest of the awards — totaling $8.4 million — provided the funding for the construction of the new Oak Glen Middle School.

Kaser said he believes his experience in administration and background in education would make him the most qualified candidate for the position.

“The reason I am running is that I still have a great interest in our school system and think my background and experience will be an asset to the board of education, especially in developing short-term and long-term education and facility goals,” Kaser said.

“I have always worked well with others and understand the responsibilities, parameters and time commitment for a board member. Because of my extensive background in education, the Hancock County School System, West Virginia State Law, Hancock County Board Policies and State Board Policies, I will be a member ready to make informed and fair decisions immediately. I believe that I am the most qualified and experienced candidate seeking a seat on the board.”

Kaser has also been involved in numerous community activities, board and councils throughout the county.

A lifelong Hancock County resident, he is a 1968 graduate of Oak Glen High School, a 1971 graduate of Fairmont State College where he earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial arts and a 1983 graduate of Marshall University, where he received his master’s degree in school administration. He also accumulated an additional 45 graduate hours in school administration from Marshall and West Virginia universities.

Kaser has been married to his wife, Sharon, for 43 years. They have two children and four grandchildren.

Shaw, a retired teacher/varsity wrestling coach, and said he has been able to throw his support behind some key changes recently implemented in the district.

Among those changes are the new free breakfast and lunch programs for students countywide, and a virtual learning academy for those who are home-schooled but can also participate in extracurricular activities.

“I am very focused on doing everything I can to provide the best opportunities for our students,” Shaw said. “I want to continue to look at ways to make our schools and buses as safe as possible, to deal with student behavior problems and to support our students and employees who have been impacted by the drug crisis in our communities.”

Shaw also said with the district running on a limited budget, the board needs to use the taxpayers’ money wisely.

He has also brought to the board’s attention the district’s now-in-effect “facility use policy.” The new policy allows for groups to use the facilities at no additional charge.

“With the help of the superintendent and the support of the other board members, we now have an addendum to the policy going out for public comment that will allow these groups to practice for free,” Shaw said. “Making our facilities more accessible to the public is a great service for the youth of our communities.”

Shaw stated he believes he has established himself on the board, despite his brief tenure.

“I will be as informed as possible before I make any decision,” Shaw said. “I will be a dedicated board member, and with the voters’ support, I will continue to serve our community as a member of the Board of Education.”

He is a graduate of Concord College with a bachelor’s degree in physical education and library science, a graduate of Marshall University with a master’s degree in physical education and also has 45 additional graduate hours from Marshall and West Virginia University.

Shaw and his wife, Cindy, reside in New Manchester.