Weirton Lawyer Appointed To Brooke School Board

WELLSBURG – The previously empty seat on the Brooke County Board of Education is vacant no longer.

For the time being, it is occupied by Weirton lawyer Mike Simon, who was nominated from among a pool of 11 applicants for the post. The seat was vacated with the resignation of Joseph Adams Jr. Adams, who was elected to the board in May, chose to forego taking the oath of office as he prepares to answer embezzlement charges in Marshall County.

Following board President Jim Piccirillo’s announcement of Simon’s nomination, the board unanimously accepted the nomination. Simon immediately was administered the oath of office and participated in Monday’s meeting, including a closed-door session to discuss personnel.

Simon’s time on the board will be brief, however – less than three months. His name is not among the seven throwing their hats in the ring for the Nov. 2 election to fill the remainder of Adams’ four-year term, to expire in July 2014.

The winner, according to Superintendent Kathy Kidder-Wilkerson, likely will be sworn in during the board meeting scheduled for Nov. 8, the first following the election.

Piccirillo said past boards in filling vacancies have set a precedent of appointing someone with no intentions of running for the full term, to avoid giving one person “the advantage of incumbency.”

“But that did not weigh heavily on our decision,” Piccirillo said, adding he believes each of the 11 applicants would have made excellent choices.

“Our interviews were impressive and our decision difficult. … Our goal as a board was to select someone highly qualified, ready to step in and serve, and be a productive board member during the next few months.”

Simon was born in Weirton and has practiced with the Frankovitch, Anetakis, Colantonio and Simon law firm for 20 years. In addition to serving on Weirton’s zoning board, he was a committee member for Hancock County Schools under former Superintendent Dan Kaser, has volunteered with numerous youth activities and has some background in school law.

“That experience proved to be important to us in making our decision,” Piccirillo said.

Simon describes himself as a “civic-minded” person and said he was encouraged by several people to apply for the appointment. He said he never had any serious thoughts about running for the full term. He said his current goals include learning more about the issues facing the board and working together with his new colleagues to find viable solutions.

“Always, money is an issue, but there’s so many things positive happening in the school system,” Simon said, adding one of his goals is to focus on those things. “If (the board) calls upon me, I’m always willing to give my contribution and my thoughts in a positive way.”

Simon said one suggestion he’s already made is for the county’s vocational education program to reach out to gas companies who are spurring the current Marcellus Shale drilling boom in the Ohio Valley and find out what opportunities the gas rush may hold for Brooke students choosing that type of career path.

“We see a lot of this advertising going on, and there’s stuff in the media constantly,” he said.

The seven candidates in the upcoming, non-partisan election are Laura Beckelhimer of Colliers, Kathy Cruny of Colliers, Samuel F. Gaudio of Weirton, Chad D. Haught of Weirton, Tim Hooper of Weirton, Jamie Lancaster of Colliers and Dan McCauley of Follansbee. Piccirillo said most of those individuals filed letters of application for appointment, as well.

In other business, Kidder-Wilkerson said she was pleased with recently released results of the WESTEST 2 statewide assessment test, given to students in grades 3-8, as well as high school juniors.

She said each of the county’s school except for Wellsburg and Follansbee middle schools achieved “adequate yearly progress.”

While attaining AYP in all schools is a major goal for the county, Kidder-Wilkerson said it is more difficult for middle schools to achieve because all students – including those enrolled in special education programs – are given the same test. Because all four grade levels at the middle school are tested, as opposed to a fraction of those in elementary and high schools, the special education classes have more of an impact on whether a school attains AYP.

More than half of the Mountain State’s middle schools failed to earn that mark, Kidder-Wilkerson noted. “I’m not saying it can’t be done – it can be,” she acknowledged.

Nearly every classroom in the county outperformed state averages, Kidder-Wilkerson said.