Security Hot Topic at Ohio County School Board Debate in Wheeling

Ohio County Board of Education candidate Molly Aderholt, speaks Thursday during a debate at West Virginia Northern Community College, while fellow candidates, from left, David Croft, Karen Shuler Stakem and Christine Carder look on. Photo by Scott McCloskey

WHEELING — Four candidates seeking Ohio County Board of Education seats this year discussed school security, building upgrades and student achievement during a Thursday debate.

The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register hosted the event at West Virginia Northern Community College. Three of the five board seats are up for election May 8.

Candidates Molly Aderholt, David Croft, Karen Shuler Stakem and Christine Carder said they do not favor allowing teachers to carry guns in schools, but prefer measures such as metal detectors, additional resource officers and “mantraps.”

Aderholt and Croft are lawyers, while Carder is a retired school principal and Shuler Stakem is a public relations consultant. All candidates agreed officials should take additional measures to protect students because of the rash of school shootings across the nation in recent months. Metal detectors and placing a greater focus on mental health are some of the possibilities they favorably discussed. They quickly dismissed the concept of arming teachers, however.

“Arming teachers, I think, would be a disaster,” said Croft whose sentiments Aderholt, Shuler Stakem and Carder shared.

“I personally would like to look at the possibility of metal detectors at Wheeling Park High School,” said Aderholt. She acknowledged this could prove to be too much of a burden for students entering the building on a daily basis, but said the concept should be explored.

Candidates also discussed applying “mantraps.” Merriam-Webster defines this as simply “a trap for catching humans.” In a school setting, such a device likely would be in place to prevent a potential armed intruder from advancing through the building.

“Our kids go to school every day worried about whether an active shooter is going to come into the building,” said Carder who also said that is unacceptable.

All of the candidates expressed strong support for the $42.2 million bond issue which also will appear on the May 8 ballot. The candidates said the bond is necessary for new facilities.

“The fact that our library looks exactly the same as when I was there is a shame,” said Shuler Stakem, a 1988 WPHS graduate.

The 1985 WPHS graduate Croft said “deteriorating steps at Bridge Street (Middle School)” should get as much attention as the proposed new entrance to the high school.

“We have tired facilities,” he said. “Most of what we’re looking at is deferred maintenance.”

In terms of academic achievement, all agreed the school system outperforms most in West Virginia. However, there is always room for improvement, they said.

“We need to be raising the kids at the bottom and pushing the kids at the top,” said Shuler Stakem.

Carder, who is an incumbent, and Aderholt are assured seats on the board because they represent Magisterial District 3. That makes the race a two-way affair between Croft and Shuler Stakem, both of whom reside in District 2.

Those who win May 8 will join Zach Abraham and Sarah Koegler on the board. Current members Tim Birch and Shane Mallett are not seeking re-election.