Still No Decision on Hancock County Superintendent’s Contract
NEW CUMBERLAND — The Hancock County Board of Education still has not made a decision concerning the contract of Superintendent Tim Woodward.
Before going behind closed doors to discuss that matter, board members heard from several county residents discussing a variety of allegations that have been leveled against Woodward through anonymous letters posted and mailed throughout the county. Much of the discussion by residents Monday focused on the status of Dave Smith, a principal at Oak Glen High School; the dissemination of student information; and grievance issues with a former county schools employee.
Several residents expressed support for Smith, who they said was transferred from head principal to assistant principal. Some also claimed they had heard of threats to fire Smith.
Eric Cline, who once served as a prevention resource officer in the county, said he is a childhood friend of Smith’s. He said he supports the administrator and his work at Oak Glen.
“His evaluations have always met or exceeded the standards,” Cline said, adding that Oak Glen has a 95 percent attendance rate and is ranked the 30th best high school in the state.
Pat Chaney of Chester encouraged the school board members to “do their due diligence” and investigate the claims, expressing concerns over Woodward’s leadership.
“I cannot verify all these stories, but the board can,” Chaney said.
Chaney also openly called into question the ethics of Woodward’s personal relationship with a school administrator, who Chaney identified as Andrea Dulaney, director of student services.
Dulaney responded to Chaney, saying her personal relationships are not related to how well she does her job.
Chris Gillette announced to the board that upon returning from his lunch break Friday, he found a packet of information in his car. He said those documents appeared to be copies of depositions concerning the school board.
“I think it was given to a bunch of people,” he said, adding that while he doesn’t know if the information is true, he expects the board to address the issues. “We’re holding you guys accountable.”
John Manypenny said he had attempted for several months to bring concerns to the attention of the board related to allegations of “targeting and harassment” of teachers.
“If you choose to turn a blind eye, you are doing a great disservice,” Manypenny said, noting the particular teacher about whom he was concerned has since retired.
Ed Bowman, a former state senator from Weirton, said he has been contacted many times in recent months over the allegations.
“There’s two sides to every story. Both sides deserve to be heard,” Bowman said, encouraging the school board to delay action on the contract until an investigation of the allegations can be completed.
Woodward denied the allegations, saying he has an open-door policy and is willing to discuss concerns with any resident. He especially took note of the way the accusations were being spread anonymously, calling it “cowardly.”
“It’s hurtful and incomprehensible to me that I have to sit here and defend myself,” Woodward said. “I have done nothing but put myself out there for these children and these schools.”
Woodward acknowledged transferring Smith to the assistant principal position, but said it was after several conversations with Smith and was a result of Smith’s health.
When called upon by Woodward, Smith said he and the superintendent have had a good relationship and denied there had been any discussions about his no longer being employed by the school district.
Board member Dan Kaser, however, said Monday was the first time he had heard some of the claims, noting he feels there is a lack of transparency.
“I’m a board member, and I didn’t know the information,” Kaser said.
Kaser said he feels the board cannot move forward with renewing Woodward’s contract until all allegations are investigated.
Later, following a 90-minute executive session Monday, the board announced that while its assessment of Woodward had been completed, members had not finalized their decision on whether to renew the superintendent’s contract. Woodward did not return to the open meeting with the board following the executive session.