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Political Endorsement Photo Taken at Wheeling Park High School Causes a Stir

WHEELING — After complaints were heard about use of the Wheeling Park High School gymnasium in photographs used to promote a political candidate, a different picture, taken off school property, was substituted.

In an announcement that the Ohio County Coaches Association had endorsed long-time co-worker and Ohio County Commission President Tim McCormick for re-election, at least one picture taken in the gymnasium was used. After complaints were made, the gymnasium photo was taken off online platforms and replaced with one taken at the Wheeling Suspension Bridge.

McCormick, a Democrat, is being challenged by Republican Zach Abraham, who previously served as president of the Ohio County Board of Education.

“We took the photo down, and I will leave it at that,” McCormick said. “There were complaints, so we went off school property and took the photo. The same people have endorsed me, and that’s how it works.”

Assistant Superintendent Rick Jones said the school district doesn’t have a stated policy regarding political endorsements, although associations do have the right to take a political stand.

“We took those down,” he said of the photos in the gym. “They replaced them with ones on the Suspension Bridge.

“We have associations that endorse political people all the time.The teachers associations, … the service persons associations, … they do this everywhere all the time. But we prefer they not take photos on school grounds.”

This is not the first time links between the school district and politics have been questioned. In August 2018, there was criticism of a political event held for William Ihlenfeld, who at the time was a Democrat seeking election to the West Virginia State Senate. Ihlenfeld won the election.

In July before balloting, a group of WPHS football players — in uniform — were present at an event supporting Ihlenfeld. Four of them were photographed holding one of his large campaign signs. An organizer of the event said the players were paid to help park cars “and we all agreed the jerseys would be good for safety …”

After that event, Jones said of the school district, “We do not and will not consciously get involved in politics. I’ve spoken to the (football) coach, and it was a mistake.”

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