Ohio County Band Director Position Brings Controversy - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

Ohio County Band Director Position Brings Controversy

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One might say some leftover Fourth of July fireworks went off at the regular meeting of the Ohio County Board of Education.

About 50 students and parents connected with the Wheeling Park High School band came to express support for current band director Jason Birch.  His position as band director came into question when David Alfred requested a transfer to Wheeling Park - making him band director.  Several parents spoke to the board - asserting the process had violated West Virginia education laws.

Jennifer Wetzel said that she and other parents had consulted with Delegate Errika Storch, one of their representatives in the House of Delegates, in an effort to understand what an education reform law said concerning hiring.  The parents believe the Ohio County Board of Education did not follow the procedures set out in the law.

"I spoke with faculty senate president Meredith Dailer," Wetzel told the board.  "Although Mrs. Dailer has participated in other interviews for classroom teachers, she was told, and I quote, 'You're not needed', when it was time to interview for the Wheeling Park band position."

John Friton expressed concerns that a different band director could effectively work with band parents.  He went on to say, "Can the Ohio County Board look to the spirit of the law in West Virginia, which says 'The best suited person should be hired into a teaching position'?"

After hearing from parents, the board went into executive session. Upon their return, they voted unanimously to approve the personnel recommendations for the upcoming school year -- which included Alfred's transfer to Wheeling Park High School.  Many parents left the meeting muttering.

Board Member Gary Kestner later addressed the audience remaining saying, "To all the parents, the ones who are left:  As I've stated in the past, we are charged with the responsibility of following the law.  I think that's what we did this evening, to the best of our ability."

When asked what she thought of the parents turning out for the meeting, Ohio County Schools Superintendent Dr. Dianna Vargo replied, "At our board meetings, we always welcome people to attend.  In fact, this year, as you know, that our Board of Education has taken our board meetings out to our schools, so that we're able to be out in the communities, and in our schools, so that parents and families and school personnel can attend our meetings."

Dr. Vargo declined to answer a direct question asking her what message she had for the parents who might be disappointed by results of the board meeting, citing personnel matters.

The same vote which placed Alford in a new position at Wheeling Park High School also made Rich McCardle principal of Wheeling Middle School.  McCardle began his teaching career at Wheeling Junior High School, which has become Wheeling Middle School.  During the current school year, McCardle served as principal of Ritchie Elementary School.