Former health department director seeks to serve on Marion County Board of Education

May 11—FAIRMONT — Lloyd White has ample knowledge analyzing data from budgets, revenue, expenses and personnel transactions from both the public and private sector.

Now, he wants to use that experience to make a difference in the lives of students as a member of the Marion County Board of Education.

"Basically, my whole career, I've taken over two entities that were failing financially," White said. "When I left, both of those were on solid footing. So hopefully my experience in the private and public sector will lend itself to the Board of Education position, if elected."

There are 5 members of the Board of Education and there are 3 districts in Marion County — Palatine, Middletown and West Augusta. No single district can have more than 2 members seated at one time. It was designed to ensure one district did not have a majority of the board seats. Donna Costello (West Augusta), Tom Dragich (Middletown) and George Boyles (Palatine) are not up for election.

Much of White's experience turning around failing institutions comes from his time as chief of the Marion County Rescue Squad and as administrator of the Marion County Health Department. White called budgets his strong suit.

Of course, none of that is to imply the school system is failing. School Superintendent Donna Heston has repeatedly said in the past that students regularly perform in the top ranks of West Virginia. Also, declining enrollment numbers have to do with larger trends affecting the state as a whole which are outside any one organization's control.

That said, White had a strong grasp of the budgetary issues facing Marion County Schools at the April 11 Meet the Candidates Forum hosted by the Marion County Chamber of Commerce.

"In the last two years we've lost 495 students, it cost us $3.2 million," he said during the forum. "We have to make those funds up in some manner."

He said 87% of school funding comes from tax dollars, while 20% comes from the Levy. He argued understanding the numbers behind the budget is important because it is taxpayer money and it needs to bring good value back to taxpayers. He also called for the school budget to be available to the public.

If elected, White would bring a technocrat's touch to the school board. He thinks in terms of systems when he looks at organizations.

White said the school system faces funding challenges from both the loss of enrollment as well as increases in the state's public employee insurance program, PEIA. Both of those issues will have to be addressed by the board and school district, White said.

White also brought up school safety as another area of concern.

"If our kids and our faculty and our support personnel aren't safe, then nothing else matters beyond that," White said. "We have to create an educational system that's conducive to learning."

White also addressed bullying. As a broad problem in American society, he said it's one of the best ways to ruin a child's education. He called for systemic analysis of the problem, considering what factors lead a child to bullying. He said school officials should look at a child's home life, if they're being raised by grandparents, if drugs are in the home among other things. To be able to resolve it, it's going to take figuring out why a child is resorting to bullying in order to stop it.

As a school board member, White said his decisions would be driven by one unifying doctrine — 'What is best for students?' To help him make tough decisions, White would compare pros and cons, and focus on whether a decision would ensure students receive the best education.

The guns in school debate also came up during the forum. Although providing some firearms for safety isn't necessarily a disagreeable idea, White said the focus must be on preventing gun violence in schools.

Overall, White has been grateful for his career in public service.

"I'm absolutely about public service, that's what I've dedicated my career to," White said. "I still think I have a lot left to offer."

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