Six seeking to fill three Hancock BOE seats

NEW CUMBERLAND — Three seats with the Hancock County Board of Education are on the line during Tuesday’s primary election, with six candidates looking to claim those seats.

This year, incumbents Toni Hinerman of Weirton, Michelle Chappell of New Cumberland and Larry Shaw of New Manchester are seeking to retain their seats for another four-year term, which begins July 1. They will be challenged by candidates Gabby Fighiroae of Chester, Seth Cheuvront of Newell and Danny Kaser of New Cumberland.

Hinerman — the current school board president — will seek her third term on the board, while Chappell will seek her second. Shaw case will seek his first full term after being appointed to succeed longtime member John Manypenny.

First elected in 2014, Chappell hopes to continue looking out for the needs of the district.

“The issues that the Hancock County Board of Education will face over the next few years are extremely important, and commitment to the position as well as the consistency needed to continue to move our public schools in the right direction is critical,” she said. “And I am confident in my ability to continue this progress.”

Chappell has been the Hancock County representative for the West Virginia School Board Association and with RESA-6 as a co-chairperson.

“These two important roles have given me the opportunity to expand my reach and bring updates, concerns and resources before the superintendent and staff of Hancock County,” Chappell said. “I bring input and involvement forward from these boards and engage our community as we work together to deliver the best possible educational programs for our students.”

Having resided in New Cumberland the past 24 years with her husband, Chip, and two children, Chappell, the only Clay District candidate, also stated a personal and professional interest in the county schools. She said the district needs to have a board that remains consistent and innovative in order to provide focus to the district’s mission of providing education and success to the students.

“The Hancock County Board of Education needs consistent and innovative leadership that will continue to direct the board’s primary focus on student achievement and learning,” Chappel said. “I am proud to offer a lifetime commitment to educational excellence as a profession and a volunteer for Hancock County schools. Our two children attended the Hancock County Public School System, so I have a personal as well as a professional interest in preserving and improving the quality of Hancock County Schools.”

Outside the school board, Chappell has worked on several projects as the community liaison at Weirton Medical Center, Community Needs Assessment, WMC’s Foundation, and serves as a board member on several non-profit organizations throughout Hancock and Brooke counties.

Currently serving as the senior manager of State Health Systems in West Virginia for the American Cancer Society, Chappell has volunteered her time for PTSA, the American Cancer Society, Hancock County 4-H, school boosters and track and field.

Chappell is a graduate of the University of Maryland, and obtained her master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University.

With a career in the banking and technology industries along with years of volunteerism, Cheuvront says he is looking to continue his service.

Cheuvront said he will work toward the board’s mission of affording all students the academic and social skills needed to be productive in life, and said he might be able to address some issues that might not have been recognized before, while also helping financially based on his work experience.

“I believe that being part of a younger generation, I can see items that may ‘fall on deaf ears,'” Cheuvront said. “I believe I can help our county work towards a 21st century learning experience to further advance our mission.”

Cheuvront is known for his work throughout the community through non-profit organizations and said he hopes to continue building relationships if elected.

“I believe relationships are a large part of our community and having a clear line of communication between our board and the community is critical,” Cheuvront said. “I have many relationships in Hancock County and hope to use these to strengthen our board. I want to be part of the success and do anything I can to enhance our vision for the students and staff of our county. Without strong leadership, our students will suffer.”

Prior to graduating from Oak Glen High School in 2014, Cheuvront dedicated his spare time to school offices and concessions while also staying active with several community organizations.

He currently serves as a member of the Emergency Operations Center, the Newell Community Improvement Coalition, a volunteer with the Newell Fire Department, a member of the Education Committee for the Weirton Area Chamber of Commerce, and serves as an SDMI superintendent for his local church, also an ex-officio member of the church board of directors.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in information security and assurance, and will look to pursue his master’s in information technology.

He is a 2015 graduate of Leadership Weirton, a West Virginia Global 21 completer in Administrative Support and Accounting, and has a Gold-National Career Readiness Certificate from ACT. Previously employed at an area community bank, his current employer, he explains, is a global leader in financial services technology solutions.

Ultimately, Cheuvront looks to bring his knowledge and skills to improve school security, create more community involvement, increase technology integration, support higher student achievement and help develop various after-school programming options.

“My goal as a board member will be to educate future leaders, and with the support of our community, this is surely possible,” Cheuvront said.

A previous candidate for the board, Fighiroae looks to bring innovative ideas to the table and bring a unique and creative perspective to the board.

As a mother of a son and daughter, both of whom currently attend Oak Glen Middle School, Fighiroae said, if elected, she would like to serve as a voice for students.

“I decided to run for the Board of Education because I believe that the parents of tomorrow’s leaders deserve to have their concerns voiced and heard,” Fighiroae said. “If elected I will give my input on countless issues. Since I have children of my own in school in this district, I would be able to give a voice to their generation in ways that other candidates may not have considered.”

Over the past four years, Fighiroae has been present at numerous school board meetings, sometimes speaking out about issues including assistance for special needs students, spending of taxpayers money she called “wasteful and irresponsible,” and transparency and accuracy in board activities.

Fighiroae also has focused on the start time for schools in Hancock County.

Fighiroae said she believes the 7 a.m. start time is too early for students and, down the road, can result in health issues, both physically and mentally. She based her belief on studies and information conducted on the issue.

“Studies have shows that there is a direct connection between early school start times and diabetes, obesity, depression, cardiovascular disease, drug abuse, car accidents, sports injuries and more,” Fighiroae said. “Studies have also shown a connection between improved academic results and later school start time.”

Through her research of the subject,, Fighiroae has started the Hancock County chapter of “Start School Later” — a non-profit foundation favoring a later start time for schools based on studies conducted by scientists and experts.

As a board member, Fighiroae said she would bring more board accessibility to the public, whether it be for teachers, parents or residents, and wants board meetings to be recorded and placed on the internet.

“Back in 2010, the board stopped recording their public meetings,” Fighiroae said. “This is unacceptable. In the year of 2018, the Hancock County taxpayers have a right to view any meeting from the comfort of their home.”

She also says since the school board is considered a public office, the board should operate in less of a “closed-door” atmosphere regarding the well being of the students.

“The government works for the people, not against them. The board should be no different,” Fighiroae said. “Our children did not ask to be born, we chose to bring them into this world, and so, it is our responsibility as parents to offer our children every possible chance to thrive. We need to give them every opportunity for the best education possible.

“If elected, I will use all the tools I have from my own personal experience and my education to make Hancock County’s school board more effective, open and productive, and less of the self-serving bureaucracy that it has become.”

A native of Romania and an American citizen since 2004, Fighiroae holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and is the owner of Country Corners in New Cumberland.

Fighiroae, her husband Simon, and their two children reside in Chester.

Currently serving as president of the Hancock County Board of Education, Hinerman is looking to continue her service for a third term, and has expressed gratitude for being able to give her insight in several projects throughout the past eight years on the board.

“I have been fortunate to be able to support, review and accomplish so many successes for our county,” Hinerman said. “As I look back to the hard work and dedication of the board members as we painstakingly started with making decisions about repair, replacement or rebuilding, I’m amazed at what we’ve done.”

Some of those projects included the remodeling of Oak Glen Stadium and completion of the high school’s Field of Dreams; the relocation of Jimmy Carey Stadium to near Weir High School; and the new Weirton Elementary School.

“It’s a glowing example of how important education is to the people of Hancock County and its stakeholders,” Hinerman said. “Without the bond call passed by our citizens, none of what was done would have been possible.”

Hinerman also has served on the school board’s Wellness Committee for the past six years, and credited the superintendent and nutrition director on recently starting the county system’s new free breakfast and lunch programs.

Hinerman says she has taken pride in the county’s progression and excellence in academics and believes the board will look to continue to find ways to improve.

“Hancock County has excelled in many areas especially academically,” Hinerman said. “Our board and superintendent will continue the growth academically by providing the teachers with the technology needed and the students with the necessary tools to function as responsible citizens in the 21st century.”

Hinerman said she has been open, honest, accessible and trustworthy during her board years, and believes those qualities should be represented of anyone serving on the board.

“I feel it’s easy for me because I have experienced most situations that occurred as a parent and grandparent of Hancock County students,” Hinerman said. “I was a teacher in our system for over 30 years, and presently the Hancock County board president.”

Hinerman taught at Wells Junior High School, Broadview Elementary, New Manchester Elementary and Weir Middle School.

Born and raised in Weirton, Hinerman is a graduate of Weirton Madonna High School, West Liberty University with a bachelor’ degree in elementary education, and Dayton University with a master’s degree in school counseling.

She and her husband, Dave, reside in Weirton and have two adult children.

A longtime educator, administrator and past superintendent, Kaser is looking to return to serving Hancock County Schools.

“I have been in schools in every county in this state. There is no county that has facilities that compare to Hancock County Schools,” Kaser said. “I can say the same for the administrative, instructional and support staff, I have a great amount of respect for all of these people because they go above and beyond for the students and community every day.”

Starting his career as a teacher at Weir High School and the John D. Rockefeller IV Career Center, Kaser moved into administrative duties in 1989, where he served as director of school finance, director of vocational and adult education, director of special education and pupil services, and director of federal programs.

He then became Hancock County Schools’ superintendent in 2000 until his retirement in 2007.

As superintendent, he sought and was awarded several building and modernization grants through the West Virginia School Building Authority, which provided funding to replace roofs, windows, restrooms, doors and address accessibility issues throughout the county. The largest of the awards — for $8.4 million — funded the construction of Oak Glen Middle School.

“The reason I am running is that I still have a great interest in our school system and think my background and experience will be an asset to the board of education, especially in developing short term and long term education and facility goals,” Kaser said. “After serving five years as Hancock County Schools’ finance director, I have a thorough understanding on what it takes to financially run our school system and what the system is facing in the future.

“I have always worked well with others and understand the responsibilities, parameters and time commitment for a board member. Because of my extensive background in education, the Hancock County School System, West Virginia state law, Hancock County board policies and state board policies, I will be a member ready to make informed and fair decisions immediately. I believe that I am the most qualified and experienced candidate seeking a seat on the board.”

Kaser has also been involved in numerous community activities, board and councils, including the board of directors for the Hancock County Senior Center, the West Virginia State Board of Education’s Exceptional Children’s Advisory Council, the West Virginia Northern Community College Board of Governors, board of directors for Northern Panhandle Head Start, and the Northern Panhandle Private Industry Council.

He is a 1968 graduate of Oak Glen High School, a 1971 graduate of Fairmont State College where he earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial arts, and a 1983 graduate of Marshall University, where he received his master’s in school administration. He also accumulated an additional 45 graduate hours in school administration from Marshall and West Virginia universities.

Kaser and his wife of 43 years, Sharon, reside in New Cumberland and have two children and four grandchildren.

Shaw, a retired teacher/varsity wrestling coach says he has has been able to throw his support behind some key changes recently implemented in the district during his seven months on the board.

Among those changes are the new free breakfast and lunch programs for students countywide, and a virtual learning academy for those who are home-schooled but can also participate in extracurricular activities.

“I am very focused on doing everything I can to provide the best opportunities for our students,” Shaw said. “I want to continue to look at ways to make our schools and buses as safe as possible, to deal with student behavior problems, and to support our students and employees who have been impacted by the drug crisis in our communities.”

Shaw also said with the district running on a limited budget, the board needs to use the taxpayers’ money wisely.

Shaw has also brought to the board’s attention the district’s now-in-effect “Facility Use Policy,” which he stated was “overly restrictive” and had been written in a manner in which extracurricular and co-curricular groups were unable to afford to use the school’s facilities for practices or other events. The new policy allows for groups to use the facilities at no additional charge.

“With the help of the superintendent and the support of the other board members, we now have an addendum to the policy going out for public comment that will allow these groups to practice for free,” Shaw said. “Making our facilities more accessible to the public is a great service for the youth of our communities.”

Shaw stated he believes he has established himself on the board and is eager to continue to work in the best interest of the students, staff and community.

“I will be as informed as possible before I make any decision,” Shaw said. “I will be a dedicated board member, and with the voters’ support, I will continue to serve our community as a member of the Board of Education.”

Shaw has also taken pride in having been able to spend his entire 33-year career in the Hancock County School district, where he served as a physical education teacher, librarian and later head coach for the Oak Glen varsity wrestling team.

He is a graduate of Concord College with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education and Library Science, Marshall University with a Master of Science degree in Physical Education, and also has 45 additional graduate hours from both Marshall and West Virginia universities.

“I was blessed to have had the opportunity to work virtually my entire career in Oak Glen,” Shaw said. “When Mr. Salvati hired me in 1979, I was a young inexperienced teacher and coach. I will always be indebted to him for the guidance and support he provided.”

Shaw and his wife, Cindy, reside in New Manchester.