Hancock school board halts superintendent contract talks

PACKET HANDED TO DEPUTY — Hancock County Board of Education member Dan Kaser, right, hands a packet to a county sheriff’s deputy during Monday’s board meeting. According to a county resident, the packet included information concerning Superintendent Tim Woodward. -- Craig Howell

NEW CUMBERLAND — The Hancock County Board of Education decided Monday to halt further negotiations on the contract of the county’s superintendent of schools.

By a decision of 0-4, the board voted down a motion to continue negotiations. Board member Caroll Rosenlieb abstained from discussions and voting, citing advice from the state Ethics Commission on a possible conflict of interest. During a March 4 special board meeting, Rosenlieb announced she would be recusing herself from the issue, explaining the adult daughter of Superintendent Tim Woodward rents a house in Morgantown from Rosenlieb’s family.

Woodward was not in attendance Monday, with board President Michelle Chappell citing a medical emergency.

Board members offered no additional comment on the vote, which followed a 43-minute executive session and a series of comments from county residents who expressed continued concern over Woodward amid allegations of improper conduct.

Among those speaking Monday was Pat Chaney, of Chester, who handed board member Dan Kaser a packet with information he alleged could include possible criminal actions. Kaser had the packet sealed, signed by members of the board, and handed to a county sheriff’s deputy.

Chaney reported he had met with Woodward March 8 to discuss some of his concerns, including the reported release of private student information, aspects of Woodward’s personal life and the status of any ongoing investigations.

Chaney also discussed an audio tape he claimed Woodward gave him of conversations with administrators and teachers.

“I’m sure the superintendent had no authority to leak it to me,” Chaney said, noting the tape was among the packet he presented to the board Monday.

Ed Bowman, of Weirton, presented the board with a Freedom of Information Act request, noting he had asked questions of the board during its previous regular meeting.

“I don’t know anything more today than I did two weeks ago,” Bowman said.

Bowman said he feels there is a growing mistrust from the community in both Woodward and the board, and feels the reason many of the allegations have been made anonymously is because residents are fearful of retaliation.

“I’ve seen signs. I’ve seen letters to the editor,” Bowman said.

He encouraged the board to listen to the residents, look into their concerns and fulfill their obligations.

Simon Fighiroae, of Chester, also spoke, encouraging transparency among the board.

“We’re an open society. It’s a democracy,” he said.

The status of Woodward’s contract has been the focal point of board meetings during the last several weeks, with residents filling the meeting room expressing concerns and allegations about his conduct.

Woodward was originally hired by the board in May 2017, with a two-year contract and a salary of $110,000 per year.

Monday’s agenda had included an item for Woodward to respond to the ethics concerns. With Woodward absent, the item was pulled from discussion by Deputy Superintendent Dawn Petrovich.

(Howell can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)