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Six seek school board seats in Brooke County

WELLSBURG — Brooke County voters will be asked to choose from six candidates for two seats on the county’s school board in the June 9 primary election.

The six candidates in the nonpartisan race are: Mary M. Blum of 1550 Brinker Road, Wellsburg; Dr. E. Robert Marks of 145 Hiddenwood Acres, Wellsburg; M.J. Merriner of 303 Marquette Ave., Follansbee; Antoinette Perkins of 109 May Road, Follansbee; Rob Robinson of 329 Northview Road, Wellsburg; and Linda Roberts Viderman of 181 Viderman Drive, Wellsburg.

Under state code, the board may not have more than two members from the same district and the board currently has two members from the Weirton District whose terms aren’t up and another from the Wellsburg District whose term is not up.

The two winners must then be residents of the Wellsburg or Follansbee district.

Blum has worked as a real estate paralegal for area attorneys and title companies since 2008; served as Wellsburg city clerk for 12 years and was a Brooke County magistrate assistant for two years and legal secretary for a private attorney for six years.

She is a member of the Brooke County health board and Wellsburg Chamber of Commerce executive board and was on the Wellsburg park and recreation commission for 12 years.

Blum said her work calls for her to be detail-oriented and if elected, “I will go in with an open mind, find out what can be done (to address the financial crisis) and consider what must be cut and what can be kept to bring the school system back to what it was.”

“I think for myself. I read everything. Nobody makes a decision for me. I’m an independent thinker, and I owe nothing to anybody,” she said.

Dr. E. Robert Marks was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Brian Ferguson, who resigned in August. He has operated a local family medical practice since 1998 and served as program director of Wheeling Hospital’s family practice residency and clinical professor for West Virginia University’s school of osteopathic medicine and Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.

He has served on West Virginia Wesleyan’s alumni council, West Liberty University’s board of governors and as state president and chairman of the West Virginia chapter of the Academy of Family Practice.

Marks said if elected, he will work with the school district’s current treasurer and the state’s financial consultants to adopt a fiscally sound budget, look for opportunities to improve schools whenever possible and “do the right things when no one is watching.”

“When I tell someone I will do something, I will see that it is done,” he said, adding, “More than anything else, I will execute with sound judgement, an even temper, a willingness to collaborate and a sincere interest in public education in our district.”

Merriner is a veteran of the Air Force, where she served as a law enforcement specialist; and was employed at the Ball Corp., where she helped organize United Steel Workers Local 8-995.

She was employed as a Brooke County magistrate assistant and has been a member of the Brooke County Democratic Women, serving as public relations chair; and the 20th Century Woman’s Club.

Merriner said if elected, she will work with others to improve student retention, noting declining enrollment has led to a loss in state funding for local schools; support efforts to deter bullying in schools so all students feel safe; and push for more public transparency.

She said, “I am an independent decision-maker. My votes will be in the best interest of students, teachers, service personnel and administration. My vote cannot be bought.”

Perkins has served on the school board since 2016. Prior to that, she was employed by Brooke County Schools for 35 years, teaching special education, health, physical education and dance. As a volunteer, she is involved in religious education at St. Anthony Catholic Church, swim lessons at the Follansbee Pool, chaperoning school field trips and serving as a guest reader at primary schools.

Perkins said when the board approved the district’s five-year operating levy, it wasn’t given accurate numbers, which resulted in the $3.2 million per year shortfall that has forced the board to make difficult decisions, including cuts to staff not funded by the state.

She said if re-elected, she will work with others “to get the school district in a financially stable place.

Perkins said she will continue to support new programs aimed at improving students’ math and reading skills and test scores and push for more elective courses, taught by existing staff, to encourage students’ interest in various subjects and careers.

Robinson was employed by Brooke County Schools for 36 years, serving as facilities, maintenance and technology director for seven years; vocational and driver education instructor for four years; special education instructor for 16 years and physical education instructor for two years. He also served as athletic director and head baseball coach at the high school.

He said if elected, he would work with others “to resolve current financial concerns through early planning, student enrollment changes and levy expenditures” and review staffing needs, at the administrative, professional and service levels, as the school district contends with declining enrollment.

Robinson said he’d ensure the district meets “the safety and educational needs of our students and staff as we plan instructional delivery methods to re-open for the next school year in the midst of the pandemic. The school environment will be vastly different as we move forward.”

Viderman has owned and operated Panhandle Homes and worked as a paralegal, both for more than 30 years; and served as a Brooke County magistrate for four years and as a juvenile referee, presiding over initial court appearances for juvenile offenders.

She was recognized by the Internal Revenue Service for providing volunteer tax preparations to residents for more than 30 years.

Viderman said if elected, she would push for cuts to staff or expenses to be considered at all levels, noting that instead of sending administrators to out-of-state conferences on new programs, a representative could be brought in to speak to groups of teachers.

She said bullying can be deterred by bringing speakers and special programs into schools and setting a positive example through the board’s interaction with the public.

Viderman said the district’s declining enrollment is due in large part to many parents enrolling their children in other districts and their motives should be considered and addressed to make the district “the place where people say they want their kids to go.”

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

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