By Stephen Baldwin and Matthew Young, RealWV
SUMMERSVILLE, W.Va. – Although the academic year is reaching its conclusion, there appears to be no end to the region’s ongoing game of educational musical chairs. The past few months have already seen significant leadership changes in Raleigh, Greenbrier, and Pocahontas counties to name but a few, and with this week’s resignation of both Superintendent Donna Burge-Tetrick and Board of Education Member Gus Penix, it is Nicholas County Schools most recently left with nowhere to sit.
According to Board of Education President Chip Perrine, Burge-Tetrick’s resignation came as little surprise. While speaking with RealWV on Friday, Perrine said, “We had talked about it for the last six weeks, and she hinted that she thought it might be time for her to move on.”
Perrine noted that, despite still having two years remaining on her contract, Burge-Tetrick’s resignation will take effect on June 30 of this year.
“We gave her a buyout of six months on her vacation days,” Perrine said, adding, “We have a special meeting next Tuesday (May 30) at 9 a.m. for the possible hiring of a new superintendent.”
While the superintendent’s decision was anticipated, Perrine said that Penix’s resignation came as “a shock.”
“I didn’t see that one coming,” Perrine said. “I knew he was upset because the superintendent was leaving, but I didn’t see him resigning.”
As for the reasons behind the resignations, Perrine believes it stems from frustration over the recent estimate for the renovation project at the flood-damaged Glade Creek site – encompassing Summersville Middle School, Nicholas County High School, and the Nicholas County Career Technical Center. The lone bid of $148 million received last week was considerably higher than the county’s remaining project-funding of $97 million.
“I think the Glade Creek bid coming in high had a definite impact,” Perrine said. “We’ve asked the state for money and they’ve told us we weren’t getting anymore. I don’t know what our process is going to be, but I believe the superintendent and Gus both probably realized that what they wanted at Glade Creek may not happen.”
Perrine said that Nicholas County will move forward with the original renovation plan should the funding become available, adding that, “If we don’t get the money, we have to explore other options.”
Burge-Tetrick and Penix have served together in their respective roles since 2016 – the same year as the flood which severely damaged several county schools. Remaining Board of Education members now have 45 days to appoint a replacement to serve the remaining 13 months of Penix’s term. If a replacement is not selected in that time, State Superintendent of Schools David Roach will appoint an interim board member for the balance of the term.
As Penix represented the Birch District, Perrine believes his replacement should come from there as well, or the neighboring Cherry District.
“My feeling is we should try and find someone in that district,” Perrine noted. “I feel that’s the ethical way to handle it.”
While Penix did not immediately return The RealWV’s request for comment, Burge-Tetrick provided the “exit statement” which was delivered during Wednesday’s meeting of the Board of Education.
The statement reads:
“I believe the time has come for me to depart Nicholas County Schools.
“I believe Nicholas County is at a crossroads. The Board has one vision for this county and I have another. While I believe we have the same end goal—the best education possible for all of our students, we do not share the vision of how to bring that to pass.
“Let me begin by saying I am proud of the things we have accomplished in Nicholas County under
- An unprecedented two National Blue Ribbon Schools within a two-year period.
- A dramatic increase in the number of students attending the Nicholas County Career Center from 110 students to 450. We expanded programs, created a 9th grade exploratory program that has been presented nationally and introduced CTE to 8th graders through monthly visits to the career center. More recently, we instituted programs to introduce our elementary students to CTE with Velma the CTE VAN, which was secured through a Save-the- Children Grant.
- We have had over 20 students graduate with an Associate’s Degree, free of charge.
- We have a first ever LPN Program in West Virginia that will graduate students this year, free of charge. A grant was secured that will even pay for student supplies and uniforms.
- Students no longer have to drive to other counties to become electricians. I am proud to say that we have 5 students who just passed their test while in high school to become Journeyman Electricians.
- We lead the state in SKILLS USA competition winners and have several students from Nicholas County who will represent our great state, nationally. The list can go on and on, these are to name a few examples of student successes.
- An increase in the numbers of staff to meet the emotional and social needs of our students. Nicholas County was one of the first in the state to develop such a comprehensive program with social workers.
- Development of collaborative partnerships with local agencies like Seneca Mental Health that lead to the placement of a Youth Crisis Worker in our school system to provide additional emotional support to your students.
- An innovative model for the delivery of alternative education services (known as the Nicholas County Learning Center and Cadet Leadership Academy) that is being promoted as a state model.
- Streamlined and modernized processes that have increased the productivity of the central office, allowing for a reduction in the numbers of central office staff. Nearly every paper form has been replaced by a digital form.
- A drastic reduction in the number of grievances filed by employees.
- A long overdue and extensive update of NCBOE policies.
- A professional looking website that helps promote our school system and provide information to parents.
- Stabilization of NCBOE finances through more efficient and effective programs. Our carry over increased from 3 million to 13 million without a reduction in the delivery of services to our students.
- Beginning school on time and with full days of instruction after the flood destroyed our schools.
“I am very thankful to Dr. Penix who was a great mentor to me and my previous board members who showed great courage and leadership. I am especially appreciative to Chip Perrine. He has always treated me with respect and kindness. We work well together. I’m very appreciative of his leadership this past year. He will continue to be a strong leader for this board.
“Please know that I will always hold Nicholas County students near to my heart. I truly want this Board and the new superintendent to succeed because it’s what our students deserve. I will make myself available to Chip and the new superintendent to make the transition as smooth as possible.”
In addition to her statement, Burge-Tetrick told RealWV, “I accepted a position in Braxton County as their new superintendent. I am really happy to be home.”
Burge-Tetrick noted that her official start date as Braxton County Superintendent of Schools will be July 1 – the day after her resignation from Nicholas County becomes effective. RealWV will provide updates regarding potential replacements in Nicholas County as additional information is made available.