The Times West Virginian

Local News

May 14, 2014

Dragich, Thomas, Simms win BOE seats

Saunders falls short for the first time in more than 20 years

FAIRMONT — For the first time in more than 20 years, James Saunders was not re-elected to the Marion County Board of Education.

Saunders gained 2,436 (11.8 percent) of the 20,645 total votes cast in Tuesday’s primary election. The results are unofficial until the Marion County Commission canvasses the votes Monday.

Saunders has served as president, vice president and hearing officer for the BOE over his years of service.

He represented Middletown district.

Saunders could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Thomas Dragich, also from Middletown district, was elected and earned the highest number of votes, a total of 3,922 (19 percent).

He has been teaching in Marion County since 1969 and became assistant principal at Fairmont Senior High School in 1970 and principal at East Fairmont High School in 1991.

This was his first year running for the BOE, and he was notified of his win by his niece and nephew.

“I feel really humbled that the people saw that I have a vision for the school system, and I really feel that we need to work hard to just make this the destination for others to look to,” Dragich said. “We don’t need to follow anybody else, and we need to set the standards.”

He feels the county needs to work to take stress off teachers and administrators, he said.

Dragich credited his win to a group effort among his family, friends and members of community organizations.

“I’ve been pretty active in the community, and I think Mary Jo (Thomas) is also,” he said. “I think it’s gratifying that people saw that we were concerned.”

Mary Jo Thomas was the second-highest vote getter and earned 3,791 votes (18.36 percent), and she will represent Palatine district on the BOE.

She completed student teaching at FSHS, where she covered American and world history, but she pursued a career as a social worker with the Department of Health and Human Resources after graduation.

Later in her career, Thomas accepted an interim position as assistant to the president and director of communications at Fairmont State University.

This was Thomas’ first year running for BOE. She was out of state or worked in the public arena most of her career, which kept her from running in the past, she said.

She was at a friend’s house when she heard the results.

“I’m humbled. I certainly appreciate the vote of confidence, and I’m delighted and surprised,” Thomas said.

She is ready to get started, she said.

“I’ve always said that students are my first priority, and I’m certainly concerned with curriculum. I think we need to work that facilities plan, and the next items on the comprehensive facilities plan that need to be addressed are the issues in the North Marion attendance area,” she said.

Babette Simms was re-elected to the BOE and represents the West Augusta district. She received 3,021 votes (14.63 percent) out of the total 20,645.

Simms has been on the Marion County Board of Education for 16 years.

She could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Other candidates were Sam Brunett of Palatine (2,409 votes), Frank Moore of West Augusta (2,332 votes), Mike Blickenstaff of Middletown (1,796 votes) and Gail Redmond of Middletown (922 votes).

Email Chelsi Baker at or follow her on Twitter @cbakerTWV.

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