The Times West Virginian

Local News

June 21, 2014

New faces will soon be joining Marion BOE

Thomas, Dragich are sworn in; Murray, Saunders honored for years of service

FAIRMONT — Soon there will be some new faces on the Marion County Board of Education.

Mary Jo Thomas and Tom Dragich were sworn in as board members Monday during the BOE meeting at East Fairmont Middle School.

Mary “Sis” Murray and James Saunders were also honored for their years of service Monday.

“It’s been wonderful,” Murray said about her time with the BOE. “I think we have a wonderful county with excellent teachers and administrators.”

She served on the board for 12 years.

The adults involved in Marion County schools can decide where they want to be and what they want to do. The students, however, are here until they graduate and go to school based on where they live, so the board needs to focus on their needs, she said.

“I hope they make decisions based on what’s best for the children,” said Murray. “At this point, our teachers are good, administrators are good, and it shows in the progress that the students have made and the achievements they have made. I think that we need to focus on what’s best for the students and help promote them.”

Murray said she has learned a lot from the experience and hopes she can move forward and do some other things for education in the county.

“My only regret is that we were not able to do anything for facilities in the North Marion end, but now, as the average citizen, I hope to be able to work toward getting that done, too,” she said.

June 30 will mark Murray and Saunders’ last official meeting as board members.

“It’s a challenge. It’s with mixed emotions,” Saunders said about leaving the board. “You serve the board as long as I have, and worked with as many good people as I have, it’s tough. I fought a good fight and I finished the course, and I wish the best of luck to the new board members.”

Saunders served on the board for 33 years as president, vice president and hearing officer.

He would like to see the BOE help meet the needs of the North Marion attendance area, he said.

“We made a promise to them, and I hope the board will continue pursuing to do something in that area and continue supporting the teachers in the classrooms. They need all the support they can get, and they need to know the board of education is behind them.”

Saunders has confidence the new board will be open minded and will serve the county well, and he is happy to be able to pass the baton to Dragich, he said.

Dragich gained the highest number of votes during the primary election last month, a total of 3,922 (19 percent).

He will take Saunders’ place on the board at the July 7 meeting, after he and fellow new member Thomas complete training next week.

“I’m really excited and looking forward to the future,” he said. “I think the board has done a great job, and I just feel that we need to continue the work and make Marion County the place where everybody looks to for leadership and new programs and how to approach the future in education.”

Dragich wants to focus on taking the stress off teachers and administrators right away.

“I think we need to turn them loose and let them really get back to teaching instead of jumping on new bandwagons,” he said.

Thomas was the second-highest vote-getter at the primary election and gained 3,791 votes (18.36 percent), and she will join Dragich and the rest of the board July 7.

Thomas was happy to be sworn in as a board member at EFMS because she supported the bond that made the school possible.

“That was especially meaningful,” she said.

This is her first elected position, she said, and she is eager to learn and to work with the BOE as a member after years of volunteering.

“I echo the sentiments of both board members that are leaving, that we have great faculty, we have great administration, we have super students,” said Thomas. “We have some great schools, and then some we need to do some work with. So we want to roll up our sleeves and do that.”

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

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