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New superintendent: ‘Really good things’ going on in McDowell

Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV
July 18, 2010
New superintendent: ‘Really good things’ going on in McDowell
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— WELCH — Jim Brown is excited about the future of McDowell County Schools.

Brown, the new state-appointed school superintendent, has just been on the job since July 1. However, he is impressed by what he has seen and heard throughout the school system.

“There are some really good things that are going on in McDowell County Schools,” Brown said. “I’ve had a chance to meet some wonderful people who are doing some really good things.”

Brown said one of his top priorities is getting the new River View High School in Bradshaw ready for students by Aug. 19.

“I hope to bring a real strong purpose of mission on some things,” Brown, who comes to McDowell County following a 23-year tenure in Tyler County and most recently with the state Department of Education, said. “We need to have a little more sense of urgency. I’m really excited about the opportunities of opening the new River View High School. We are pushing the envelope. We are hoping they (the contractor) will pick up the pace a little bit. But it’s going to be a beautiful school. The design is outstanding. The plan is for teachers to report on Aug. 16.”

Brown said there is still work to be done on improving student attendance and achievement in McDowell County.

“I know we have a lot of work to do,” Brown said. “We need to focus some attention on some presentation, and cleaning up of some buildings — some details maybe we haven’t had enough attention to. And we want to put some real focus and strength on students and teachers teaching students. The research is out there. We know people have ownership in their schools. We have a lot of community support, and they need to be community schools so we can really harness some of that support and make sure students are going to school everyday.”

Brown said Dr. Mark Manchin, and later Suzette Cook, helped to lay a successful foundation for McDowell County Schools. He is now hoping to finish the job they started. He sees parallels between McDowell and Tyler counties.

“Tyler County has been entrenched in tradition and high expectations,” Brown said. “That’s me in a nutshell. Failure is not really an option. We are going to work hard and get the job done and build off of successes. I think I’ve learned as an administrator that there is really no substitute for hard work.”

Brown said the next big project on the horizon for McDowell County Schools is the construction of a new Iaeger Elementary, one of the last projects included in the original flood-proofing plan between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the West Virginia Board of Education and the McDowell County Board of Education.

When Manchin came on board as the state’s appointed school superintendent in 2001, he began a long process of closing aging and dilapidated schools across the county, including some that dated back to World War II.

Brown said a review of existing school facilities across the county will continue.

“There is a time when the comprehensive educational facilities plan is renewed,” Brown said. “That process was completed prior to me coming on board. So that process has taken place. My goal is to get caught up to speed as quickly as possible on the document and plan. There is always the ability to revise it annually. There are some schools that we still need to address, and we’ll do that with good speed.”

Brown said the school system is still looking for a few good teachers.

“We have several teaching positions we are looking to fill,” Brown said. “We are always looking for good teachers who want to come to McDowell County.”

Brown, who previously served as the head of the Office of Special Programs, Extended and Early Learning with the state Department of Education, replaces Suzette Cook, who was named earlier this summer as the new Title I School Improvement Coordinator for the state Department of Education.

Brown, who holds degrees from West Liberty State College and Marshall University, brings experience as a teacher, principal and central office administrator in Tyler County to the McDowell County post. He has held positions overseeing special education, attendance, homeless students, technology and other educational areas. During his time as principal of Arthur I. Boreman Elementary School in Tyler County, the school was recognized as a West Virginia School of Excellence and a Blue Ribbon School.

Brown is the third state-appointed school superintendent to serve McDowell County. Cook replaced Manchin in 2007, who accepted a position at the time as the executive director of the state School Building Authority.

– Contact Charles Owens at