Gov. Jim Justice names three new state school board members, all at once

By Brad McElhinny
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice, a little more than a week after promising big changes to West Virginia’s educational system in his inaugural address, has named three new members to the state school board.

Justice announced the three new members all at once. They are Miller Hall, Barbara Whitecotton, and Chuck Hatfield.

“The politicians and bureaucrats in Charleston have failed to listen to our teachers, so I appointed three educators with significant classroom experience to the state Board of Education,” Justice stated in the announcement.

“Miller Hall, Barbara Whitecotton, and Chuck Hatfield have dedicated their lives to improving public education, and on the state Board of Education, they will help me deliver results for students across West Virginia. They all share my vision for making education the centerpiece of our state.”

The new appointees will be sworn in at the next board meeting in February.

The announcement included a joint statement from the new board members, reflecting Justice’s sentiment:

“We want to return local control to our school districts, give our teachers and schools the freedom to properly educate our kids, stop over-testing students, and eliminate the complex bureaucracy holding back our schools,” the three said in the joint statement.

Two seats on the state school board were already open because one had been occupied by Gayle Manchin and another board member, Tina Combs, had continued to serve after her term expired. Another seat opened Monday when Justice named board member Bill White to direct the state Office of Minority Affairs.

The board has nine members, and Justice has the ability to shape it significantly starting now. Another state board member, Scott Rotruck, will finish his term later this year. Board President Mike Green’s term will end in late 2018.

Justice also named Frank L. “Bucky” Blackwell to be executive director of the West Virginia School Building Authority. Blackwell served seven years in the West Virginia House of Delegates and has been an educator for 47 years.

“Local schools are the heart of any community, and too many West Virginia schools are falling apart; I know Bucky will help change that,” Justice stated.