Summers names new chief

By Bill Frye Register-Herald Reporter

HINTON — Growing up through the Summers County Schools system, and her own father having served as superintendent, new Summers County Schools Superintendent Kim Rodes is ready to continue a bit of her family’s legacy.

“I feel like I know this system well,” Rodes said of growing up in and around the southern West Virginia county school system.

Both of her parents were educators; her extended family was filled with educators.

“When we had family get-togethers, guess what we were talking about,” Rodes said. “Education picked me; I did not pick education.”

Rodes got her first job in Kanawha County in an educator’s role. That experience led her home to Summers County, to Florida then back to West Virginia in Monroe County and finally back to the home she’d always known in Summers County.

“I’ve branched out and have seen how things are done in other areas,” Rodes said. “I bring all those experiences with me.”

Now the longtime educator of 23 years is ready to serve Summers County in her biggest role yet.

“I love kids. I don’t have any children of my own and feel like that God has left me childless so I can help the 1,500 (students in Summers County),” Rodes said. “I want see that all the students in this county get a fair shot.”

Rodes said school systems the size of Summers County allows educators to develop a closer bond with students.

“In our situation, as a teacher I got to know the students, their families, who is connected to whom. Here you know exactly what kind of environment they’re coming from,” Rodes said.

Students in Summers County face numerous challenges, the new superintendent stated.

“We have the same challenges in our small school system as they do in the larger ones,” Rodes said.

Students are dealing with absentee parents, poverty, families struggling with addiction and families struggling to stay in Summers County.

“These are the issues we deal with on a daily basis,” Rodes said. “We have students that are ‘couch students’; they’re floating from couch to couch, night to night, with no stable homelife. They don’t have a home-base and in some cases don’t even know their family roots.”

Rodes said despite students’ struggles, she feels the school system is blessed with “good kids.” But to help the ones who are struggling in the classroom and at home is a challenge in and of itself.

After identifying these students, Rodes said the school system will do all it can to help them and their families so the students can have the resources needed to succeed in the classroom.

Rodes has four goals she hopes to achieve during her term: improve the drop-out rate; improve the graduation rate; close the achievement gap (improve assessment test scores); and retain the county’s teachers.

“The drop-out and graduation rate kind of go hand-in-hand,” Rodes said. New programs being utilized in the county, like the 20/20 graduation program, help students get the skills they need to get their high school diploma.

“We are to have an 80-percent graduation rate,” Rodes said. “Which in turn would help make our drop-out rate lower too. So that kind of helps kill two birds with one program.”

Other programs, like Option Pathway help students get their diploma while also earning a certified workforce skill.

“It gives students more options and helps them have a skill set so that they are career-ready,” Rodes said. “These students here want to go right into a workforce. That is what we lack here in Summers County.”

Rodes said that’s one thing she wants to help the school system build.

“I want a school system so wonderful that has a lot of positives instead of negatives that people want to bring their children to attend our schools,” Rodes said. “If we build it they will come is our mindset.”

To achieve her four main goals there are a few subgoals Rodes wants to enact, what she calls her “foundational pieces.”

“I want teachers to know they’re appreciated. I want parents to know they’re welcome. I want them to know we are putting kids first. I want all stakeholders to know we are putting kids first. Every kid. Every day,” Rodes stated.

Another key to the school system’s success in the future is more involvement from the parents.

“I want parents to become involved. I want them to join the PTOs. I want them to feel they can come to the schools and ask questions, come to the meetings and hear what’s going on,” Rodes said.

She stated that it’s important for parents to get involved; it helps them understand the teachers and what they’re asking of the students.

“If the parents don’t know how to read, we’ll teach them how to read. If they don’t know how to do the math, we’ll sponsor nights where they can come and learn how to do the math,” Rodes said. “If they don’t have a computer at home, we’re going to try to find one to put in your home for your student.”

Through more technology in the classrooms, exploring more opportunities with STEM programs and CTE courses, Rodes aims to create a strong and supportive school system.

With new faces throughout the school system, Rodes said now is a time to push the county’s school system into the future.

“I want to see us being the draw to bring people into this county,” Rodes said. “I want our school system to be the carrot that brings people into this county with their kids because our schools are so wonderful and they’re growing. We have a lot of room to grow. We can handle a much higher population in this county, both in the county and in the schools.”

— Email: bfrye@register-herald.com; follow on Twitter @RHFrye