KEYSER - A panel of 16 people - approximately half of them tied to the education system - interviewed the four candidates for the position of superintendent of schools Friday evening.

By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - A panel of 16 people - approximately half of them tied to the education system - interviewed the four candidates for the position of superintendent of schools Friday evening.
The first interview started at 6 p.m. and the last concluded at approximately 8:30 p.m. in the Terry Cannon Room at the Mineral County Technical Center. Each candidate was given a time limit of 40 minutes for his interview, and he was then escorted to the central office, where the members of the board of education conducted their interview in closed session.
Cindy Pyles chaired the citizens committee, and ten of the 16 members asked the same pre-selected questions of each candidate.
When the interviews were completed, the committee members were asked to fill out a score sheet which will be provided to the board members.
Dr. Thomas Sisk was first up, and answered his questions via Skype due to his current position being in Alabama.
A graduate of Keyser High School, Class of 1983, he is currently superintendent of schools in Limestone County, Athens, Alabama.
He described himself as “a team builder,” explaining that he believes in working not only with the board and the staff within the county education system but also with higher education, the legislature, community leaders and more in order for the county school system to “move forward.”
Asked about outreach into the community, Sisk said, “You’ll find me very approachable. I would expect to be engaged with things like Kiwanis and Rotary … parent groups, PTAs and PTOs.”
He believes the schools must “take care of kids and put them in the forefront,” which includes providing services for them other than just an education.
“We have to take care of the children,” he said. “If they come to school hungry, if they come to school scared … we have to address that.”
Next up was David Banks, current assistant superintendent for special education in Berkeley County.
Banks described himself as “student focused,” and also said the school system needs to meet the needs of kids in addition to educating them.
“You have to assess the needs of a child … I really believe you have to start with the basic needs,” he said. “If that child needs food, it doesn’t matter to me if the parents work, that child needs fed.”
He talked of the need for school counselors, teachers, and principals to have a positive relationship with the parents in order to help determine what that child needs.
Banks described the classroom teacher as “the key to it all” in helping to reach students.
“It’s the superintendent’s role to empower and get everything out of the way so the teachers can do their job,” he said.
“It’s not about getting credit, but about giving credit,” he added.
The third to be interviewed was Jason Eitner, who currently provides consultant work through Eitner Education LLC in New Jersey.
He told the committee that a good superintendent “has to meet people where they are and has to listen to them. Once you start listening, the empathy kicks in and you start relating to people.”
Eitner talked about the need to build educational programs that will meet the needs of the job market in the area, and called the school “the center of the community.”
He also told the group if selected as the next superintendent, they would not find him at his desk too often, but rather, out in the schools or the community.
“The is a people business. Where I’ll be most effective is talking to the students and staff. The superintendent has to hear what’s going on,” he said.
He talked about a program he was able to implement in one of his former districts where students who received free lunches were also provided with free internet and other services.
“I can assure you,” he said, “if I become your next superintendent, that will be implemented here in the first 60 days.”
The final candidate to be interviewed was Troy Ravenscroft, current assistant superintendent in Grant County and another Keyser High graduate.
When asked about the frequent disconnect between a county school board’s policy and the state board’s laws, and how a superintendent can best deal with that, Ravenscroft said the superintendent “has to get creative within the box. You’ve got this box that’s the state code…how can you be creative inside it?” he said.
Acknowledging that “change is tough,” he said “you’ve got to lead by example” in striving to put kids first and, if needed, work toward a change in the state code.
“Just like principals fight for their schools, superintendent have to fight for their county,” he said.
He too talked about the need to provide services for children other than what they learn in the classroom.
“Everything that’s happening in the community has to be dealt with in the schools,” he said. “We’ve got to keep in tune with what’s going on.”
The board of education is scheduled to discuss Friday’s interviews in an executive session at the end of Tuesday’s regular board meeting. According to the agenda, no decision is planned at that time.