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New Horace Mann Middle School principal appointed

By Amber Marra

The Kanawha County school board has chosen a new principal for Horace Mann Middle School, but it was not the candidate favored by faculty, parents and community members in letters and petitions.

The board voted unanimously to appoint Jonathan Anderson, who has served as vice principal at South Charleston High School for the past two years, at a Thursday meeting.

"I'm really excited about starting this new chapter of my life and working with the students, parents and teachers at the school," Anderson said afterwards.

Departing Horace Mann Principal Mickey Blackwell is leaving the middle school after nine years to become superintendent of Roane County schools.

Along with parents, teachers and members of the community, Blackwell had favored the appointment of Josh Stowers, one of his school's two vice principals, to the position he is leaving.

"I hope it's someone that the community can respect that has a vision to embrace the many programs that we have in place and the emphasis on academics," Blackwell said Wednesday.

Stowers has been vice principal at the school for four years. In addition to Anderson and Stowers, Capital High School vice principal Wendy Bailey also applied for the position. The three candidates were interviewed Thursday morning.

Before the board voted, Superintendent Ron Duerring said he and board members had taken all opinions into consideration.

"As we did the interviews for this job, we explained the situation, and I feel we have picked the candidate who will meet the needs of Horace Mann Middle. We were not ignoring anyone's opinions with this decision," Duerring said.

Before the interviews were conducted, the Kanawha City Neighborhood Association, parents and faculty members at Horace Mann sent letters in support of Stowers to the board and Duerring. A petition with 253 signatures in support of Stowers' appointment also was sent to the board.

Kasey Russell, a member of Charleston City Council and a Horace Mann parent, attended Thursday's meeting. She said despite her preference for Stowers, she and other parents are ready to work with Anderson.

"We're all here supporting Josh Stowers because he has been fabulous for our school," she said.

"We'll make it work. We want what's best for our school, and I'm sure the school board wants that as well."

Anderson said he recognized the group's support for Stowers but was eager to start working at the school.

"I understand that, and that he had a personal interest in their kids, and I think Josh is a very competent guy, too. I just hope that we can continue the tradition of Horace Mann and possibly make it better," Anderson said.

He and Stowers have never worked together.

Stowers said he was disappointed but ready to start collaborating with Anderson.

He said he was humbled by the support.

"If anything, I would like to note that I truly appreciate and will be forever grateful for the support that the staff, community, and parents gave me throughout this whole process," he said.

"During the four years I've spent at Horace Mann, I've done all I can to cultivate a positive relationship with the staff and community, and the support I've received has only reaffirmed those relationships."

School board President Pete Thaw said after the meeting he had listened to the concerns and wishes of the parents and faculty but believed the decision to hire Anderson was correct.

He attributed that partially to Stowers' responsibilities as a Lincoln County representative in the state House of Delegates.

"I as a single board member do not feel comfortable putting someone in that position when they're not going to be there for two months out of the year," Thaw said.

Anderson will take over the position July 19.

The board also unanimously passed the $237.5 million general budget for the next academic year. It represents a $5.7 million increase in revenues from this year's budget.

The budget funds 12 more professional positions and one half-time service position. That's 12 teachers, counselors or aides and one cook or custodian.

The budget also includes a $4.37 million increase in wages for employees due to a pay raise authorized by state officials.

Fluctuating diesel prices are also accounted for in the new budget with a $195,000 increase in the amount set aside for bus fuel. The electricity expense also went up $500,000 due to increasing utility rates.

A $706,000 increase in the health insurance budget is also included due to Public Employee Insurance Agency rate hikes.

The budget goes into effect at the start of the next fiscal year on July 1.

Contact writer Amber Marra at amber.marra@dailymail.com or 304-348-4843.


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