CHARLES TOWN – Wendy Whitehair-Lochner of Shepherdstown, a former Jefferson County teacher and a current national education consultant, was appointed Monday by the current four-member Board of Education.
Whitehair-Lochner, who has 18 years of classroom and education consulting experience will fill the spot as the board’s fifth member, replacing Arthena Roper, who resigned last month.
Whitehair-Lochner was among seven people who stepped forward to serve on the school board for the next seven months.
The May 12 primary next year will decide who holds the seat until 2022.
Also up for election in May are the seats held by Mark Osbourn and Gary Kable.
Elected to public office for the first time in May 2018, Roper, who previously worked for Jefferson County Schools, stepped down from the school board to accept an appointment of a retiring Jefferson County magistrate. The judicial appointment prevents her from serving in other elected positions.
In written responses to questions posed to the school board candidates, Whitehair-Lochner said community relations, aging school facilities, and preparing and retaining teachers were the top challenges facing the school system.
“Communication with the community is stifling Jefferson County schools,” she wrote. “It is imperative to bring back a cohesiveness between the school and the community. Continued public relations is essential. It is my role to make sure the community sees the school system in a positive manner.”
A former owner and operator of six video stores, Whitehair-Lochner went on to teach special education at North Jefferson Elementary School and Charles Town Middle School, where she received an Educator Excellence award from the school system. She went on to serve nine years as a school improvement coordinator for the West Virginia Department of Education. She currently works as a national education consultant and an adjunct education professor at Shepherd University.
From 1993 to 2005, she was an assistant women’s basketball coach at Shepherd University, Jefferson High School and Shepherdstown Middle School.
“I think Jefferson County needs to feel connected to the school system and there has been a loss of connectedness,” she wrote to the school board. “As a long-standing member of this community in many capacities, I have a plethora of relationships with multiple stakeholders in the community and understand the progression of our community.”
Current school board members chose Whitehair-Lochner during a closed-door session on Monday.
School board member Mark Osbourn said resumes, references and questionnaire responses from the seven candidates who stepped forward to serve on the school board were reviewed. Phone calls were made to candidates if a question arose during the selection process, he said.
“None of us knew every single person,” offered school board member Laurie Odgen after the Board of Education voted in a public session to appoint Whitehair-Lochner.
“The candidates that applied had very nice resumes, and it was not an easy thing to say this one was a whole lot better than this one,” Osbourn said. “It was very close amongst quite a few of them, to be honest with you.”
The questionnaires, resumes and references submitted by those seeking the school board appointment were made public after interviews were conducted and Whitehair-Lochner was chosen.
Ogden and Osbourn said the school board decided to deliberate privately to make the appointment, adopting a discreet process similar to hiring a school system employee.
Ogden said reviewing and asking questions about candidates’ work experiences and private lives in public seemed inappropriate. “For any personnel, we would not do that,” she said.
Osbourn pointed out that Thursday was the school board’s deadline to appoint someone. After Thursday, West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Steven Paine would have been required by state law to make the appointment.