POINT PLEASANT — Eight people are vying for two seats on the Mason County Board of Education.
These races will be decided May 10 and those who win will begin four-year terms on July 1. Running for these two seats are Pamela Jean Muncy, Gallipolis Ferry, District IV. Rhonda Tennant, Letart, District I. John David Morgan, Point Pleasant, District III. Leigh Ann Gardner, Point Pleasant, District III. Vicki A. Ohlinger, New Haven, District I. James “JR” Neal, Gallipolis Ferry, District IV. Mack McCarty, Ashton, District IV. Meagan Bonecutter, Point Pleasant, District III.
In these nonpartisan races, anyone in Mason County can vote for any one of the eight candidates no matter which district a voter resides in, even if they reside in a different district than the candidate they wish to vote for resides. The top two candidates receiving the most votes will be declared the winners as long as their districts will not be represented on the school board by more than two members.
The Point Pleasant Register reached out to all those running in these races and asked candidates to provide biographical information and, if they chose, to answer the question, “Why I decided to run for this office?”
Those candidates who responded to this request for information appear below in alphabetical order.
Meagan Bonecutter has been married 10 years to John Bonecutter (teacher, Leon Elementary/coach, PPHS) and the couple have two children, Berklee (5) and Behrett (1). She is endorsed by the Mason County Federation of Teachers and her employment history includes former special education / physical education teacher (12 years experience) and former homebound teacher. She has a bachelor’s degree in education with concentrations in special education and physical education and graduated summa cum laude. She attends Point of Faith Church and is a youth teacher. Organizations include: Point Pleasant Wrestling Boosters, Leon Elementary Good News Club, Leon Elementary volunteer coach, Son Shines Christian Outreach Group.
Bonecutter said: “Children are the reason I am running for this office. I have a true passion for the success of our students. I would like the opportunity to use my past twelve years of experience as a teacher and coach to make a difference in our school system. I have the desire, dedication, passion, and time. I want to see Mason County Schools flourish. I want to create a long term vision for the success of all Mason County Schools; become more accessible and present to everyone in our education system; open the lines of communication to re-establish morale among all our employees; stabilize the budget without cutting jobs. I decided to run for the school board because it is something God placed on my heart. I am a teacher, mother, wife, and I am an honest candidate who is focused on the future of our school system.”
Leigh Ann Gardner is the daughter of Jackie and Joyce Gardner-Lee and the late John “Butch” Gardner. She’s a graduate of PPHS, 1990 and of Marshall University, Bachelor of Arts, 1995. She’s been employed by Pleasant Valley Hospital for 17 years, and is accounts receivables coordinator. A member of GFWC Point Pleasant Junior Woman’s Club, 16 years, she’s currently vice-president, has served a combined total of 12 years as a junior and general board member for the West Virginia General Federation of Women’s Clubs; currently, GFWC WV Domestic Violence chairman; member of Point Pleasant In Bloom, six years, currently treasurer. She’s endorsed by the Mason County Education Association.
Gardner said: “Our students are the leaders of tomorrow and deserve a positive, well-rounded education that focuses most importantly on academics; but also includes arts, club involvement, community service and sports. They should have the guidance and tools to ensure the best learning opportunities possible; whether going directly into the workforce, a trade school or college. I believe good communication, proper management of funding and teamwork are vital to continue to make progress. As a life-long resident of Mason County, I have spent most of my adult life involved in community service projects and programs that have benefited our youth and residents. I would like the opportunity to extend that service into our school system and be your voice to communicate issues and concerns. I am sincere in that I would work diligently to make sure I am educated and understand the issues so I can serve in the best interest of the students, teachers and staff of Mason County.”
Mack McCarty is a lifelong resident of Mason County, raised in Apple Grove and Point Pleasant, son of Earnest and Kay Rollins McCarty, graduate of Point Pleasant High School and WV Tech. Currently resides in Ashton with wife Paula and two sons. Longtime coach/instructor of youth sports including football, baseball, wrestling, basketball, soccer and swimming. Currently employed as a professional land surveyors with the US Army Corps of Engineers. President of the West Virginia Society of Professional Surveyors, and Fellow in the Society of American Military Engineers where he works to promote STEM education through college scholarships and outreach. Hobbies include camping, shooting, reloading and fishing.
McCarty said: “Mason County is so much better than what is being reflected by our school system, ranking 46th out of 55 counties is not reflective of our community drive and spirit. All seven elementary schools rank in the lower 50 percentile, our high schools rank 21, 59 and 114 out of 116, with the two schools ranked 115 and 116 being alternative schools. We can and will do better. With strong leadership and a comprehensive team effort between the students, staff, management, parents and community, we can make our schools great again. My priorities are assuring the health, safety and security of our students and staff; guaranteeing equal and fair opportunities to all students; fiscal responsibility; embracing higher standards; promoting STEM based curriculum; and increased extracurricular involvement.” McCarty also expressed his appreciation for any support.
J. David Morgan previously served on the board of education here in Mason County for six years. He was elected to a four-year term and also selected to finish out an un-expired term and was the board president for two of those six years. He’s currently a semi-retired pharmacist at PVH. Married to Maria Mitchell, they have four daughters and eight grandchildren. The couple are both Wahama graduates 1972 with Morgan being a graduate of the WVU School of Pharmacy. He’s a lifelong Mason County resident, 36 years in Point Pleasant and 25 in New Haven and Leon.
Morgan said: I have volunteered my time to serve on the last two CEFP committees. I also served on the planning committee for the bond issue and met with the consulting firm and ironed out the details. I have seen some of the CEFP proposals come to fruition over the years and you know the results from the bond work. We need to address inclusion in the classroom and ways to address the problems we sometimes have from both sides of the fence (more staff and/or training). We need to address the one-hour delay issue and the problems it causes. Other issues are budget deficit, PEIA, teacher salaries/ shortage, retirement, drugs, moose lodge, vacant properties and bullying in the schools. I understand what my role is/was as a board member. Legislative and federal mandates are a nuisance especially the unfunded ones. With my past experience, I have the knowledge of who to call to correct issues that we may have or seek solutions.”
Pam Muncy and her husband, Scot, have three children Jordan (senior), Jacob (eighth grade), and Jaydan (preschool). The family lives in Gallipolis Ferry. Muncy has been employed at Pleasant Valley Hospital for 18 years, and is the director of patient financial services. She was the president of Beale Elementary PTO, Local School Improvement Council and is an Honorary Member of Mason County Vocational FFA chapter. As president of girls softball and coach of biddy league basketball, she has volunteered and supported youth for many years.
Muncy said: “I believe it’s time for new ideas and a fresh prospective. Children of Mason County should be our number one priority. Our entire county plays an important part in a child’s development, and it’s our responsibility to assure high-quality education for all children. We should have these common goals: a student’s academic achievement and our schools’ success. It is our responsibility to ensure graduating seniors are prepared for the next step towards a successful future. Let’s promote a positive school climate. A healthy climate will decrease absenteeism, suspensions, bullying, increase employee morale, and will lead to academic success. Every employee plays an important part in a child’s education. Education is key to economic growth. I am willing work as a team, but I am not just a yes person. It’s time to make a change Mason County. I will be your voice.”
James Neal is a 1996 graduate of Point Pleasant High School, currently employed as a furnace operator at Felman Production in Letart. He’s a proud member of the USW and has been the treasurer of his local union for the past five years. He also served as the president of his local union for two consecutive years.
Neal said: “The reason I decided to run for the board of education is because I have two children that attend Beale Elementary and will be in the school system for 12 more years. I feel that one of the big issues in our schools is that students and staff do not come first. I also feel that safety in our schools and the way the money is being spent also needs to be looked into and needs to be addressed. I am a lifelong resident from Mason County who feels there needs to be a more proactive approach to issues rather then a reactive approach.”
Rhonda Tennant received a degree in elementary/early childhood education from Ohio University and then married Mason County native Lennie Tennant. The couple lived in Columbus, Ohio, and she taught sixth grade in the Circleville, Ohio, area. The couple moved back to Mason County, and she began teaching first grade at Hartford Elementary School. Simultaneously, she attended Marshall University, where she received her master’s degree in education. After nine years, she left Hartford Elementary to teach at New Haven School, where she currently teaches fourth grade. She and her husband reside, along with their two sons and their families, own a cattle farm in Letart.
Tennant said: “Education has always been my passion, and I’ve been blessed to have had a long and exciting career in a profession that I love. My professional experiences have been many: I’ve been an exchange teacher in Japan, I’ve met Michael Jordan twice, I graduated from Educator’s Space Academy, and I’m honored to have been named Teacher of the Year by the veterans of this great state. As retirement time approaches, I realize that I want to continue my work in education, but in a different capacity. I want to do my part to make Mason County Schools the best that they can be. As a member of the board of education, I will use my many years of educational experience and knowledge to make decisions that will benefit both students and employees and help create a school system that provides the best possible education for the children of Mason County.”
Reach Beth Sergent at [email protected] or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.