The verdict is in, and Paden City . . . all of Paden City, wins. An overflow crowd packed the regular meeting of the Wetzel County Board of Education on Monday night, anxiously awaiting the vote by Board members that would play a huge part in the City's future.
When all was said and done, Board members Michael Blair, Robert Patterson, Amy Jo Dieffenbauch, Willie Baker and Linda Sue Ritz voted unanimously to remove the provision to close Paden City High School from the ten year Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan, the plan that called for the closing of Paden City High School and sending the students to New Martinsville for an education.
The announcement was met with cheers and tears and an overall sigh of relief.
A police and fire department escort awaited at home, along with an impromptu rally at the school. Among the sirens, blaring horns and cheers, Paden City residents, students and faculty exchanged heartfelt hugs.
"We've worked so hard and have so many to thank for this outcome," said Rodney McWilliams, a resident of Paden City and President of the Paden City Foundation. "It took the entire community to do what had to be done, and that's exactly what happened. Anyone who has ever supported this high school, students, parents, alumni, residents, business persons, anyone at all, has helped bring this positive vote to fruition. This is just the best moment, we are so very pleased."
Supporters of the school have worked tirelessly for the past year gathering information in response to the proposed CEFP and making it public in hopes that everyone concerned would realize that the plan, as written, was not necessarily the best plan for Wetzel County, and certainly not best for Paden City.
"It took the entire community to do what had to be done."
Paden City Foundation
As a member of the Cornerstone Project committee, McWilliams said that the group stands by their statement, "Paden City High School is a model school for Wetzel County, for West Virginia."
What will apparently happen now to the two-volume document, mandated by the state, is a review and reconsideration of closing the facility before it is sent to the West Virginia Board of Education and School Building Authority for approval. No date has been set for final approval of the CEFP, but it must be sent to Charleston in August.
At the meeting Wetzel County Board of Education President Mike Blair said his affirmative vote "was for students. We are here for kids and we can't lose sight of that." Other board members agreed.
Member Linda Ritz told those present that "community support was critical. I hope you continue in the future."
County Superintendent of Schools Bill Jones, said Wetzel County's student population is expected to continue shrinking from the present 2,850 pupils. "We cannot continue to fund four high schools in the county," Jones said, unless the county grows in population. "We must find reasons to keep our people here and draw new ones in."
In Paden City, however, all is well and as it should be.
"I really respect the fact that the Board of Education of Wetzel County realized the importance of small community based schools as being the best alternative for furthering education in Wetzel County," said Paden City High School Athletic Director, Fred King.
"I'm absolutely tickled to death, like everyone else," said Principal of Paden City High School, Warren Grace. "I think the turning point was the support shown by the kids. At the big community meeting held here on March 25 and at the Board meeting, our kids attended to show their loyalty and support. And when you get kids involved to this extent, adults listen."
And listen they did, and vote. A positive vote for Paden City to continue to be Paden City. Which is all they wanted in the first place.