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School board candidate says experience key

Calvin McKinney
TYE WARD | Gazette graphic

Calvin McKinney says “there’s no question” that his 40 years working for Kanawha County Schools makes him especially qualified to serve on the county’s school board.

“Educators don’t run that often for the board of education. When you get an educator — and I don’t mean to be bragging — that has my experience... I just think it has to pay dividends down the road,” said McKinney, 67, of Sissonville.

McKinney, originally from Wyoming County, worked as a principal at Sissonville High School for 28 years and as a teacher and assistant principal at John Adams Middle before that.

If elected, he hopes to focus on ending the public mistrust of the board and a lack of communication among teachers, principals and the central office — something he says he’s seen first hand.

“I don’t like the us-versus-them thing. I think to accomplish goals that we need to accomplish for kids, we have to work together. That’s been my leadership style all along. I never did it on my own, never. I ran it by my teachers and said, ‘Here’s what I’m thinking, tell me what you think,’” he said. “The public thinks there are hidden agendas. They think [the board] doesn’t listen. We have to get the public’s trust back.”

McKinney, who has degrees in education administration, counseling and industrial arts, said he believes the public’s overwhelming rejection of last year’s school-library levy is a sign of that mistrust.

“How it was so drastically defeated — I think that message should resonate in the board members’ ears. It should’ve gotten their attention. What is it that caused the public not to do that?” he said. “I don’t think it’s they don’t want a better education for their kids. I don’t think it’s that at all. I think they don’t trust, and we have got to get that trust factor back, and you do that by working with the people, not pretending that you’re listening to them.”

McKinney, a father to three adult children and five grandchildren, retired two years ago, and has been named a Principal of the Year by the West Virginia Counselors Association.

He’s against the Common Core standards, for supporting libraries and wants more technology specialists in schools to ensure students have access to online tools.

As a board member, he said he wouldn’t shy away from the hard decisions. He’s faced controversy over the years.

As Sissonville principal, he dealt with the aftermath of a high-profile first amendment case concerning one of his students that made national headlines. (He sided with the court, which ruled student Katie Sierra should be suspended for wearing anti-war shirts and starting an “anarchy club” at the school.)

Then, and throughout his career, he said he had to “keep the peace,” but also make important, sometimes unpopular decisions. He’ll do the same if elected to the school board, he said.

“Administrators make 100 decisions before 7:30 in the morning. I can make the hard decisions,” he said. “But you make those heavy decisions by getting input from all parties.”

Visit McKinney’s website at

Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette or at 304-348-4814.

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