The new superintendent of the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind said he hasn’t directly taught or worked with deaf, blind or hard-of-hearing students, and he doesn’t know sign language.
The West Virginia Board of Education voted Friday, with no one dissenting, to hire Scott Cochran to fill the role starting Aug. 12.
He’ll make $124,000 annually.
Cochran, who has been superintendent of Webster County’s school system since 2015, did say he served six years as a special education director.
“The end of the day goal is hopefully to develop a situation in which those students can have the ability to have access to the same programs and same educational opportunities all students have,” Cochran said. “That’s the end of the day goal, regardless of disability.”
“We need to explore those options, as far as CTE [career and technical education, or vocational] offerings and programs as well as higher education offerings, dual credit,” he said. Dual credit allows students to earn college credit in high school.
State school board President Miller Hall said Cochran will be taught sign language.
Hall estimated the schools serve about 125 students on their campus in Romney. A portion lives there during the school year. The schools also provide services to students in other parts of the state.
State school board members met privately from about 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday. They claimed an exemption to the state open meetings act to conduct interviews for and otherwise discuss filling the position.
Hall said the candidates requested their interviews occur behind closed doors. The board didn’t publish the names of the other applicants.
Board member Dave Perry said at the end of the meeting that there were 10 applicants, and “it’s very obvious we had a pool of good applicants.”
Hall said eight out of the 10 didn’t meet the minimum qualifications, and the two who did, Cochran included, didn’t know sign language.
But Hall said Cochran was “well qualified.”
“He’s qualified because he has the degree, the background in special education, and being a director,” Hall said. “And plus he’s going to be in charge of facilities and transportation as he was in Webster County.”
Cochran’s resume says he was simultaneously a facilities, transportation and special education director in Webster from 2009 to 2012.
He said he later served as a regional special education director for the six counties in Regional Educational Service Agency 4. He said each of these six had its own special education director, and he served as basically a liaison between these counties and the state Department of Education.
Cochran has also served as a principal, assistant principal, teacher and coach.
He said his bachelor’s degree in education is from Glenville State College, and he has a master’s degree in health education from West Virginia University. In addition, he said he earned from Ohio Valley College a special education endorsement, which is added to his teaching license, and from Salem International University an endorsement to be an administrator.
With all the policies and laws in special education, Hall said, “you better know what you’re doing, and this guy knows what he’s doing.”
County boards of education hire school superintendents for their respective counties, but the Schools for the Deaf and the Blind’s superintendent is hired directly by the state school board.