By Shirley Shuman
“The schools are ready.” Dr. Rhonda Combs said of the first week of school. “They have a warm atmosphere and had fun activities to welcome students back.” Braxton’s new superintendent is eager to work with Board of Education members and Central Office staff to do whatever needs to be done to improve the education of Braxton County students and to retain all that currently works well.
Coming from a much more urban area in Brooke County, Dr. Combs is adjusting to the different culture of this area. “I do like the small-town atmosphere,” she noted when asked to assess what she has seen in the communities and the schools. “I’m really big on giving kids opportunities. We’ll be reaching out to communities and to families. My assumption is that Braxton has a strong community sense. I’ve already seen a lot of support because people put in volunteer time,” she said. Here the superintendent referred to the volunteers who helped after Flatwoods Elementary’s building and parking lot suffered flood damage.
The new superintendent realizes that problems exist and is ready to try to solve them. After addressing what she and her staff face in low funding, Dr. Combs explained that she and those with whom she works have begun working on it. “This is a challenge,” she said, “but there are many opportunities for funding, including grants.”
Continuing, she noted that she is aware of the negative effects of the last two years. Asked whether the school system is where it should be, Dr. Combs responded, “There is room for improvement, especially in academics, but we’re addressing all of these things. I’m currently working on goals [for the school year and for the school system]. I’m trying to combine my goals with those of the Board members.”
To achieve academic improvement, Dr. Combs explained that staff will work as a team to focus on data. “We’ll have a lot of focus on that data,” she said. There will also be other areas explored to improve the academic level of Braxton County schools and their students.
The superintendent, summarizing her philosophy, said, “I do believe that all students can learn. Some need a lot of support, and some learn at their level. No one size fits all.” At this point, Dr. Combs noted, “We need to understand that education is empowerment. Respect for small towns is good, but respect for what’s out there is also good. Opportunities for experience allows students to realize their potential and how to get there.” She mentioned here that the high school’s CTE program has already provided some opportunities for experience. In closing, Dr. Combs emphasized that her administration is “moving toward more transparency, and she is definitely open to suggestions.