County Candidate: Zach Abraham – BOE

(Editor’s Note: Each of the six candidates in the race for two seats on the Ohio County Board of Education was asked to reply to five questions concerning the future of Ohio County Schools so that their answers could be published free of charge. The stories will be published based on the order the replies were received from a total of 16 candidates running for Assessor, the Board of Education, County Clerk, and County Sheriff.)

His career has been in the field of human resources, and now Zach Abraham feels he is ready and qualified for one of five seats on the Ohio County Board of Education. At this time he is one of three principal owners of AlignHR, LLC, a company that provided human resource services to small- and medium-sized businesses in West Virginia and in the bordering states.

His investment in AlignHR followed Abraham’s work with expanding a regional financial services firm with an affiliated technology services company over a seven-year period by serving in a variety of roles, including Chief Human Resource Officer, Chief Compliance Officer, and Director of Operations. While in those roles, he assisted with leading and managing many aspects of human resources, business operations, risk management, client service operations, information technology, facilities management, and industry specific compliance.

Abraham, a graduate of West Virginia University, has been involved in the community and has served as a board member for The King’s Daughters Child Care Center in Wheeling and The Westminster Foundation of West Virginia, Inc. He currently serves as a board member of Valley Hospice, Inc. and the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce. He is a member of the Wheeling Rotary Club, Society of Human Resource Management, and currently serves as the President of the Upper Ohio Valley SHRM.

Abraham with his three children.
Abraham with his three children.

Abraham and his wife, Carrie, have three children who attend schools in the Ohio County Schools system. He is one of two candidates wishing to represent District 1.

What are your primary reasons for filing to run for a seat on the Ohio County Board of Education?

First and foremost, I am running to give back to the school system and community that has done so much for me. As both a graduate of Ohio County Schools, and a parent of three current students, I feel it is important to use my skills and talents to lead the Board of Education forward.

My background is in human resource management. Over my career, I’ve helped organizations ranging from businesses with three employees, to those with more than 2,000. I want to bring that experience to help develop both a strategic vision and a long-range plan for Ohio County Schools. If the board can approach future decisions in a transparent way, while utilizing a long-range plan, we can begin to rebuild trust and respect with the community. This will lead to a better system for our students and teachers.

What is your opinion of the most recent test scores received by Ohio County’s public school students; how do you believe improved scores can be achieved in the future; and do you feel those scores represent an adequate way to judge a school district’s employees?

Certainly, we should strive to improve test scores, but I do not believe it is the only indicator for student achievement or necessarily an indicator of future success.

Ultimately, it is the teachers and parents that know our students best and are in the position to make the greatest impact. There are many factors that play a role in student achievement, and many of those occur outside of the school system. I feel that it is the job of the board is to provide the structure and resources necessary for the system to function well. That way, we are maximizing the experience for the students when they are in our care.

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This is why focusing on a long-range plan and strategic vision for the board is critical. Part of the planning process to create a collective long-range plan would be working closely with teachers to get their input on ways we can help support them as opposed to dictating to them how to improve test scores.

A former football player, Abraham is very active with his children's athletic teams.
A former football player, Abraham is very active with his children’s athletic teams.

How important do you believe the current arts programs are to a child’s education?

I certainly believe the arts programs are important, and I view it as an opportunity to contribute to a well-rounded educational experience. Many studies have shown how all aspects of the arts lead to better performance across all areas of student learning.  We need the arts programs to provide balance with our education and provide a path for success and achievement for those students with those gifts, skills, and abilities.

What ideas do you have at this time to increase the amount of parental involvement with the Ohio County public school system? 

As I mentioned earlier, it is our teachers and parents that have the largest impact on the students. The more we can create a culture of parent involvement at the individual school level, the better.

I feel that we can do this in a variety of ways:

  • Parent Learning Opportunities
  • Reverse Mentoring
  • Family and Student Connections
  • Better use of technology

I also suspect the board can coordinate with Superintendent Miller to learn what worked and didn’t work in her experience as a principal of Woodsdale Elementary. From the outside, it appears that there were often events held at the school that brought parents and students together in both fun and interesting ways.

Abraham and his wife, Carrie, have been very interactive with their children's education.
Abraham and his wife, Carrie, have been very interactive with their children’s education.

What should be the top priorities for the members of the new school board and the new superintendent heading into the 2016-2017 academic year?

I believe that we must provide immediate leadership support and resource planning for Dr. Miller to ensure for a smooth transition in her new role as superintendent.  The school system and our community need Dr. Miller to succeed. As part of this board support, we must collectively ensure constituent unification and morale improvement throughout the school system in addition to helping to establish school system success and achievement of goals and objectives for 2016-2017.

I’ve been attending board meetings regularly, and strongly believe all five board members must come together and work together. There needs to be a move towards board healing and unification, and then we can start the process to earn and rebuild trust and also earn the respect of the community.

With my background in human resources, team building, and employee coaching, I believe we need to conduct an initial SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) Analysis. By going through this process, we can work to develop a long-range strategic plan for Ohio County Schools over the next three, five, and 10 years. From there we can establish goals and objectives to work toward.

Lastly, I feel we should explore and develop opportunities for countywide communication. I would like to see better communication and collaboration among all stakeholders in our system. I feel we can do that by developing teams consisting of board members, the superintendent, teachers, parents, service personnel, administrators, members of the community, and students.

(Photos provided by the candidate)