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Saxe named WV Superintendent of the Year ahead of Cabell County Schools departure

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Outgoing Cabell County Schools Superintendent Dr. Ryan Saxe has been named the West Virginia Superintendent of the Year as he continues to face criticism for a failed school excess levy that included reduced funding for local libraries and parks.

Dr. Ryan Saxe

Saxe is leaving Cabell County to become the new superintendent of Berkeley County Schools. The Berkeley County Board of Education approved a three-year contract for Saxe Monday night after not renewing the contract of Superintendent Ron Stephens.

Huntington resident Marty Fowler told MetroNews Tuesday morning he wasn’t shocked to learn of Saxe’s departure after voters failed to pass the school excess levy in May.

“I personally was not surprised because Mr. Saxe is in an untenable position. He lost the first school excess levy in Cabell County in more than 50 years,” Fowler said.

The levy would’ve stripped funding for the Cabell County Public Library and the Greater Huntington Park & Recreation District. The library system would’ve received $1.37 million and $200,000 would’ve gone to parks.

Fowler and others in the community Facebook group “No Parks, No Libraries, No Levy!” worked for months to generate support to vote down the levy.

Meanwhile, the Cabell County Board of Education has been discussing a revised levy with park and library officials since the May election. The new levy would need to be voted on before Aug. 20 in order to appear on the November ballot.

Fowler said Saxe did some damage by trying to push the levy through without considering the community’s needs to keep funding that’s been in place for libraries since 1967 and parks since 1983.

“Ryan Saxe has now burned the house down. He’s leaving and we have to deal with the mess,” Fowler said. “The people of the community want to clean this up and keep our parks and libraries healthy for generations to come.”

Fowler said the only way a majority of voters will say ‘yes’ to a revised levy is if funding to libraries and parks is restored.

“Really the only option the board has if they want to see a levy passed in November is to reinstate what was here before Saxe started on his little arson spree and tried to burn everything down,” he said.

The levy faced a number of court challenges over the last year. In February, the state Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision that would’ve continued funding libraries and parks. In Dec. 2023, a Cabell County Circuit Court judge ruled in favor of libraries and parks after the two parties filed a lawsuit against the school board. The BOE then appealed the lower court’s decision to the Supreme Court.

Saxe previously cited a decline in student enrollment, a lack of additional COVID-19 funds and inflation for the funding cuts.

Saxe told MetroNews earlier this month he was “very optimistic” about where discussions were in trying to reach a compromise with financial funding in connection with the levy.

The Cabell County BOE will be tasked with naming an interim superintendent. The board meets in special session at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday to choose Saxe’s replacement.

Fowler said he hopes the board will be more mindful of the community’s concerns moving forward.

“The current board needs to be very aware of the community’s desires because we have made it very plain what we want and what we’re willing to settle for,” he said.

Saxe will be stepping into another controversy as Berkeley County Schools deals with a state of emergency declared by the state Board of Education in May over behavioral and academic progress issues at Martinsburg North Middle School. A plan of action was approved by the state BOE last week.

Saxe will begin the job in Berkeley County on July 1. His contract runs through June 30, 2027. He’ll get paid a salary of $198,000 in his first year, $203,940 the second year and $210,058 for the third year.

Saxe, who has been superintendent of Cabell County Schools since 2017, said in a news release Tuesday he’s honored to be recognized for his work on a statewide level.

“I’m honored to be selected by my colleagues who work tirelessly every single day in districts across West Virginia to ensure students receive a world class education. I am humbled and so appreciative to have received this award and look forward to representing West Virginia for the National Superintendent of the Year,” Saxe stated.

Saxe will represent West Virginia as a candidate for the 2025 AASA National Superintendent of the Year, which will be announced in February at the National Education Conference.

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