BUCKHANNON — The Upshur County Board of Education met Monday evening at 6 p.m. in the Buckhannon Academy Elementary School cafeteria to discuss business. All members were present, either in person, or through the conference call. The public was permitted to attend, with a recommendation to maintain social distance and wear masks. Members of the public were also able to attend the virtual meeting telephonically.
Magistrate Mike Coffman swore in re-elected board members Tammy Samples and Dr. Greenbrier Almond, virtually, during their Oath of Office ceremony.
The board held their elections for president and vice president for the July 1, 2020 to July 30, 2022 term, re-electing Samples and Katie Loudin. The board also re-selected Almond to serve as Fred Eberle Technical Center’s Administrative Council, Samples to serve as Stockert Youth and Community Center’s Board of Directors and Alan Suder to serve on the Athlete Hall of Fame Board.
Superintendent Dr. Sara Stankus announced that Upshur County Schools has received a grant from Pallottine Foundation of Buckhannon for the Summer Feeding Program. Chief Executive Officer Janell Ray wrote in a letter to the board, “The Pallotine Foundation of Buckhannon and its Board of Trustees appreciate and value the services Upshur County Schools is providing to our community during this pandemic outbreak. In that spirit, enclosed is the 2021 COVID-19 Emergency Response Initiative Funding Award in the amount of $20,900.”
Stankus also reported on the successful in-person graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020 and recognized Senior Class Advisor Michael Wilson for his work in organizing the ceremonies, naming him “Graduation Guru” and presenting him with a banner and sash. Mayor Robbie Skinner visited the meeting to present him with a City of Buckhannon official seal pin and a gift.
Wilson shared, “This was really a team effort – faculty, staff, county office… If it wasn’t for Mr. Vincent giving me the opportunity in order for me to be able to do what I do… he has let me take the wings and do what I’ve done… We’ve got a good group of kids in this area. I think one thing that we challenge to keep our goals and keep ourselves focused on is what’s best for everyone in our community here. We’re going to see great things ahead,” Wilson said. “I just do what I do because it’s for the kids.”
Eddie Vincent described that Wilson hasn’t stopped working since early March to make sure both graduations proceeded as planned. He stated, “This guy has worked harder in the last three or four months than anybody I’ve ever seen in the classroom and throughout the school.”
In other business, the board approved their June 11 minutes. Director of Facilities Tim Derico reported on facility updates, such as new B-UHS bleachers and the water treatment plan. Treasurer Jeff Perkins explained the recent expenses and the past fiscal year information.
The board reviewed the results of the community survey, including over 1,800 responses from throughout Upshur County. Director of School Safety and Emergency Preparedness Dr. Jeff Harvey presented the data and explained some was qualitative to request feedback in order to detect common themes. Common responses were about students having personal protective equipment, physical distancing concerns and preference for face-to-face learning. Common concerns included online schooling, transitions to outside the learning environment, bus travel, out of state travel, faculty breaks, and physical and mental health.
Vanessa Perkins and Dr. Raymond Leonard voiced their concerns if the children do not return to school in the fall. Perkins gave a statement that touched on her time serving overseas. She explained that even in countries who lost everything, the first thing they rebuilt were their schools. “We have choices: live in fear, face the fear, or hide,” Perkins said. Dr. Leonard urged the BOE to focus on the facts of what is going on and not rely on the emotions of the community. He urged them to send kids back to school this fall and look at the guidelines, specifically from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The board went into executive session to discuss school safety. After resuming regular session, the board tabled the discussion for the re-entry plan for the 2020-2021 academic year in order to wait for State Superintendent Clayton Burch’s information expected later in the week. They also wish to receive more feedback from their employees and will hold a special meeting on Friday to further discuss this matter.
Quinten Oldaker introduced the board to Kayla Yocum, the new Digital Communications Specialist and reported on new TVs for the schools and new technology for the teachers.
The board held the first reading of and approved Policy 4007, the exemption to compulsory school attendance for homeschooled students.
The board went into a second executive session regarding personnel. After returning to regular session, the board approved the following resignations: Genesis Mihalko as Itinerant Elementary Music Teacher from Washington District and Tennerton Elementary Schools; Michelle Benson as Science Teacher from B-UHS; Stephanie Bennett as Extracurricular Bus Aide; Sarah Darnall as Special Education Teacher from B-UMS; Stacy Anne Groves as Social Studies teacher from B-UHS; Roseanne Siggia-Walker as Assistant Cross Country Coach from B-UHS. The board also approved Carol Shenuski’s retirement as Mathematics teacher from B-UMS.
The board approved the following hires: Dr. Valerie Huffman as B-UMS Music Teacher; Elizabeth Hinkle as B-UHS Cook II; Lindsay Malenich as Itinerant Music Teacher-in-Residence for Union and Hodgesville Elementary Schools; Joanne Rutherford as Administration Assistant to the Superintendent; Janie Miller as substitute teacher for Upshur County Schools; Tracy Hurst as Itinerant Special Education teacher at Washington District and Tennerton Elementary.
The board approved the following transfers: TeLenna Bender from Secretary for Attendance to Secretary for Facilities; Eddie Vincent from B-UHS Principal to Director of Wellness and Child Nutrition; Melinda Stewart from Director of Special Education to Director of Secondary Curriculum; Stephanie Bennett from Coordinator of Services Payroll (Secretary) to Transportation Supervisor (Professional); Kayla Yocum from Union Elementary Second Grade Teacher to Technology/Digital Communications Specialist for Upshur County Schools; Dustin Carlyle from Physical Education Teacher at Buckhannon Academy to Physical Education teacher at Union Elementary; Cecilia Stewart from UES and B-UHS Custodian to Tennerton Elementary Custodian.
The board approved of both student teachings, Leah Morehead’s 12-week Buckhannon Academy placement and Lori Zirkle’s 16-week Tennerton Elementary placement, both for Fall 2020.
Upshur County Board of Education meets the second and fourth Tuesday at 7 p.m. The next regular meeting of the academic year will be held July 21 at 7 p.m., currently scheduled to be at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School.