BUCKHANNON — All members of the Upshur County Board of Education met on Tuesday night to hear reports from each department.
The meeting began with the recognization of Buckhannon-Upshur High School’s Student Body President, John Bohman. His advisor, Mr. Michael Wilson, presented him with an Upshur Stars Award. Bohman is a finalist for the National Merit Scholarship, and recently represented Upshur County at the state level, along with other students from each county. He was commended for his hard work and adaptability throughout his time as Student Body President.
Following, an Upshur Stars Award was also given to Serenity Farrabee, the 10-year-old Buckhannon Academy student who saved her grandfather’s life by administering CPR on him until help could arrive. Accompanied by her family, Farrabee received a standing ovation from the BOE members and all those in attendance for her brave and heroic act.
Next, the Board members heard a brief update from Director of Curriculum and Maintenance, Tim Derico. He explained that Murray’s Sheet Medal was selected to be the roofing contractor for the BOE. Derico also notified the Board that their box truck is nearing the end of its use and will soon need to be replaced in order to continue delivering meals to remote students. The search will continue for a vehicle suitable for their needs.
A brief Technology update was then given by Kayla Yocum. She notified the Board that the Technology team continues to resolve help desk tickets and works daily to deliver assistance to those in the school system. Yocum also encouraged everyone in attendance to participate in Read Across America Day, which will take place at the beginning of March. She plans to reach out and publish information on the event so that anyone interested may participate.
A Safety and Preparedness update from Dr. Jeff Harvey delivered good news as he provided the Board with graphs of data depicting that the number of COVID-19 cases in the area are going down, not only in Upshur County, but also in West Virginia. Dr. Harvey has been keeping detailed data on positive cases and quarantine efforts in Upshur County schools. He also informed the Board that second doses of the vaccine are projected to be delivered in late February, and there are currently only 57 teachers/staff members awaiting the vaccine.
A brief Remote Learning and Student Achievement update was then presented by Melinda Stewart and Jody Johnson. They provided the Board with data regarding the comparison between full-time remote students, and students who returned to school. The data included variables such as attendance, grades, contact, etc. The in-person students had overwhelmingly higher grades and attendance, and Ms. Stewart concluded, “They’re doing better when they’re with us in the building.” This department continues to work with teachers, students and families to increase contact and participation for students in and out of Upshur County schools.
Mr. Derico then returned to present the 2021-2022 School Year Calendar. As this was the first hearing on the calendar, the Board plans to revisit it during the next scheduled BOE meeting. Derico explained that the calendar is very similar to years past.
Transportation Director Jodi Acres inquired about installing a new GPS system into each bus that runs for Upshur County Schools. The GPS systems, sourced by “ZONAR” would provide assistance on many levels to bus drivers, students, parents, and the BOE’s Chief Mechanic, she suggested. The system would automatically document mileage for each bus, maintain attendance records, provide route information, and much more. There would even be an app available for parents to track their child’s bus on a map. The Chief Mechanic would have 100% access to view the status of each bus’s engine, service levels, etc. Currently, bus drivers are relying solely on radio. The ZONAR program would run off of satellite and cellular service. The BOE decided to table voting on adopting the system until the next scheduled meeting.
The Board then approved the following personnel changes: the resignation of Kelly Poirier and Teresa Weiford as Substitute Teachers. The employment of the following positions was also approved: Darryl Burgess as Assistant Boys’ Basketball Coach at Buckhannon-Upshur High School, Matthew Westfall, Michael Phillips and Michael Turek as Substitute Custodians, as well as Elias Black as Substitute Custodian and Substitute Cook.
The meeting concluded with the “Superintendent Evaluation” in which Dr. Sara Stankus spoke about her time as Upshur County Schools' Superintendent. “I understand that I would not be here tonight to share the accomplishments of the Upshur County Schools without the teams and the leaders who are sitting in this room. These are the leaders who are on the front lines,” she stated. Even during a time of such uncertainty and fear, Stankus was able to take part in an immense amount of growth in the local school system. She oversees a brand-new budget and financial status, a fleet of amazing educators, and most importantly, successful and unique students. Dr. Stankus concluded, “We’ve done a lot of work, but we sure have a lot of work left to do.”
The next scheduled Upshur County Board of Education meeting will be held at B-UHS on February 23 at 6:00 p.m.