Serving now more than nine years on the Upshur County Schools Board of Education (BOE), I have learned a lesson or two about our decision-making process. Clearly selecting our Superintendent of Schools is at the top of our raison d’être. Our BOE selected Dr. Sara Lewis-Stankus in 2018.
Now well into her second year, Superintendent Stankus has proven to be an excellent choice. Serving on the BOE after nearly 50 years of practicing medicine, I make my assessment using tools from my profession. One of the most helpful is to measure Emotional Intelligence (EQ)!
EQ can be defined as the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. In medicine we call this “bedside manner.” Our common reminder to ourselves is that “a patient will not care how much we know until the patient knows how much we care.” Emotional intelligence is the key to both personal and professional success, not only in medical fields, but also in educational endeavors.
Observing Dr. Stankus in action in public forums such as almost every Upshur County Civic Organization when Upshur County Schools BOE asked for a renewal of our levy, I saw her pause and think before speaking. I watched her keep commitments to get back with information when she did not have all the facts. Wow—what a knack to give genuine praise and compliments. Amazing!
As a result of her stellar EQ, we continue to position our children and grandchildren well for educational success. The levy renewal not only passed, but by the largest margin in the history of all Upshur County levies. As Dr. Stankus says, “Our community showed their approval for what we are doing … and are going to do! We do not take this trust lightly and want to continue following our “True North,” our internal compass, which is “to provide academic preparation; social responsibility; employability, and a desire of lifelong learning for our Upshur County children.”
Now the BOE is engaged in a planning process charting our next 10 years for not only “Expecting Excellence,” our motto for educational goals, but also for our physical plant requirements, including building schools for the future. Kudos to Superintendent Stankus for her leadership in providing critical communications to our West Virginia rural mountain community as well as with our WV Department of Education in Charleston. I give much credit to her for the outpouring of community support the BOE enjoys, whether this is large gifts to our schools from Rotary International or great support for our students’ backpack program to aid the most vulnerable during our Opioid Epidemic.
Day-to-day operations of one of Upshur County’s larger employers is no small task. We operate the largest public transportation system with our school buses and dedicated drivers, and also the largest food service, feeding nearing 4,000 students breakfast and lunch. Disagreements come up, but Dr. Stankus shows shared empathy, avoiding heated arguments. She listens well, allowing others opportunity to express feelings. I find her a safe person to be vulnerable with.
Though I know Sara has a genuine love for Upshur County, where she was born and bred, I marvel that she even aspired to serve as our Superintendent of Schools. In our harvest season when we traditionally give Thanks for our Blessings, I am truly grateful not only to her but to the entire education team that makes us Upshur Strong. A big Upshur Star award to Sara and all the BOE employees.