Now is a transition time in my life. I write this column on the first day of early voting for our Board of Education: April 27, 2022. For the first time in 12 years, I am not throwing my hat in the ring to serve another term as a member of the Upshur County Schools Board of Education. In the midst of my personal grief, this feels like a good time to pass the baton. We are in the black budget-wise. The annual budget Lesson Learned over the years is simple wisdom—money can be spent only once! While our BOE available dollars have grown each year, still we never have enough.
I suspect that I have served over several rough patches more than my fair share, including a flat West Virginia State budget for five years, a teachers’ strike, two years of a COVID pandemic, and the failure of two school building bonds about ten years apart.
However, as a lifelong learner I relish teachable moments leading to Lessons Learned serving. After all, this 440th column would not be possible except for woes! I can now graduate from the school of hard knocks at the end of June 2022. While painful and difficult my BOE experiences, they have been useful in teaching me about life. Albert Einstein said, “There is only one road to human greatness: through the school of hard knocks.” Well, I am still enjoying my road to that elusive destination which a man smarter than I am called “human greatness.”
In the Bible book of Romans, Paul expands the steps I have walked during my 12 years of BOE service: “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5 ESV).
Fellow Board of Education members characterized our collective experience as doing all “for the sake of the children.” I now see that, like raising my own children, I have gained gray hair serving on the BOE.
In some ways our workshop for budget planning April 12, 2022, has been our easiest budget oversight meeting in my tenure. We are off our probationary status gained by running more than a casual deficit. Being in the red is always painful. We now have a budget cushion. The number of enrolled students is up. That gives us a future budget boost allowing for more planning for excellence, which remains our motto: “Expect Excellence.”
We have made our budget more fair especially for centers of excellence. I have long desired that band and choral and sports and other extracurricular but life-enriching educational experiences be treated fairly. I never could rest well when inherited imbalances kept me awake.
Our students able to attend Fred Eberle Technical Center are getting employability opportunities that thrill me. While I want to triple technical education, I see more students enrolling and excelling.
Gradually I see the number of years of education expanding to include pre-kindergarten in the early years as well as college credit or dual credit in the high school years. Thirteen or more years of schooling looks like the new norm.
Our professional and service staff gain modest but regular raises now. Their retirement promises are being kept by fully funding. I like to look the teachers in the eyes saying thank you, knowing they can plan for those twilight years that I am now enjoying. $46,767,273 is quite a budget to hand off to new Upshur County Schools Board of Education members. I wish them well.