Sunday newspaper cartoons filled our family with much-anticipated weekly glee growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. When the funny papers arrived, Mom would announce: “Now we can get our education!” Dad turned first to “Dick Tracy” and Mom turned to “Tarzan.” The cream of the crop in the funny papers for me was “Popeye the Sailor Man!”
Memories from these simpler days came to mind as our Upshur County Schools Board of Education conducted two TEAM online meetings April 21, 2020, using computer technology in the midst of the unprecedented Coronavirus Pandemic. Four of the five elected members of the BOE checked in for a 7:30 a.m. Budget Workshop. Then at 7:00 p.m., all five of us gathered online again for our regular public meeting. TEAM APP allows reporters, central office staff, and the general public an opportunity to have a front row, living room seat.
In the heyday of cartoons, the wristwatch that Dick Tracy and other police wore had the features of our smartphones today. Week after week the cartoon detectives used technology to solve crime and societal problems. Then, it was fantasy for this barefoot boy; now, it is a reality as a team player on the Upshur County BOE putting students first.
I write this column on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. I remember the devastation of the first major oil spill, killing aquatic life off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, in 1970. And I remember the fact that Tarzan lived in the midst of a jungle but had strong Earth Day values, doing what was right and just for the wild animals.
I share an insight that there are strong parallels to our BOE’s feeling that even in the midst of our Appalachian Mountains in our rainforest, we are very much in tune with nature and career technical education. We are holding on to the best mountaineer traditions while swinging forward with the best high technology. The joy in my spirit comes realizing communication has come a long way from a chest-beating king of the jungle to smartphone technology.
Our BOE President Dr. Tammy Samples reports that our use of technology to conduct the business of running our schools has come to the notice of other counties, who ask her how we do what we do. Tammy is much too modest to take credit for helping us adapt to these historic times of the Coronavirus Pandemic, but she deserves a great deal of credit. Actually, we are truly blessed to have a Doctor of Education serve the children of Upshur County as our President. Her professional position as an Associate Professor of Education at West Virginia Wesleyan College means Dr. Samples knows education very well. I am partial to both West Virginia Wesleyan College, where I earned a Chemistry degree, and to West Virginia University, where I studied Medicine. Dr. Samples earned her Bachelor of Arts in Education from WVU, two Master’s Degrees (one in Reading/Literacy and one in Leadership/Administration) from Marshall University, and her Education Doctorate from WVU.
In fact, Dr. Samples might just be the most highly educated President of the Board that we have ever had in Upshur County. There is a West Virginia farming proverb that comes to mind when I think of the cream of the crop personages like my favorites, Popeye and Tammy: “Cream rises!”
Having noted Dr. Samples’ penchant for excellence locally, there can be no surprise that she has recently been elected to the office of Treasurer with the West Virginia School Board Association, whose purpose is to do the work of promoting, in non-partisan means, “the advancement of public education in West Virginia, and to study and seek to attain effectiveness and constructive school board membership.”
My lesson learned this week hankers back to my youth, and forward to watching Dr. Tammy Samples ably perform her duties as our Upshur County Schools Board of Education President. Cream, indeed, rises!