Former Upshur County Schools Superintendent Roy Wager spoke often of the need to triple our enrollment in Career and Technical Education (CTE) during his fruitful tenure. He inspired us for five years as our educational leader, including passing a levy renewal. Overall, Roy knew us well, with 45 years of educational service as teacher, principal, central office staff professional, and superintendent. At our Administrative Council meeting for the Fred W. Eberle Technical Center (FETC) on September 15, 2020, I was ecstatic to hear our enrollment is up another 26 students in this hard time of the coronavirus pandemic. I thought of Roy’s vision and smiled.
Troubles small and large may dog our days as we go through uncharted times with COVID-19, but FETC Principal Rebecca Bowers-Call, Title IX Director and 504 Coordinator, anticipates our program needs well. We even could celebrate a high bid for the sale of a restored Willys Coupe. I can reflect back to my father, Dr. Harold David Almond, driving his Willys Jeep all over our country roads, making house calls to treat the sick mountaineer families living in isolated communities, often with their own one- and two-room schools. Another physician Board of Education member, Dr. Robert L. Chamberlain, told me that during his 30-year tenure on the school board, our county closed 25 of these schools. Dad’s four-wheel drive vehicle was needed, as the roads were rough, and country farmers, timbermen and miners did not have trucks or cars to get to town. Those times had their own troubles.
The promise of a better tomorrow for our students in Career and Technical Education can be seen in the increased enrollment for classes in Electricity, Welding and Cosmetology. Auto Tech, Carpentry, Information Technology, Collision Repair, Diesel, Medical Assistant, and Health Professional classes are holding their own, enrollment-wise.
Upshur County has an esteemed history in technical endeavors. Our largest employer was at Chemical, West Virginia, now our Upshur Youth Camp at Selbyville. Our Upshur County Commission received the land after World War II, creating a first-class, all-seasons camp. My understanding is that up to 3,000 citizens were employed, some in supply of raw material and some at the plant.
A big thank-you to the Upshur Arts Alliance, who presented a 200th-year birthday gift to our community with the book Our Town, Our Stories: Poetry, Fiction, and Memories from Buckhannon, West Virginia. There are 24 authors contributing to this collection, including an essay from an anonymous source about growing up at Chemical: “A Financial Management Lesson from the Great Depression.”
We have important lessons learned about Career and Technical Education past and present. I do believe Emeritus Superintendent Roy Wager is correct. He earns an A+ with his thesis that we must triple CTE in the future.