Granddad Henry David Almond taught me to measure the direction the wind blows, thus the air resistance, by licking my index finger then holding it high in the air. I could feel the air drying the skin on the side from which the wind blew.
Later at West Virginia University School of Medicine, Dr. Donald Carter, one of my favorite professors, taught me how to do a clinical interview, discovering through a process of receiving a medical history what ailed my patient. Careful listening gave me what I needed to know to arrive at a diagnosis and formulate a treatment—figuratively to tell from which direction the wind blows.
Now at the beginning of our Upshur County Schools Academic Year 2019-2020, serving as a member of the Board of Education, I learn a lesson built upon my earlier life experiences—determining which way the wind is blowing in our 21st-century United States culture. In the dawn’s early light of August 19, 2019, the telephone rang. The voice was Jodie Akers declaring that Dr. Sara Lewis-Stankus decided to call a 2-hour delay. We had a situation! Time was needed for investigation and to make certain our students and staff would be safe. The wind is blowing from an ominous direction.
Our BOE has made steady progress for safety and security in the past year. In the spring, we had an excellent active shooter training exercise at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School, with over 400 participants from law enforcement and emergency medical services coordinating with BOE staff. Also, we received a significant grant for our schools to have coordinated cameras tied into police and 911 monitoring.
Now, we were being notified at approximately 5 a.m. of a social media post of a possible threat to the safety of B-U Schools and Bridgeport. Upshur County Schools, Upshur County Sheriff’s Department, Bridgeport, Texas Police Department, Fusion Center and Homeland Security all collaborated. The 2-hour delay allowed time for further investigation and to ensure the safety and security of our students and staff.
All this in the night. Which way is the wind blowing? We need to get the diagnosis right. Lives of our children and our staff depend on our safety and security teams coordinating effectively!
In the end, the IP address was tracked as being from Bridgeport, Texas, rather than Bridgeport, West Virginia, and B-U Schools. Law enforcement determined the threat was not directed to Upshur County Schools. It was safe to resume school.
The reassuring voice of our own Dr. Sara Lewis-Stankus, Superintendent of Upshur County Schools, calms us all. She notes, “Our first priority is to keep our students and staff safe, providing a safe learning and working environment for them. All threats are taken seriously and thoroughly investigated, always erring on the side of safety. We are pleased with the quick response and collaboration among all of the agencies involved.”
Now a grandfather myself, I see the need to teach our precious granddaughters the trick of licking their index finger and sticking it high in the air to determine which way the wind is blowing. And now as a senior doctor, I see the need to teach clinical listening skills to the next generation of healers. Certainly, as an elected Board of Education member overseeing our vitally important public school system, I see the need for due vigilance this year to keep our students and staff safe. Lesson learned!