Lessons learned from the Board of Education

We are certainly having a winter for the record books. Upshur County Schools have experienced cold and snow days extending the Christmas break. Now we continue to have extreme weather. A lesson learned serving on the Board of Education is that “Safety First” is our mantra when it comes to transporting our precious students.

We cannot be like the rural free delivery system of our mail carriers. The words “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” while by no means an official creed or motto of the United States Postal Service, have long been associated with the American postman. Unfortunately when it comes to bus runs, some days we must cancel school. However, the BOE has prepared by adding a half-hour each day to our Upshur County Schools schedule, allowing us to bank school days when Old Man Winter acts up. We draw down time remaining in compliance to West Virginia state law which requires 180 regulation-timed school days each school term.

When the telephone rings and the Caller ID announces “Upshur County Schools,” suspect another snow day: “Good morning, this is Jodie Akers” sounds a very professional voice. “No school in Upshur County!” Be sure our bus drivers have been out checking the roads, and Roy Wager, our Upshur County Schools Superintendent, has long been awake receiving scouting reports from our back roads that are deemed worsening toward impassible conditions. The decision to call off school is made as timely as it can be so parents and grandparents can have child care duties worked out with bosses at employment sites across Upshur County. Oh my, the winter blues!

We are blessed to have well-maintained buses and to have experienced drivers; however, the Upshur County Schools are in critical need of substitute bus drivers. That need is a mixed blessing as the oil and gas drilling and pipeline construction firms are recruiting truck/bus drivers. The energy needs of America will be met! The BOE understands that but we miss our traditionally strong back-up team.

West Virginians will benefit by career opportunities as the world including China look toward investing billions of dollars in our state. At our governor’s mansion recently, a Chinese delegation met with our state leaders. Reportedly they led the singing of “Country Roads, Take Me Home” in Almost Heaven West Virginia. The Chinese knew every line of our state song. At least we are agreeing about our roads where our school buses transport our children and grandchildren. We pray for the roads to remain in safe condition through the process of extraction and in full repair when the gas boom is over.

Another piece of the bus transportation lesson learned has to do with our six cameras on each bus. These electronic records help the BOE do our job of monitoring safety concerns of other drivers who might pass stopped buses illegally. In addition, we can maintain drug-free schools providing a deterrent to bringing drugs onto buses by recording students riding. And we can monitor acceptable behavior, catching bullying or acting-out delinquency.

“Safety First” in response to inclement weather, other drivers, and in civil behavior of our students: lesson learned!