Lessons learned serving on the BOE

Having West Virginia teachers and school personnel unite 55 strong saying, “Whatever we do, we do together,” supplied a lesson learned for the entire school year.

Within that experiential learning there are soft lessons and hard lessons learned. As a member of the Upshur County Board of Education, I believe the soft lesson going forward for educators and students will be possessing a new skill—a skill of coping with life’s challenges. The hard lesson learned has to do with the 5 percent pay raise and the fixing of the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) achieved by uniting as a team.

Already I see a growing confidence in Upshur County Schools. From a team-building perspective, which is multi-year, we can proudly point to the Buckhannon-Upshur Girls Basketball team winning 26-2-0 coached by Jeremy Maxwell, playing for the State Championship two years running. And we can look to the performing arts like the Buckhannon-Upshur Choir, especially the B-U Soundwaves earning the West Virginia State Honor Choir designation under the direction of Jeremiah Smallridge. Granted, the seeds for success in basketball and choir had already been planted, but the time of harvesting has been more grand with “55 strong....”

We are gaining confidence that whatever good goals we set, we can apply hard work and carry on to completion. At a Virginia /West Virginia School Board Association Hot Topic Conference March 14 in Wytheville, Virginia, I learned the words and the framework that match our B-U experience. Josh Shipp, a motivational speaker, declared in his presentation that “Every Kid is One Caring Adult Away From Being a Success Story.” As a member of our Upshur BOE whose members represent magistrate voting districts, I can appreciate family and community engagement in the Buckhannon District in particular.

Another piece of the framework involves a diagram of a circle entitled “Outcomes.” Surrounding the circle are three “Supports”: supporting staff, supporting students, and supporting decision making. How pleased I am to be part of the decision making. Yes, our BOE has looked good due to the leadership of Superintendent of Upshur Schools Roy Wager for the past five years. Watching and learning from a master teacher and accomplished administrator has been a great pleasure. Just consider that our last levy vote passed by a landslide due in large measure to the skills Roy brought to the Superintendency, helping us not only cope but thrive, winning over a major challenge.

The final part of our diagram portraying an effective learning environment is what is inside the “Outcomes” circle:

1 - Systems

2 - Data

3 - Practices.

Our systems are “go” as per student and educator teamwork. Consider basketball and choir as examples that are replicated in all seven grade schools, our middle school, and our high school.

The data presented at our public BOE meetings support improvements in behavioral competency, academic achievement and social/emotional wellness.

Finally, the practices — where the rubber meets the road — are evident in our ever-higher graduation rate, our safe school efforts, and our welcoming of health care teams from our community physical care to mental health care for early interventions for individual students and family supports.

Lesson learned, hard and soft, is that Upshur Schools are experiencing student success, enjoying high quality leadership, and continuing our tradition of teaching by high quality professionals.