Upshur County Schools assistant superintendent Dr. Debra Harrison addresses the Upshur County Commission in this file photo from September 2021.

Dr. Debra Harrison, a B-UHS grad, prepares to serve as interim superintendent of Upshur County Schools

BUCKHANNON – Upshur County Board of Education members held a special meeting Friday morning and voted to offer the position of interim superintendent of Upshur County Schools to Dr. Debra Harrison, who currently serves as the assistant superintendent of schools.

She will begin the new position Aug. 29.

During a phone interview, Harrison said she will have the position of interim superintendent of Upshur County Schools through June 30, 2023, and is pleased to serve in this new position.

“We have so many excellent initiatives in Upshur County, and I have been working very closely with Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus,” Harrison said. “This leadership team in Upshur County Schools and I are going to be able to move forward without interruption. I think I have the best administrative team in the state of West Virginia.”

Harrison said she feels the team cares so much about the students.

“That is where my heart is as well,” Harrison said. “I am about doing what is right for the students and doing what is right for the staff and moving Upshur County forward and continuing the work we have begun.”

This school year is beginning Harrison’s fifth year in Upshur County Schools.

“I have been here since Dr. Stankus has been here – we were a team,” Harrison said. “As a graduate of Buckhannon-Upshur High School and a resident of Upshur County, I am honored to serve as the interim superintendent of Upshur County Schools. I am proud of the people I work with and this is a great county with wonderful students and an outstanding faculty. I am blessed.”

During Friday’s special meeting, board members accepted the resignation of Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus as the superintendent of Upshur County Schools. Stankus was tapped by West Virginia State Superintendent of Schools David L. Roach as the new deputy superintendent of schools. Stankus addressed the board, thanking them and the Upshur County Schools leadership team for their support in the work they have accomplished.

“We have a few new board members, but we have done great work here,” Stankus said. “I have been honored to serve in my home community and it has been a pleasure to serve alongside the directors, and of course, Dr. Debra Harrison.”

Stankus said she was not looking for a new job when she was tapped to be the W.Va. State Deputy Superintendent of Schools.

“I did not apply for the job and there is no job application for that position,” Stankus said. “I received a call from the West Virginia State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Roach, who was looking to build his team. He needed to bring in his number two, and he was, quite frankly, looking for a superintendent because this job is very unique and incorporates a lot of responsibility – with finances, personnel, employee relations and academic achievement – he was looking for someone with this experience. I think that was something that made him look at the 55 superintendents. I just want the board to be clear I was not looking for a job when this happened.”

Stankus said she loves the children of the community.

“I love my job and I love working here,” Stankus said.

BOE member Patrick Long made the motion to accept Stankus’s resignation sadly and the motion received a second sadly by BOE member Sherry Dean. The motion was unanimously approved.

The motion to appoint Harrison as interim superintendent of Upshur County Schools came following about an hour of executive session. The motion was made by Patrick Long and seconded by Sherry Dean. Those voting in favor of hiring Harrison were BOE members Long, Dean and BOE Vice-president Jan Craig. BOE member Roy Wager abstained from voting but did not cite a reason.

Following the meeting, Upshur County BOE president Dr. Tammy Samples said the board plans to conduct a search to permanently fill the superintendent position in Spring 2023.

The next regular BOE is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 23.

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