Upshur County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus, Upshur County Schools Assistant Superintendent of Schools Dr. Debra Harrison and BOE President Dr. Tammy Samples and BOE member Pat Long offer congratulations to BOE members Dr. Greenbrier Almond, Katie Loudin and Kristi Wilkerson for their years of dedicated service on the Upshur County BOE. / Photo by Beth Christian Broschart

Board of Education bids gratitude-filled goodbyes to outgoing school board members

TENNERTON – Three outgoing members of the Upshur County Board of Education received thanks for their service at the Tuesday, June 14 Upshur County BOE meeting.

This was the final meeting for Upshur County BOE members Dr. Greenbrier Almond, Katie Loudin and Kristi Wilkerson and they were recognized for their contribution to Upshur County Schools. That’s because the previously scheduled June 30 BOE meeting has been canceled.

“Sadly, we are losing three of them – including their knowledge, expertise and leadership,” Kayla Yocum, Upshur County Schools technology systems/digital communications specialist read. “As a token of our appreciation for your hard work and dedication to the students, families and community of Upshur County, we would like to recognize you with a plaque.”

Almond gave 12 years of outstanding service to Upshur County students, Loudin gave four years of outstanding service to Upshur County students, and Kristi Wilkerson gave five years of outstanding service to Upshur County students.

“As these board members step down from their seats, I want to say what a pleasure it has been to serve with the three of them,” Upshur County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus said. “We have been through a COVID pandemic, a teacher strike, the reopening of schools and all the challenges that come with your job anyway. I promise you that BOE members do not serve for the money; they do it because of the work. These are true servant-leaders in our community and I thank you for that.”

Almond said it has been his distinct pleasure to serve as an Upshur County Board of Education member.

“When I was in medical school the Dean told us when we go back to our communities to practice medicine, get on the school board,” Almond said. “My neighbor, Dr. Robert L. Chamberlain, served on the school board for 25 years, and I wanted to emulate him and I got my turn. I have been happy to do this.”

Loudin said when she saw Dr. Tammy Samples post on Facebook in 2017 about an opening on the school board, she asked for more information.

“She answered a few questions for me and at the time, I probably did not know what I was getting myself into,” Loudin said, laughing. “It has been a journey. I think it has been a really difficult time through COVID, through the strike – but we have done things together and I am really proud of what we accomplished including the Hodgesville Elementary School addition, the grant we have received and the sound system and lighting at Buckhannon-Upshur High School. I am grateful to see the work of the team and the work of everyone in the schools. I appreciate the opportunity to serve.”

Wilkerson said since she started as an Upshur County BOE member, there have been two teacher strikes and a pandemic.

“My husband said it can only get better, and my husband, Curtis Wilkerson, guarantees it will be smooth sailing after this,” Wilkerson said jokingly. “It has been a pleasure to work with everyone – the five board members including Mr. (Alan) Suder who was here before, the directors and all of the staff. It was really the privilege of a lifetime to have the trust of the Upshur County voters. I wish you all the best and let me know if I can be of help.”

“We miss you already,” Stankus said of the trio.

Also, during Tuesday’s Upshur County BOE meeting, members learned of the receipt of an Early Literacy Grant in the amount of $100,000. Dr. Sonya White, senior officer of teaching and learning at the West Virginia Department of Education, presented the award to Upshur County Schools for innovative practices with kindergarten through second grade to promote early literacy.

Yocum said the competitive grant was submitted to place ECCAT (early childhood classroom assistant teachers) aides in first-grade classrooms in Washington District and French Creek elementary schools. White said the grant was competitive, and there was a pot of about $2 million.

“We asked counties to tell us how they could support kindergarten, first and second-grade classrooms,” White said. “That is the time when students are learning to read and with the pandemic, a set of extra hands in the classroom to assist the teacher and provide support to the teacher can make a world of difference in a student’s progression in mastering reading. We had more than 40 counties apply.”

White said what she liked best about Upshur County’s grant application was the work with the June Harless Center.

“Having a reading specialist in the county working daily with your teachers and taking that work and expanding it was great,” White said. “You tried something and you saw its merit and this was an opportunity for you to expand it further and that was very exciting for me.”

Following an executive session lasting approximately 15 minutes, Upshur County BOE members voted unanimously to purchase property at 11 E. Victoria St.  Almond made the motion to approve the purchase and the motion was seconded by Pat Long.

During the previous BOE meeting, discussions had taken place explaining the desire to purchase property on E. Victoria St. to create green space adjacent to Buckhannon Academy Elementary School. The reasoning behind the green space is to provide areas for students to play that is not right up on the main road through town to protect the students as they play.

Following the last BOE meeting, Stankus and Upshur County Schools Financial Director Jeffrey Perkins went to the City of Buckhannon Council Meeting and asked for in-kind help from the City of Buckhannon in demolishing the properties on East Victoria St. City of Buckhannon Council members voted to help the Upshur County Board of Education with that demolition, provided the UCBOE obtains all of the necessary permits prior to the demolition.

The next regular meeting of the Upshur County BOE is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 6, 2022, at the Buckhannon-Upshur High School auditorium.

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