BUCKHANNON – The contract of the interim superintendent of Upshur County Schools has been extended for one year.
The Upshur County Board of Education on Tuesday voted 3-0 – with two abstentions – to extend the contract of interim superintendent Dr. Debra Harrison from its original end date, June 30, 2023, for one year beginning July 1, 2023, and ending June 30, 2024.
The vote came after Upshur BOE members met in executive session during two special meetings on Friday, Jan. 20 and Friday, Jan. 27 to address agenda items listed as “superintendent discussion.”
At the regular Feb. 7 BOE meeting at Fred W. Eberle Technical Center, BOE member Daya Wright made a motion to extend Harrison’s contract for one year.
“I would like to move that we extend the interim contract for Dr. Harrison for a year under the same terms and conditions as the current interim contract,” Wright said.
BOE member Sherry Dean seconded the motion, and Wright, Dean and BOE President Dr. Tammy Samples voted in favor of the motion. BOE vice-president Jan Craig and BOE member Roy Wager abstained from the vote without citing a reason for abstention.
Harrison, who was originally tapped to serve as interim superintendent through June 30, 2023, stepped into the new role in August 2022 after former Upshur County Schools Superintendent Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus was named deputy superintendent of the West Virginia Department of Education by West Virginia State Superintendent of Schools David L. Roach.
Harrison, a Buckhannon-Upshur High School graduate, began her fifth year with Upshur County Schools in August 2022 after serving as Stankus’s assistant superintendent. Her position as interim superintendent officially commenced Aug. 29, 2022, according to previous My Buckhannon stories.
In an email to My Buckhannon Wednesday regarding her short-term and long-term goals for Upshur County Schools, Harrison said her overall priority is to improve accountability.
“As we continue through the 2022-2023 academic year and make plans for 2023-2024, both our short-term and long-term goals are tightly interwoven,” she wrote. “Our overall priority is to build a culture of accountability which will address many of our goal-oriented objectives related to focusing on academic improvement in the areas of English/Language Arts, Math and improved student attendance.”
“We have established a method of data collection covering these areas to which each of our schools must respond on a weekly basis,” she added. “These data are collected weekly and shared at each Board of Education meeting. As we collect these data, we are seeing positive student growth at each data collection point.”
Harrison also emphasized she thinks Upshur County Schools’ effectiveness will be bolstered by more dialogue between school system administrators and community members. She said an Upshur County Schools Advisory Council has been created for that purpose.
“We strongly believe that an effective educational system is the result of a strong community and schools’ partnership, one where our community is fully aware of our challenges and our accomplishments and are willing to assist in addressing those challenges,” she wrote. “Therefore, we have created an Advisory Council of community members willing to take time from their busy schedules to provide guidance, insight and assistance to our school system, and that speaks to the community in which we live.”
Finally, Harrison commended Upshur County Schools’ employees and students and said she is open to feedback from community members.
“The Upshur County School system has some of the most talented students and dedicated teachers!” she said. “Additionally, with our committed team of administrators, at both the building and county levels, we anticipate continued academic growth and achievement and look forward to upcoming months. We encourage community members to visit our schools and to come by the Central office to talk with us about our school system.”