Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus / Photo courtesy Upshur County Schools

Board of education votes to give Upshur Schools superintendent positive evaluation

TENNERTON – The Upshur County Board of Education voted to accept the evaluation of Upshur County Schools Superintendent Dr. Sara Lewis-Stankus.

The evaluation, which covers the time over the past year she has served as superintendent, said Stankus ‘met or exceeded’ each indicator. BOE Vice President Katie Loudin read a statement regarding Stankus’s evaluation following an executive session lasting just over one hour during Tuesday’s meeting.

“The Upshur County School Board met in regular session on June 14, 2022, and completed the yearly performance evaluation for the superintendent of Upshur County Schools,” Loudin read. “Dr. Stankus met or exceeded each indicator on the goals and the optional categories of the evaluation.”

BOE member Dr. Greenbrier Almond made a motion to accept the evaluation and BOE member Patrick Long seconded the motion. BOE President Dr. Tammy Samples, Vice President Katie Loudin, BOE member Dr. Greenbrier Almond and BOE member Patrick Long voted to accept the superintendent’s evaluation.

BOE member Kristi Wilkerson abstained from voting.

The superintendent’s evaluation contained five main goals which included the students of Upshur County demonstrating significant and continued growth in the acquisition of skills to be college and career ready; students developing personal skills and dispositions of wellness, responsibility, cultural awareness, self-direction, ethical character and good citizenship in an environment that is caring and safe; fostering effective communication and relationships with and among the community; providing financial resources and services in support of the goals and purpose of Upshur County Schools; and providing modern, efficient facilities conducive to college and career readiness learning standards and outcomes that respond to workforce and economic demands.

Prior to the executive session, Stankus enumerated some of the strategies she used to accomplish these goals, including project-based learning at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School, the simulated workplace at Buckhannon-Upshur High School, the PALS program, Portrait of a Graduate characteristics, strategic plans, a collaborative between MOVE 304 and the alternative school and the creation of an E-Sports Lab and Team at Buckhannon-Upshur High School.

“As we reflect on this past year, we have a lot to celebrate,” Stankus said. “It’s the hard work of the people in the classroom, in the schoolhouse, on the buses and the directors at our county office that we really have to celebrate. We have seen so many resilient staff, students and families in our community. While we recognize those daily challenges that our students, parents and educators face, we recognize we have better tools now to keep our schools safe and thriving during and after the pandemic.”

Stankus said Upshur County Schools is blessed to have a proactive Board of Education.

“Thank you, for your support and wisdom to offer one-to-one devices to each and every student, and teachers and even the bus drivers have an iPad now along with the support staff – everyone has a device,” Stankus said. “We are equipped in our classrooms with the most up-to-date technology and tools. We have trained our staff in utilizing those tools.”

Stankus said everyone recognizes the most important piece of student achievement, teaching and learning is the teacher and the student in the classroom.

Another strategy Stankus highlighted is maintaining a positive cash flow with a projected increase in carryover funding, which included $1,178,000 in 2019; $2,193,000 in 2020; $5,407,000 in 2021; and a projected increase in 2022. She also listed some grants received by Upshur County Schools, including $10,400,000 for all grants excluding construction and School Building Authority Grants.

“Education does make a difference and education can equalize the playing field for our kids,” Stankus said. “We are making a difference. This is a force to help every student thrive, no matter their background, their zip code, their circumstances or the language that is spoken in their home. We want to have our students thrive as we recover from this pandemic. We speak often about the learning gaps that have developed as a result of the pandemic, but we have met that challenge, and we are moving in the right direction. Every single school in Upshur County has shown growth. Every single school. We are moving in the right direction. It is something to celebrate.”

Stankus said Upshur County Schools is offering wrap-around programs, support for students, authentic and meaningful parent and family engagement.

“That is important because we know the teacher cannot do it alone; we need the families helping us do this,” Stankus said. “Across the county, we have used our unprecedented resources to invest in strategies that will help our students catch up and succeed.”

Offerings to help with that include tutoring, after-school programs and summer programs to meet the needs of the students, Stankus said.

“Most of the trips our students are taking this summer are in West Virginia,” Stankus said. “This past year, most of the students in our elementary schools took a tour downtown. They toured city hall and learned about the courthouse and what is happening in Buckhannon.”

Stankus emphasized that even though the summative test results are embargoed, they show every single school in Upshur County has had growth.

“We are going to be celebrating when these are no longer embargoed,” Stankus said. “We are excited to share. Even after a pandemic, we, in Upshur County Schools, are moving in the right direction.”

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