TENNERTON – When Upshur County residents vote during the Nov. 8, 2022, general election, they will have the opportunity to renew the Upshur County Schools Excess Levy, which has been in place since 1999.
Upshur County Schools administrators have said that if the levy is renewed, it will not cause a rise in current taxes.
During Tuesday’s Upshur County Board of Education meeting, volunteers and staff from the Upshur County 4-H and WVU Extension Service reported on how the funds they receive from the excess levy through the board of education are used and outlined the services they provide to students in Upshur County Schools. Upshur County Schools Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus said 4-H and the Upshur County Extension Service are two items supported through levy monies.
“Each board meeting, we will be highlighting where our levy monies are spent,” Stankus said. “Craig Presar has come to share with us what Upshur County Extension Service does with the levy monies they receive.”
Presar said the extension service used to be called ‘cooperative’ because it highlighted cooperation between West Virginia University and local communities with support from boards of education, county commissions and various other funding bodies.
“Here in Upshur County, our main forms of support for the extension office and the things we do comes from the board of education and the county commission,” Presar said. “Each year, the board of education supports us with $21,000 to $22,000 – the bulk of which helps supplement the salary of Natasha Harris, the Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent through WVU. WVU pays for half of our salary and the BOE provides about $15,000 to support her salary.”
Harris spoke and said this is her seventh year in the position.
“We have been busy – we have had older and younger 4-H Camp, two Cloverbud Camps and a Show and Sale,” Harris said. “Then I went to the West Virginia State Fair where I was the superintendent of the Swine Barn.”
Harris said other things she does include helping at Rock Cave Elementary School gardening and the high tunnel at Hodgesville.
“We teach programs in the schools, but unfortunately we haven’t been able to do that since COVID,” Harris said. “We bring in different educational career programs or things geared toward the State Parks into the schools for the kids to learn about. We have also done the agriculture safety program, and that teaches the kids not only about agriculture safety but sun safety, water safety and that type of stuff.”
She also works with farmers across the state via the Women in Agriculture program and with several virtual programs – including the Master Gardener program.
Presar said the educational experiences they provide expand past schooling.
“We do adult and community education with the board’s support,” Presar said, and introduced the new 4-H Ambassadors from Upshur County.
“Laurel Metheney and Kari Gay are our inaugural pair of 4-H Ambassadors – our teen ambassadors,” Presar said. “Their job is to talk about 4-H and they are going to speak to what the support of the BOE means to their 4-H experience.”
Laurel said she has attended 4-H Camp for six years.
“I initially went to camp for summer camp and fell in love with the community of 4-H,” Laurel shared. “I am helping plan camps, am working on my projects and working to improve and clean Council Circle. I earned my 4-H Charting Pin this year, which is a program that teaches me who I am and helps me decide who I want to be. In my Junior year, I was selected as an ambassador. This is important to me because I have learned to be a leader and I wish to help serve my community.”
Laurel said she wants to continue in 4-H and hopes to become a 4-H All-Star and be a counselor at 4-H Camps following her first year of college.
“4-H has helped me to step out of my comfort zone and be more outgoing,” Laurel said. “It has also helped me with my public speaking.”
Kari said she joined 4-H more for the livestock side of the program.
“I do 4-H Camps, but the bigger part for me lies in the agricultural aspect,” Kari shared. “One of the many opportunities the levy supports is the agricultural side which helps many Upshur Countians. I have shown livestock for 8 years, and 4-H has taught me more than I could have imagined. Through the livestock program, kids learn to take care of species of livestock, show them and then sell them to get money saved for college and future endeavors. This program also teaches responsibility as they learn to take care of their projects whether that be caring for their garden or their animals.”
Kari said many students benefit from the agricultural aspect of 4-H.
“This is important to us,” Kari said. “Thank you for your support through the levy. This makes these opportunities possible and we appreciate it.”
Presar said he also provides classroom support.
“My goal this year is to provide about 150 hours of classroom support in programming,” Presar said. “In addition to the classroom work, we also offer our shooting sports program where we have Upshur County students and 4-Hers working with archery. We collaborate with the Archery in the Schools Program.”
Presar said there were nearly 200 students who participated in the Shooting Sports program.
“This is both archery and air rifles,” Presar said. “We worked a lot on safe handling of firearms and bows and arrows. We work on building good habits at a very young age. This has been a very successful program.”
He said Upshur County has the largest Shooting Sports program, that he knows of, in the state of West Virginia.
“We do want to thank you for your support and want you to let us help you spread the word and encourage folks to vote for the levy,” Presar said.