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Upshur County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus

Following satisfactory review, BOE offers Stankus three-year contract extension

BUCKHANNON – Upshur County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus received a three-year contract extension during Tuesday’s Upshur County Board of Education meeting.

The news came following a 15-minute executive session.

Upshur County BOE Vice-President Katie Loudin made the motion for the Upshur County BOE to approve the three-year contract and approve the year one salary of $112,000 for Stankus. The motion received a second by BOE member Kristi Wilkerson and BOE members voted unanimously to accept the three-year contract.

Loudin said the BOE has been very impressed by all of the accomplishments Stankus and her team have made this year around technology and meeting the needs of Upshur County school students and families during very unique situations.

“We look forward to continue doing the work together as a team,” Loudin added.

In a press release issued by the BOE during Tuesday’s meeting, it was noted that, “Dr. Stankus and BOE staff have worked diligently to establish progressive plans for Upshur County Schools, while focusing on the success and well-being of all students. Through this collaboration, our county has adopted a variety of strategies and successful programs, including the one-to-one Apple initiative which allowed for all administrators, teachers and students to receive Apple devices to enhance teaching and learning practices during a unique pandemic year that has necessitated remote learning.”

Another partnership that was mentioned in the BOE’s release was the Communities in Schools platform. The release said grant funding in the amount of $384,000 allowed three facilitators to be hired to support students of Buckhannon Academy Elementary, Buckhannon-Upshur Middle and Buckhannon-Upshur High schools and said these facilitators will empower students to remain in school and achieve in their lives.

The release also talked about the partnership with Multitude Foods, the Foundation for Better Schools in Upshur County, Inc. and county leadership and staff who offered an unprecedented number of meals through food boxes, hot meal pickups and backpack programs to ensure food access for students.

Another initiative mentioned was how administration sought innovative approaches to operations and instruction at all levels and how staff were adaptive during the pandemic and embraced changes to better serve students and families through the adoption of new curriculum, GPS systems in transportation, new technology, security upgrades and facilities improvements.

The BOE stated they recognize Stankus’s salary ranks 43rd of 55 counties in the state and said as a Board, they continue to prioritize fiscal responsibility.

Dr. Tammy Samples, president of the Upshur County BOE, said, “Our Board is excited about the future of Upshur County Schools. Through our ongoing partnership and collaboration with our families and our community, we will work together to ensure the success of our staff and students.”

During the Feb. 23, 2021 BOE meeting, BOE members announced that during Stankus’s evaluation, she received a satisfactory review and said the evaluation touched on items such as college and career readiness, school community wellness, student achievement progress, county fiscal responsibility and communication.

Stankus was first selected to head Upshur County Schools as superintendent July 1, 2018 and she brought more than 30 years of education experience to the table, having served as principal of Union and Rock Cave Elementary Schools as well as serving as a counselor at Buckhannon-Upshur High and Hodgesville Elementary Schools.

During her first year as superintendent in 2019, Stankus helped facilitate the passage of the five-year excess levy – which passed at a two-to-one margin.

Regarding her three-year contract extension, Stankus said she is honored to have been selected to serve an additional three years in partnership with Upshur County BOE.

“Working in collaboration, we will continue to facilitate the best educational opportunities for our students and families,” she said. “Together, with our community, we will continue ‘Upshur Strong.’”

During a report from Director of Federal Programs Jody Johnson, BOE members learned that the number of full-time remote students in the county had dropped to 657 as of March 8, 2021. Johnson said that number of students represents 18 percent of the total enrollment of 3,573 students. Johnson reported there are 56 students enrolled in the West Virginia Virtual School and six students in a pilot program.

Johnson also said they surveyed teachers instructing full-time remote students and found out of those teaching elementary students, the highest number of full-time remote students a teacher had was eight; the most full-time remote students a middle school teacher had was 46 students; and the most full-time remote students a high school teacher had was 27 students.

Stankus gave a shout out to Buckhannon Academy Elementary School.

“They have the lowest percentage rates of remote students,” Stankus said. “They have 532 students and only 31 of those students are remote. They have gone to homes, they have gone to visit families on front porches, they have called, they have a very active Communities in School counselor – they have just all come together to make this happen. I really want to give a shout out to that very large school who has done a great job personalizing this message.”

BOE member Pat Long asked Johnson if she could provide an accounting of how many students were failing core classes at the next BOE meeting.

Also, during Tuesday’s BOE meeting, board members took the following actions:

  • Voted unanimously to accept the personnel recommendations that were presented.
  • Voted unanimously to approve the 2021-2022 school calendar where teachers will return to school Aug. 12, 2021 and students will begin Aug. 18, 2021. The last day of instruction will be May 22, 2022. Upshur County Schools Director of Facilities Tim Derico said the calendar was similar to the one presented this year and was a collaboration of surrounding counties who have students attending the Fred Eberle Technical Center.

The next Upshur County BOE meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 23, 2021 at Buckhannon-Upshur High School.

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