BUCKHANNON — Dr. Sara Lewis-Stankus, Superintendent of Upshur County Schools, will assume the role of Deputy State Superintendent for the West Virginia Department of Education. An educator with 32 years of experience, Dr. Lewis-Stankus reflects upon her time serving in Upshur and surrounding counties.
As a first-generation college student, she was inspired by nurturing teachers, who influenced her career choice.
“I am thankful to have had the advantage of being surrounded by nurturing teachers in my two-room schoolhouse at Tallmansville. The work we do for our students is important and it has an impact that lasts a lifetime. All students benefit from adults who care about their wellbeing and success,” says Dr. Lewis-Stankus.
Dr. Lewis-Stankus states, “I have been honored to serve in various capacities for the advancement of educating children. This includes my service as teacher, special education teacher, counselor, principal, and county superintendent.”
During her time in Upshur County, she worked with a team of excellent leaders to bring the county to academic and financial stability. Dr. Lewis-Stankus was successful in several programs that resulted in increased graduation and achievement rates. During her first year as superintendent, she led the county school system in passing the excess levy with the greatest passage rate in the history of school levies. Other initiatives led under her administration include a Partnership with the International Center for Leadership in Education to increase effective leadership and instructional strategies in all schools in Upshur County.
A priority during her time as superintendent was to work with her team to create programs responsive to the business climate in Upshur County and the state; with the goal of raising the number of Buckhannon-Upshur students who attend Fred Eberle, including after-school offerings. One such example was the “Taste of the Trades” program offered to Middle School students to develop their interest in the trade and skill programs.
Dr. Lewis-Stankus worked to strengthen relationships with her community to increase programs to respond to the social and emotional needs of students. Under her leadership, she brought programs to benefit Upshur County students such as Community in Schools, PAX, School-Based Health Clinics, Asset Building Collaborative (ABC) program to provide social workers and counselors in every school. As a former counselor, Dr. Lewis-Stankus understands the importance of mental health for staff and students.
Dr. Lewis-Stankus developed a Department of Wellness and Child Nutrition, which focuses on child and employee wellness. She was instrumental in prioritizing a faculty/staff wellness area in schools as well as a position dedicated to student’s wellness and conditioning. Additionally, she and her team worked with WV Office of Child Nutrition to build a strong Farm to School Program, offering fresh and local foods in in our school cafeterias, with a high tunnel/greenhouse constructed at each school to engage students in learning the importance of nutritious foods.
When the pandemic impacted our families, Upshur County was prepared, as Dr. Lewis-Stankus led the team in a county-wide initiative to improve and upgrade the technology infrastructure and resources reflective of “future thinking” with internet connectivity on buses and various locations in Upshur County. Under her leadership, each student was provided a one-to-one Apple device, while classrooms were equipped with technology capable of synchronous learning.
During her first year as superintendent, Dr. Lewis-Stankus was tasked with developing the ten-year Comprehensive Education Facilities Plan (CEFP). This plan reflects the desires and needs of the community and students, creating opportunities for district, school, and community stakeholders to develop a vision for educational facilities and learning for the next ten years. Many of the projects have been funded under Dr. Lewis-Stankus’ leadership, including a $2.2 million addition of a safe schools entry and Pre-K classroom at Hodgesville Elementary School. Future projects approved also include a $1.6 million safe schools entry/Pre-K and Kindergarten additions at Tennerton Elementary, with plans to submit a proposal to the School Building Authority in the spring to build a new Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School.
Serving as Superintendent of Upshur County Schools for five years, Dr. Lewis-Stankus shares, “It has been my pleasure to serve as the Superintendent of Upshur County Schools. I look forward to the opportunities ahead, and I am excited to promote the students and staff of this great state by serving as the newly appointed West Virginia Deputy State Superintendent of Schools.”
Dr. Lewis-Stankus will join the West Virginia Department of Education as deputy superintendent beginning August 29, 2022.