The Upshur County Board of Education holds its first meeting since the W.Va. Department of Education takeover. Pictured, from left, are assistant superintendent Russ Collett, superintendent Christy Miller and board president Dr. Tammy Samples. / Katie Kuba

New Upshur County Schools superintendent emphasizes return to student-focused education amid state control

TENNERTON – The newly appointed superintendent on Tuesday said she hopes to transform Upshur County Schools into a stellar, student-focused educational system while strictly adhering to state policy.

At the July 11 meeting of the Upshur County Board of Education – the first time the board has met since the West Virginia Department of Education seized control of Upshur County Schools in a June 14 takeover – Upshur County Schools Superintendent Christy Miller introduced herself and provided a brief overview of her background.

She also encouraged residents to ask questions and assured meeting attendees that following state educational policy was a key priority.

Following the West Virginia Board of Education’s meeting in June, the state Department of Education appointed Miller, who has served as the Taylor County Schools superintendent for the last five years, as the new Upshur County Schools superintendent, effective July 1. The department tapped Russ Collett, who had previously been selected by the county board of education as superintendent, as Miller’s assistant superintendent.

“I look at what lies ahead like the planting of a seed, cultivating it with fertilizer, water and sun, and ultimately seeing the fruits of our labor in a strong vital plant that can withstand any storm that comes our way,” Miller said at Tuesday’s meeting. “We will have to embrace change and sometimes navigate rough waters and decisions that we may not all agree on.”

Miller said it was important for everyone in the school system to remember why they do what they do.

“[It is important to see] the ‘why’ in why we do things as we are growing into a strong educational system that is here for our kids,” she said. “Sharing this with you, I also will ask for blessings, grace and patience as we learn how to improve a system that has employees ready to meet the challenges before us today so we have a stronger system that sends students prepared into the world for post-secondary studies, work, the military or trade school.”

Miller emphasized that it’s understandable that employees, staff, parents, students and residents likely have lingering questions – and admitted that, at this point, she doesn’t have all the answers.

“You may still have questions; that is to be expected,” Miller said. “I still have many and some with no answers today, but the one thing I can assure you of this evening is we will work diligently every day to find answers and build a system that everyone in Upshur County can be proud of and want to become a part of while we also follow policy.”

Miller said throughout the state takeover, board meetings are mostly informational sessions because the local board no longer has the authority to make decisions regarding finances, personnel, federal programs, real estate transactions, etc.  

“When you are in a state takeover, what has to happen is everything must be submitted to the State Department [of Education] 10 days in advance of a meeting,” she explained. “That gives them the opportunity to make sure that everything that we are submitting and putting on an agenda receives their full approval first. They approve it, and basically, board meetings become informational.”

“While the board operates differently now, in the future, we will see a stronger united front that truly has students’ best interest guiding the decisions made for today but also for tomorrow — again, following policy,” Miller added.

She welcomed residents to call or stop by the Upshur BOE’s Central Office.

“I do want to encourage you to continue to call and ask questions; if you don’t understand something, please reach out because I can guarantee I’ll be reaching out to the community to help me understand so that we can forge ahead and make this the best system that West Virginia has ever seen for our students,” Miller said. “I look forward to this opportunity, and I hope that together we really can we make a difference in all of our students’ lives.”

Miller has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Fairmont State University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from West Virginia University. She has also served as the executive director of the Division of Student and School Support for the state Department of Education.

The next regular meeting of the Upshur County Board of Education is slated for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 8, at Buckhannon-Upshur High School.

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