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Pictured, from left, are Upshur County Schools Interim Superintendent Dr. Debra Harrison and Upshur BOE President Dr. Tammy Samples at the board's March 21 meeting. / Photo by Katie Kuba

School board votes to post superintendent position, rescinds interim appointment

TENNERTON – The Upshur County Board of Education rescinded the appointment of Upshur County’s interim superintendent of schools for an additional year and voted to post the superintendent position vacancy Tuesday.

During its March 21 meeting at Buckhannon-Upshur High School, Upshur BOE President Dr. Tammy Samples said an error made at the BOE’s Feb. 7, 2023, meeting was her fault and asked board members to rescind the recent extension of Dr. Debra Harrison as the interim superintendent of Upshur County Schools.

The extension of Harrison’s original appointment in August 2022 would have begun July 1, 2023, and ended June 30, 2024. Rescinding the Feb. 7 action was necessary to abide by the requirements of West Virginia Code 18-4-1, which limits how long interim superintendents can serve.

“This was an error on my part when we did that,” Samples said. “This has nothing to do with the [interim] superintendent (Harrison) or assistant superintendent (assistant interim superintendent Melinda Stewart), but we have to rescind, so I would recommend that we rescind that appointment.”

Board member Roy Wager made a motion to rescind the contract extension, which was seconded by board member Sherry Dean before passing unanimously.

The error with Harrison’s contract involved renewing it as an interim position. Under West Virginia Code, if a vacancy arises in the county superintendent’s position, interim superintendents appointed before March 1 may only serve until June 30. Former Upshur County Schools Superintendent Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus resigned from her position in August of 2022 to accept a position as a state deputy superintendent, and Harrison moved into the interim role at that time.

At its Feb. 7 meeting, the BOE had voted 3-0 with two abstentions – Wager and BOE vice president Jan Craig – to extend Harrison’s contract as interim superintendent with all its current terms and conditions from its original end date of June 30, 2023 for an additional year. But according to code, the position cannot be extended on an interim basis, and that’s the error the board corrected by rescinding the appointment Tuesday night.

At the beginning of the March 21 meeting, Wager requested that Item 21, listed as Superintendent Discussion, be conducted in executive session due to its classification as a personnel matter, and board members unanimously approved Wager’s motion. Following an approximate 15-minute executive session, the board reconvened in open session, and Samples made a motion to post the position.

“I would like to make a motion that we create a posting for the superintendent position,” she said. Wager seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.

Samples said the BOE plans to seek assistance from the West Virginia School Board Association.

“At this point, we will plan to perhaps seek guidance from the School Board Association to assist us with this search,” she said.

According to its website, the WVBSA “shall provide local boards of education technical assistance and supports” related to superintendent searches. Some aspects of the search they assist with include, but aren’t limited to, help in developing a timeline for conducting a superintendent search; help with developing a superintendent vacancy posting tailored specifically for a district; assistance with advertising a superintendent vacancy posting in local and statewide media; assistance with the submission, review, and screening process of prospective applicants; and help in developing interview questions based on the vision, mission and priorities identified by the Board.

The WVBSA can also help craft a proposed employment contract for the selected candidate.

The next regular BOE meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on March 28 at Buckhannon-Upshur High School.

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