BUCKHANNON – The curator of the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History on Wednesday presented a check for nearly $30,000 for Buckhannon-Upshur High School for much-needed lighting and sound upgrades to the high school’s auditorium.
Randall Reid-Smith, who is also a member of West Virginia Governor Jim Justice’s Cabinet, delivered the check and greetings from the governor, First Lady and their beloved canine at Wednesday’s Upshur County Board of Education meeting.
Reid-Smith said there is nobody he has met in West Virginia who loves students as much as Justice and First Lady Cathy Justice.
“Hello from the Governor, hello from the First Lady and hello from BabyDog!” he exclaimed, referencing Justice’s English bulldog whose viral popularity led Justice to make her the face of his COVID-19 vaccination campaign, ‘Do it for BabyDog.”
Reid-Smith explained why the ability to present the school with funding was so meaningful to him.
“At the Department of Arts, Culture and History, we have a program called Cultural Facilities,” Smith said. “We are one of 13 states that has a brick-and-mortar program. When I came back to West Virginia, we could not fund schools because they were state agencies – so we got the code changed. My goal was to build future audiences for the arts and the only way you are going to do that is to work in schools.”
Smith said he was pleased to be able to present the grant to B-UHS.
“God only made football so we could have a half-time show,” Smith joked, as he presented a check for $29,179 to Eddie Vincent, Upshur County Schools director of wellness and child nutrition and Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus, Upshur County superintendent of schools. “It is all about the arts!”
Stankus said the project would cost, in total, $60,000 and involved installing an all-new lights and sound system in the B-UHS Auditorium.
“We know this auditorium is used for all community performances,” Stankus said. “We are excited that we are no longer going to have to use hand-held microphones. They will be built in with our new sound and light system.”
Smith said it was a great project, and Stankus presented Smith with a B-UHS baseball cap and T-shirt.
“There are some people who have the good fortune of being born and raised and continue to work here in Upshur County,” Stankus said. “Then, there are those who continue to support this community. This is not the only project that you have helped Upshur County with. The Colonial Theatre (Colonial Arts Center), Music in the Schools – which provided $40,000 for instruments in the schools – and you continue to serve on boards where we have applied for grants for culture in the schools. Tonight, we are dubbing you as an honorary (distinguished) Buccaneer.”
On Thursday, Buckhannon-Upshur High School Choral Director Jeremiah Smallridge offered his thanks to Smith and the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History.
“The money will be used to update the Buckhannon-Upshur High School’s auditorium lighting and sound equipment,” Smallridge said. “The current equipment is extremely outdated, and some is unusable. This grant, paired with the funds set aside by Upshur County Board of Education, will be used to bring us up to current technology standards.”
Smallridge said everyone at the school – staff, teachers and students – are very pleased to receive the grant.
“We’re excited that our facilities will finally match the commitment and talent level of our students,” Smallridge said. “We are very thankful to be receiving this financial help.”
Buckhannon-Upshur High School Principal Jonathan Pollock expressed his appreciation for the grant Thursday as well.
“We are entirely grateful for Randall Reid-Smith and the West Virginia Arts and Culture’s generosity in allowing us to enhance our music and arts programs,” Pollock said. “We want the best for our students, and this is a major boon for them.”
Also, during Wednesday’s BOE meeting, members were introduced to Matthew Jett, who was approved as the new wellness and conditioning coordinator for Upshur County Schools during the June 15, 2021, board meeting. Jett will assume his duties during the 2021-2022 school year and his office will be located at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School.
Jett said he has worked at West Virginia Wesleyan College for the last five years. He told board members he was “born in Mississippi, raised in Arizona, educated in Pennsylvania, refined in Indiana and made wonderful in West Virginia.”
He said he was looking for a new challenge and was impressed when he heard about the opportunity of the new wellness and conditioning coordinator.
“We plan to tackle a ground-up strength approach – not just with the high school athletes, but we are trying to create a transitional way for kids to go from sixth grade all the way through 12th grade – try to create a plan for long-term athletic development so we can maximize their potential,” Jett said. “This will help them hit the ground running and will be beneficial to our students.”
Jett said he thinks he will be able to remove a lot of stress from coaches’ plates.
“They do not have to worry about wellness and conditioning for their athletes,” he said. “That is my job now. I can take that stress on and get their minds at ease. It makes it easier for them.”
Vincent said Jett will be working with elementary and middle school physical education programs.
“He will also be working with adult fitness programs,” Vincent said. “He will also be working on nutrition and injury prevention – all of the things we talked about.”
The next Upshur County Board of Education meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 27 at Buckhannon-Upshur High School Auditorium.
Check back with My Buckhannon to see athletic coaches and teams who received Upshur Stars at Wednesday’s BOE meeting along with updates about the proposed critical need incentive proposal, which is scheduled to possibly be voted on during the July 27 meeting.