Pictured, from left, are Upshur County Schools Superintendent Christy Miller, Upshur Board of Education President Dr. Tammy Samples and Board Vice President Jan Craig at the Nov. 7 board of education meeting.

State Department of Education to present findings, final report at December Upshur County Board of Education meeting

TENNERTON – The West Virginia Department of Education will attend the Upshur County Board of Education’s December meeting to present its findings and a final report to the board related to the June 2023 state takeover.

State-appointed Upshur County Superintendent of Schools Christy Miller told the board of education that she’s “thrilled” about the development so the county can take corrective actions and move forward.

The discussion began at this week’s Upshur County Board of Education meeting when Vice President Jan Craig requested that the item “Board Member Comments” be restored to all future board meeting agendas.

“Currently, we are kind of forced into a lame duck situation, but not in all areas, only those enumerated by the state, and that is not an area,” Craig said. “I would also like for us to revisit [inviting] the LSICs (Local School Improvement Councils) and the Faculty Senates. I know that is not required by law … but I’ve had a number of requests that that is their one time to come and speak with us and give us their concerns.”

While in state takeover, the board of education has been stripped of its powers, particularly concerning finances, personnel, federal programs and real estate transactions.

Craig said she was also frustrated that no update had been provided regarding transitional/alternative education programs and special education services.

“I would also like to see us have follow-ups on transitional/alternative programs, special ed – areas in which we have not been stripped of our knowledge – because our current board meeting method is not helping us to learn what the state wants from us to be able to stand alone without takeover, and that’s where we have to start, in my opinion, to be able to stand on our own two feet without [them],” she said.

Miller addressed some of those concerns during her report, saying since she started July 1, she’s been attempting to secure a final report from the state “on all of the areas that were identified and what the expectation was for us as a county system to be able to work toward remedying the situation.”

At least two of those identified areas are child nutrition and travel.

Miller said the WVDE’s Office of Accountability will deliver a report to the State Board of Education at its Dec. 13 meeting at 9 a.m. in Charleston.

“They will be presenting the final report with corrective actions that must be addressed in Upshur County,” Miller said. “After that is accepted by the State Board, members of the West Virginia Department of Education will be attending our December board meeting to make that presentation to us in a formalized manner.”

That meeting is slated for 6 p.m. Dec. 19 in the Buckhannon-Upshur High School auditorium.

No Upshur County Schools takeover/intervention updates were provided at the September, October or November State Board of Education meetings.

“I am thrilled that we are finally going to be getting that kind of a report from them because we have been asking for that almost weekly,” Miller said. “As I’ve shared with them, we can make those corrective actions, but we have to know what those corrective actions are and what the expectations are, or we cannot move forward, so it has really stifled us.”

She shared an update on alternative/transitional school programming, renamed Systems of Support, formerly the PALS program. According to Miller, the district has formalized an agreement with Mountainside Applied Behavioral Analysis in Elkins, and the firm plans to open a location in Buckhannon.

“They will continue to be able to come into our schools and work directly with our students in classrooms as well as in therapy sessions,” she said.

The superintendent said the district wants to ensure the placement of students in transitional programs is temporary.

“One of the things we noticed was that it seems like when kids get into alternative programs, there’s no way out, and we have to come up with some kind of a transition to get them back into the regular settings,” she said.

All Systems of Support programs are functioning at the elementary, middle and high school levels, but credit recovery at the high school level is an area of concern.

“We met with them last week to check on credits and how they’re doing,” Miller said. “We are making progress for some; we have a lot of work to do with others.”  

“I think the message that we have been sharing is that we’re not giving up on anyone. Everyone needs to be able to matriculate through [earning a] high school diploma, and we’re doing everything we can to make sure our kids are given this opportunity.”

Also, during the Nov. 7 meeting, Miller gave the following updates:

  • She held the first Superintendent Advisory Committee meeting last week with service and professional personnel, during which school district employees brought many issues to her attention. That committee will continue to meet monthly. “They are very concerned about things like you are, particularly related to the state takeover,” Miller said.
  • Mr. Stephen Wotring, retired Preston County superintendent who is helping Miller part-time, held an inaugural strategic planning meeting with principals, assistant principals, teachers, counselors, Communities in Schools coordinators, administrators/director from the Central Office and board president Dr. Tammy Samples. “We are working on coming up with a vision and mission – what our beliefs are,” she said. “Mr. Wotring is leading that work.”
  • The school district has hired two additional counselors from Community Care of West Virginia. Miller said once a Student Services Director is hired, that person will supervise all school counselors and service providers from outside agencies who work with Upshur students. “We want to make sure the school system is supporting the students appropriately when they are with us during the day; we don’t want to be doing something that’s counterintuitive to the progress they’re making in therapy and counseling that they may be receiving outside the school system.”
  • Jodie Akers, director of Transportation/Attendance and Student Services, resigned Nov. 8, according to the list of personnel provided at the board meeting.

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