Top vote-getters in Upshur Board of Education react to election results

BUCKHANNON – The three winners in the nonpartisan race for Upshur County Board of Education have more than 100 years of combined service in the classroom, on the school bus and in administrative offices.

While Roy Wager (1,804 votes), Sherry Dean (1,776 votes) and Jan Craig (1,188 votes) emerged as the top vote-getters by the end of the night May 10, the margin between the top candidates was, for some time, razor-thin. With 13 of Upshur County’s 20 precincts reporting results, the top two vote-getters for the Upshur County Board of Education were Wager with 1,163 total votes compared to the second highest vote-getter – Dean, with 1,162 votes. The two candidates were separated by just one vote.

When all was said and done, Wager (1st District), Dean (2nd District) and Craig (1st District) were the clear unofficial winners. There cannot be more than two people from each of the three districts on the board at the same time. Following the top three were Robert “Todd” Starkey (3rd District — 1,088 votes); Dave Chipps (1st District – 972 votes); Brandon Weese (2nd District – 851 votes); Tom O’Neill (1st District – 684 votes); Derrick Aegan (3rd District – 646 votes); Robert Osburn (1st District – 585 votes); Jesse Davidson (3rd District – 421 votes); Buck Edwards (1st District – 344 votes); and

Wager, who retired as Upshur County Schools superintendent several years ago, explained why he decided to run for the Board of Education.

“I have been very concerned about the morale of the teachers,” Wager told My Buckhannon. “I am concerned about the student test scores and, in my estimation, due to the pandemic, the students have lost a year of education because of virtual learning.”

Wager said he felt the virtual learning was not working.

“I think we lost a lot of good teachers because they were frustrated and they felt virtual learning was not working,” Wager said.

Wager responded to concerns about the shape of the Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School building by saying he felt the timing for the recent bond level election in January 2022 was not ideal.

“We need to re-evaluate where we can go with that and what our options are as far as getting funds,” Wager said. “We need a new middle and high school. We need to find funding through grants to at least totally remodel if we cannot build new schools.”

Wager said he is excited to have won a seat on the Upshur County Board of Education.

“I cannot thank the citizens of Upshur County enough,” Wager said. “I know a lot of people in this county, and I am overwhelmed right now.”

Like Wager, Dean was also at the Upshur County Courthouse watching as the totals came in. Dean said she was a bus driver, a teacher and an administrator.

“I love what I do, and I love the kids. I love Upshur County and I love the system. I retired and kept seeing that the school system, in my opinion, needed help,” Dean said. “When this opportunity opened up, I said a prayer and stepped out. We need more people to step out. Our community needs us, and we need to step out and help.”

Dean said she has a heart to serve and is looking forward to helping find solutions to the teacher shortage and to the hostility some students face.

“I am talking about the bullying and the harassing and students who are being mean to one another,” Dean said. “I want to find solutions to these. I am really not too pleased with the curriculum either. I want to look at these things and work as a team to find solutions to the issues and work through those and doing what is best for everyone involved. I want to use common sense because I feel we are lacking that.”

Dean said Upshur County needs a new middle school.

“Construction will cost a lot of money and removal of all of the asbestos will be costly as well,” Dean said. “Right now, we are just coming through the pandemic and a lot of people have lost their jobs. People have been sick. The first virtual learning did not work and the second round worked a lot better.”

Dean said as an Upshur County Board of Education member, she wants to be a good steward of taxpayers’ money.

“Right now, building a big, huge school and going into debt is not feasible,” Dean said. “There has got to be a better way and we need to search for that better way.”

Dean thanked Upshur County voters.

“I will do my very best and I will work very hard,” Dean said. “I might be a little unconventional. I will do whatever I can do within the law. I will be out there and visible and open.”

Craig said her motivation in seeking a seat on the Upshur County Board of Education is to make a difference.

“I worked in the school system for 32 years and I have watched what has happened to the school system,” Craig said. “I want us to bring back the pride and open communication and honesty we have had in the past.”

Craig said during one of the debates, she talked about the condition of the school buildings.

“The voters clearly spoke during the bond election, but we still have the issue,” Craig said. “We still have a middle school that is not ADA-compliant. I came up with an idea that has garnered some momentum. The three-story part is not ADA-compliant and cannot be made ADA-compliant. The old part was built in the 1970s. We need to demolish the front part, keep the cafeteria and make the back part be our BOE office and the transitional school and we need to sell the block we own of Smithfield Street.”

“We tried to buy a Cadillac on a Kia budget with the bond and the voters said no,” she added. “We need to think outside the box and make these schools work, so they are safe and compliant for all students. We cannot do over and over what we keep doing.”

Craig said she cannot thank the voters in Upshur County enough.

“I hope they see that I bleed blue and white and that I want what is best for Upshur County Schools,” Craig said. “The students, the staff and the community need to work together because this can work. It has to be a team effort. I am a team player, but I am going to stand up for what is ethical, honest and open communication every single time, whether anybody agrees with me or not.”

Election results won’t be official until the votes are canvassed at 9 a.m. May 16, but you can view all the unofficial results here.

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