BUCKHANNON – On Thursday, Jan. 17, Upshur County Schools received some good news.
The good news – that the school system had been awarded a $15,000 Prevention Resource Officer Grant for the ninth consecutive year – came just two days prior to the great news the Upshur County Board of Education and central office administrators received on the night of Saturday, Jan. 19., when county voters passed the excess levy by a record margin.
At Thursday’s Jan. 24 commission meeting, director of student services Jodi Akers, Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School principal Renee Warner and superintendent Dr. Sara Stankus thanked the commission for their willingness to collaborate on the PRO grant, which is part of the W.Va. Justice Assistance Grant. School administrators were also there to thank county voters and the commission for their support of the levy.
The $15,000 PRO grant is a collaboration between the Upshur BOE, county sheriff’s department and commission, which, in part, pays for Cpl. CJ Day with the Upshur County Sheriff’s Department to be stationed as the prevention resource officer at B-UMS for the 2018-2019 school year.
“We just wanted to come before the commission to express our gratitude,” Akers said. “It’s hard to believe we’re in the ninth year of our PRO officer at the middle school.
“Of course, it’s only in collaboration with the commission, sheriff’s department and our Board of Education that we’re able to do that, so we’re just completely elated with the news that we received it again for the ninth year,” she added.
The grant monies are funneled through the county, and at Thursday’s meeting, the commission approved commission president Sam Nolte to sign the contract agreement and associated paperwork.
Warner, B-UMS principal, said Day’s presence has been a “blessing.”
“He’s able to go to our classrooms, mostly, and talk with our students about drug prevention, alcohol prevention, but probably the most important piece has been the rapport that he’s developed with the students,” Warner explained. “They come to him and give him information about social media issues. Sometimes, they go in and just talk to him about things that are going on at home, and I think that’s just probably the most valuable piece of this program.”
What’s more is Cpl. Day has founded a twice-weekly running club that meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school that draws in anywhere from five to 20 students per session.
“He’s been able to share his love of running and kind of developing that skill and that love for that lifelong sport with the students,” Warner said.
Stankus also weighed in, saying she was very appreciative of the commission support of the grant.
“You know that saying, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ – it’s really true in this case because students not only see an officer in uniform every day in their school, but they can engage with that officer, and quite often, as Mrs. Warner said, the students will tell CJ things that they won’t tell their teacher,” Stankus remarked.
Stankus also extended her gratitude to county voters who came out to cast their ballots in support of the levy on a rainy, dreary Saturday.
“[It passed by] the largest margin in the history of the county … so I’m really happy about that,” Stankus said.
A press release distributed by Upshur County Schools detailed the importance of Day’s role at B-UMS.
“The presence of a PRO at B-UMS continues to be an invaluable addition to our efforts to afford a safe, positive learning experience for our students,” the release states. “The PRO helps to offset the challenges of single-parent homes, low-income households … families dealing with unemployment, and students who experience multiple adverse childhood experiences.”
In addition, Day’s presence has helped fifth-graders with the transition into middle schools and eighth-graders with the transition into ninth grade at Buckhannon-Upshur High School, the release goes on to say.
In other county news, the commission tabled a funding request from Samantha Atchison, vice president of the Animal Outreach Project, which focuses on providing funds to assist residents in paying for spaying and neutering procedures for cats and dogs.
Atchinson said the group helped pay for 319 surgeries in 2018 – 117 of which were cat spays and 80 were dog spays.
“That, on average, prevents about 2,500 kittens and puppies from being born,” Atchinson told the commission. “We feel that working together in October, which we did, went really well, and I’m here today to ask for more continued support from you guys.”
Atchison said she was requesting funds to help pay for procedures during February. When AOP ran a special in February 2018, the response was overwhelming, with appointments being booked for over 170 animals.
“In surgeries alone, that was over $10,000,” Atchinson said of the group’s February 2018 efforts. “I feel that the success of that special was honestly due to the fact that it was income tax (return) time, and people had the extra money to help assist with having their pet spayed or neutered. We had so many people tell us that without that program, they would have never had the money to be able to help spay or neuter their pet.”
“We are the only group in the county that focuses solely on spay-and-neuter assistance for the public,” Atchison added.
Atchinson requested the commission contribute $5,000 from the spay-and-neuter assistance fund it shares with Lewis County to reduce the number of unwanted animals in the area. Lewis and Upshur counties share a spay-and-neuter assistance fund because the two counties jointly operate the Lewis-Upshur Animal Control Facility.
Nolte said he would check in with Lewis County Commissioner Agnes Queen to see if LCC was on board with the idea.
Commissioner Terry Cutright made a motion to table AOP’s request, which was seconded by commissioner Kristie Tenney, pending Nolte’s consultation with Queen.
Prior to adjourning, the commission also:
-Approved contributing $5,000 from the general county fund to support the Corridor H Authority for fiscal year 2019 at the request of Robbie Morris Jr., Robert C. Byrd Corridor H Authority chairperson.
-Tabled a request from Rick Harlow, president of the Upshur County Firefighter’s Association, expressing interest in serving on the Upshur County Fire Board upon Joe Malcolm’s term expiration on June 30, 2019.