BUCKHANNON – At the end of this school year, Upshur County Schools will be saying goodbye and thank you to four members of their administrative team.
These four – business manager George Carver, B-UHS assistant principal Carla Rogers, transportation director Randy Hardman and Washington District Elementary School Principal Jeanne Bennett – have logged a combined total of more than 100 years of work experience. Needless to say, those taking over the positions will have some big shoes to fill.
My Buckhannon sat down with these folks (while practicing good social distancing) to give readers an in-depth look at why they decided to work in Upshur County Schools, share their greatest accomplishments and offer advice for those who will be doing their jobs in the future.
George Carver used to work for Allegheny Energy in Fairmont for 17 years in the accounting department and worked in public accounting for a few years before that.
“My first job in a school system as treasurer was in Taylor County in 2003,” Carver said. “I worked there for six years before transferring to Upshur County July 2009, so I have been doing this particular job for 17 years.”
In Upshur County, Carver said the age of the school buildings is a huge challenge.
“We haven’t opened a new school since 1987 when Union Elementary School opened. So, our newest school is more than 30 years old,” he said. “During my time here working with various administrators, we have managed to replace HVAC systems at four elementary schools, replaced roofs at several schools and completed lighting and electric upgrades.”
“We have been able to do that with the excess levy monies the voters have given us and by using those funds to leverage funds through the School Building Authority,” he added. “So, we have spent many millions of dollars over the years to extend the life of those buildings. That is what I feel the best about.”
Carver said his decision to work in Upshur County Schools came because he was living in Buckhannon but had been driving out of the county to work since 1979.
“I was getting tired of doing that, so when the job came up in Upshur County Schools, I decided I would be doing the same thing but would only have to walk across the street to do that,” he said. “That made sense to me.”
He decided to retire this year as he has reached the age of 65 and has been working for 40-some years without ever taking a long vacation.
“I felt like it was time to let someone younger and more energetic do the job,” he said. “I had plans to travel, but the current COVID-19 situation has put those plans into turmoil. We were planning to get in our car and go out west, sightseeing, and visit our son in Oregon. We are not sure when we will get to do that.”
Carver said he has been working with his replacement.
“My advice to him is remember that it is a marathon and not a sprint,” Carver said. “You need to pace yourself and take the time to learn the nuances of things and don’t be in too much of a hurry to learn everything – it will come to you in time.”
Carver said he and his family moved to Buckhannon in 1979.
“My wife taught at B-UMS for more than 30 years, and she worked in the Upshur County BOE Office for a couple years,” he said. “She is retired. We had two sons who went through the school system in Upshur County and it is a great place to live.”
He said he wants folks to know that Upshur County is a quality school system.
“A lot of our students do well,” he said. “In my travels around the state, people from other counties have told me that good kids come from Upshur County. We have problems, like everyone else, but we produce great kids.”
“I am happy to have had the opportunity to work in Upshur County Schools, and I hope I have done the job well,” Carver added. “I had some pretty big shoes to fill from my predecessors, and I received a lot of help from BOE members, superintendents and other treasurers from around the state. I am sure that help will be afforded to Mr. Perkins and know he will be able to continue that tradition and keep things moving.”
Buckhannon-Upshur High School Assistant Principal/
Carla Rogers has served in Upshur County Schools, for 35 years spending 30 of those years at Buckhannon-Upshur High School and five at Rock Cave Elementary School. She said her first 18 years were spent as the Marketing Education/Cooperative Education Teacher and DECA Advisor at B-UHS before leading Rock Cave Elementary School as principal.
“For the last 12 years, I have been the Assistant Principal/Career Technical Coordinator at B-UHS,” Rogers said.
During her long career, Rogers said she feels her greatest accomplishment has been making a difference in the lives of her students.
“Seeing my students become successful adults and now seeing their children become successful is my greatest accomplishment,” she said. “It is extremely rewarding when a former student thanks you for being their teacher/principal or when they tell you things they remember you taught them. I like to think I made a difference.”
Rogers grew up in Huntington and graduated from Marshall University before coming to Buckhannon and joining the Upshur County School System. She said she decided to come to Upshur County because at the time she graduated, there were very few marketing/cooperative education teaching positions available in West Virginia.
“Buckhannon-Upshur High School had an opening, so I came to visit Upshur County and check out the school,” Rogers said. “It happened to be the Wednesday of the Strawberry Festival, so everything was bright and festive. The school was still relatively new, and I was impressed.”
She really enjoyed seeing the area especially during such a festive time of year, adding that everyone was friendly and that she really enjoyed the small-town community feel.
“When I was offered the position, I gave myself three years to see if I liked Buckhannon and if I liked teaching,” Rogers said. “Well, 35 years later, I am still here! I like to say that I was raised in Huntington, but I grew up in Upshur County.”
So, after 35 years, Rogers said she has decided to retire and start another chapter in her life.
“There are so many changes happening (in the school system), and I felt it was time to make a change for myself,” she said. “I do not know what the next chapter in my life will be, but I do know God has a plan, and I have always trusted God.”
Rogers said she loves to travel, but said traveling depends on finances.
“I have worked since I was 13 years old and spent many summers working,” she said. “So, traveling, reading books and magazines and doing whatever I want to do is my plan right now for the future. I also would like to become more involved with ministry-type work. I may get a part-time job so I can stay social, but it will need to be one that does not require me to take work home.”
Rogers offered some advice to the person who will fill her shoes – be prepared and flexible.
“Be prepared to invest a great deal of time in your job. Love what you do,” she said. “Career and Technical Education was/is where my heart is, and I would love to have been able to spend more time in that area for our students.”
Rogers said she has a wonderful son who has a fiancé as well as a great family and fantastic friends.
“Upshur County has treated me very well,” she said. “I have met a lot of wonderful, kind people in the school system and the community. My plan is to stay here in the county, but when grandchildren come along, who knows?”
She said she would like for people to know she believes B-UHS is a great place for students to receive an education that will prepare them for the future.
“Just like all schools, we have issues, but I have been to many high schools throughout the state and we have a very good school,” she said. “We have great students. Personnel from the cooks to secretaries, custodians, teachers, counselors, aids and administration all care about the students, which has been evident during this COVID-19 pandemic.”
Rogers said it is bittersweet retiring.
“I will miss the students and staff and what I have known for the last 35 years,” she said.
Upshur County Schools Transportation Director Randy Hardman served 34 years with the system.
“I drove a bus for 30 of those years and have been the director of transportation for the last four years,” Hardman said.
Over the years, Hardman said what he enjoyed the most has been mentoring students by ‘trying to steer them in the right direction.’
“Some of the students have gone to college,” he said. “Mentoring the students on the bus is a really important thing.”
He said he wanted to be a bus driver due to the influence of another person when he was growing up – his childhood bus driver.
“My bus driver when I was a kid was someone I really loved,” Hardman said. “I worked in the coal fields later in life and they were beginning to shut down. I was looking for some place to go. I went to the Upshur County Schools Bus Garage, put in an application and have never looked back.”
Choosing to retire was not easy, but one Hardman said he feels is best for him.
“I chose to retire due to my age and my family,” Hardman shared. “Working takes a lot of time away from family and it gets to a point where you realize it is time to slow down and enjoy life. I was at that point, so I am going to slow down and relax a little bit – but I also have a ‘honey-do list’ that is a mile long.”
Hardman said he has upkeep he needs to tend to on his home.
For the person who steps into Hardman’s shoes, he offers the following advice.
“Use patience,” Hardman said. “Always be willing to listen to others and hear their stories. I do not have a degree in psychology but listening to others helps because your initial reaction to a situation may not be as fair until you get all the facts on the table. Once you know all the facts, you can make an educated decision on what you are dealing with.”
Principal, Washington District Elementary School
Jeanne Bennett has worked in Upshur County Schools for 30 years, starting as a substitute teacher before becoming a classroom teacher, Title I Reading Specialist, Literacy Coach, Parent Involvement Coordinator and Principal at Washington District Elementary School.
Bennett said her greatest accomplishment has been serving Upshur County students and working with parents.
“My experience as Parent Involvement Coordinator helped children prepare for school and that was a great accomplishment,” Bennett said. “I was the local nominee for the 1997 First-Year Teacher of the Year and Upshur County’s WVRA 1999 Eddy C. Kennedy Ready Teacher of the Year. However, seeing a child’s face when they grasp a concept being taught is an awe-inspiring reward all its own.”
Bennett said she has always been invested in her community so her decision to become a teacher was easy.
“Upshur County has been my home for 43 years. When my own children began school here, I volunteered in the classroom and felt a calling to return to school and get my education degree,” she said. “I already had a B.S. degree in journalism from West Virginia University, so I only needed to take additional education required classes to receive my B.A. in elementary education.”
She said her decision to retire was not easy, but she feels it will give her time to pursue other avenues.
“I have loved my career as a teacher and a leader,” Bennett said. “However, I also have other interests I would like to pursue while I still can. As a life-long learner, I am ready to try new things, travel and just be creative!”
Her advice to the person stepping up as principal of Washington District Elementary School is ‘to serve them well and keep the school thriving.’
“Washington District is a great community full of wonderful people,” she said.
Finally, Bennett would like everyone to know she is a born-again Christian who loves her family.
“I have three remarkable children and their spouses who love and work in West Virginia,” Bennett said. “They have blessed me with seven awesome grandchildren.”
Please join My Buckhannon in congratulating these folks for their fine work, helping students in Upshur County Schools and wishing them the best in their future endeavors!