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Upshur County Schools Superintendent Christy Miller during the county board of education's Dec. 19, 2023, meeting in the B-UHS Auditorium. / (Photo by Katie Kuba)

Upshur superintendent announces ‘aggressive’ schedule for the release of newly drafted policies

TENNERTON – The superintendent of Upshur County Schools said personnel, parents, students and other stakeholders should be on the lookout for the release of a slew of newly drafted policies that will guide the county school system’s operations.

At the Upshur County Board of Education’s Dec. 19, 2023, meeting, Superintendent Christy Miller announced the district will maintain an “aggressive,” fast-paced schedule for the posting of – and comment period for – newly drafted policies to be included in the county’s new policy and procedures manual.

The posting of the new policies will begin in January 2024.

Miller said administrators are meeting with an independent multi-state provider of educational policy service, Neola, on Jan. 3, 2024. Neola assists school districts in drafting policies that guide the operations of schools while also addressing the implications of those policies and “the ever-evolving” mandates from local, state and national government, according to its website.

“[That meeting] is to begin the process of the implementation of a new policy manual that’s up-to-date and supported through West Virginia Code and WVDE policy,” she said.

The public will have a chance to review and comment on the new policies on the Upshur County Schools website for a 30-day period.

“Here’s what I need to tell you: This is a very aggressive schedule because we need to have in place by July 1 of 2024 a complete policy manual to guide everything that we are supposed to be doing in Upshur County Schools,” she said. “In January, we are going to be throwing a lot out, and in February, March, April, May. We’re going to get there, but I do want to call your attention to the fact that in January, we will start that very aggressive role in trying to get that done by July 1.”

During her report, Miller also alluded to comments made earlier in the meeting by Jeff Kelley, Accountability Officer for the West Virginia Department of Education, who urged residents to be patient. Kelley said parents, students, personnel and residents may not have seen changes on an individual school level because more pressing issues at the Central Office had to be rectified first.

That will change in January 2024, though, Miller said, emphasizing that moving forward, “the focus for all of our schools will be on academics first and foremost.”

Miller said following the state takeover in June 2023, Central Office administrators had felt compelled to focus on general operations in the district first.

“We did address operations first because we had to; we had to figure out, ‘Where was the money being bled out the door?’ because we had to stop that,” she said. “We had to put some procedures into place to stop that. We already have some travel-[related] things in place, but they will become official policy moving forward.”

The school system has developed a virtual system through which employees must request professional leave.

“We have a system online that folks have to use to request for professional leave, those coverages, and we have to know what those funding sources are and where they’re coming from before any approval is done,” Miller said. “So, we have those things already in place because I know that is a huge concern, and yes – accounting policies and procedures do state that you need to know where revenues are coming from.”

The superintendent said the county is developing a new strategic plan, and Mr. Stephen Wotring – part-time interim superintendent who is assisting Miller and Assistant Superintendent Russ Collett – is spearheading that effort.

“We currently have school service personnel that are working on that, along with teachers, administrators, Communities in Schools representatives, and we have Dr. [Tammy] Samples representing higher education,” Miller said.

She said the school system will also seek input from parents, residents, local and regional business owners/industry leaders, and community stakeholders.

Also, during her report, Miller referenced problems with districtwide attendance in Upshur County, which was flagged in the WVDE’s annual Balanced Scorecard.

“So, the first year when those scores come out, a county can be put ‘on watch’ [for attendance]. If they don’t improve, then they go into what we call ‘support,’” Miller said. “‘Support provides direct support from those offices at the state department to help us improve those outcomes.”

(View Upshur County’s Balanced Scorecard results for the 2022-2023 school year here.)

Miller said Central Office administrators plan to attend a meeting with officials within the WVDE to discuss ways the school system can improve attendance rates throughout the district.

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