Phares honored by Third Ward Elementary

Students cheered as a former Randolph County superintendent of schools was inducted into the Third Ward Elementary School Heroes Hall of Fame Program Friday.

Dr. James Phares, who currently serves as the West Virginia superintendent of schools, was honored as a person who has set a good example in life for others to follow.

Third Ward Elementary Principal Debra Schmidlen welcomed Phares, giving students background information about the Elkins native.

“Last year, Dr. Phares proposed a full renovation project for our school to the Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan,” Schmidlen said. “Through local Qualified Zone Academy Bonds funding and a grant with the State Building Authority, we received basically a new school.

“We are very proud of the way our school looks and we would like to thank Dr. Phares for being instrumental in making this happen.”

Students roared with excitement as Phares joined Schmidlen on the stage. Phares led the student body in a cheer for the West Virginia University Mountaineers.

“Well, thank you for this award,” Phares said. “I am truly honored. I love Elkins. I love Randolph County and I love the kids that I went to school with here, and those I grew up with.

“You know when I was hired in Randolph County as superintendent we were under a lot of scrutiny from the state and the Office of Education Performance Audits,” Phares said. “With a lot of hard work by good people, many of whom are here today, a couple of board members, central office staff and most appropriately the teachers that work with you every day, we faced the reality of where we were and set to work to address our deficiencies to make them right.

“Together as a team, our school system through much turmoil gained full accreditation and became the premier school system it had always been and was when I was a student.”

“And when the excess levy passed back in 2010, it kind of validated the community confidence in our board of education, and in all of our teachers and in all of our staff,” Phares said. “The evidence is here in this school with its $3 million renovations and this beautiful gym. It’s hard to imagine what it used to look like.”

Phares shared what makes him the proudest about being honored.

“It is written right up here,” Phares said, pointing to the air ducts where a phrase is painted: “I will try my best and never give up.”

“I am honored to be in your hall of fame,” Phares said. “This is more than just a great new school. It represents the promise that as West Virginians we will do what it takes to give all of our children, you included, a quality education. My wish for all of you is that all of your dreams come true.”

Past residents inducted into the Third Ward Elementary School Heroes Hall of Fame Program include Jack Basil, Roger Bolyard, Judy Guye Swanson, Dr. Mary Boyd, Joe Grahame, Richard Walden, Sandra DiBacco, Derek Fincham, Cheryl Ware, Barry Band and Carolyn Shepler.