Upshur super addresses Rotary Club

BUCKHANNON – Superintendent of Upshur County Schools Roy Wager told the Buckhannon Rotary Club Tuesday that he can remember what it was like when the county did not have a levy.

Wager started his career as an elementary school teacher in 1972. He also has worked as a principal, a Title I director, preschool director, county test coordinator and federal programs director. He said that when he first started teaching, there was no levy.

“I’d like to tell our young teachers in the county that have never taught in Upshur County without a levy how spoiled they are,” Wager said. “Because of the levy, we’ve been able to supply our students and our teachers with the latest, not only in technology, but in supplies, equipment and upkeep of our schools. We’ve been very excited about that.”

Although the levy has been in effect for the past 15 years, it’s a hot topic now because Upshur County voters will see a levy renewal proposal on the ballot during a special Feb. 8 election. The current five-year levy expires on June 30. Early voting began Monday, and will continue through Feb. 5 at the Upshur County Courthouse Annex.

At Tuesday’s Rotary meeting, Wager recalled days when students had to buy their own textbooks and other school supplies, and teachers had minimal supplies to work with.

“I like to usually tell them (teachers) about what it was like back in the old days,” Wager said. He said that at his first staff meeting as a new teacher at Main Street School in Buckhannon, he and other teachers were given a case of paper and told to make it last, because it was all that could be given to them.

“Students had to buy their own textbooks back in those days,” Wager added. “I can remember the parents getting lined up outside the bookstore for days waiting to get in and buy their textbooks for their students. You can imagine if you had four or five kids in school how much that might have cost you in those days.”

Wager also recalled the days when teachers would use their own money to buy supplies for the less wealthy children in their classes.

“You felt really badly for the students that didn’t have a lot of money,” Wager said. “So teachers, as they still do these days, buy a lot of things with their own money.

“When we were finally able to get a levy passed in Upshur County, it was probably one of my happiest days in my career in the system. Now we didn’t have to ask the kids to buy supplies.”

Wager said the levy money that is raised makes up 9 percent of the school’s total budget, but that small percentage helps provide supplies, the upkeep of buildings, updated technology, extra personnel and has many other benefits. Wager said that the auditorium seating at the Buckhannon-Upshur High School was recently replaced and all new carpeting was installed.

Wager also said that some of the older school buildings in the county were previously unable to support the electrical requirements of newer technology until the levy funds recently provided the necessary upgrades.

He said that teachers in some of those older buildings could not have computers on in their classrooms at the same time. If a teacher wanted their students to use the computers, other teachers in the building had to be notified so that computers in their classrooms could be shut down. Not shutting down the other computers would trip the system, Wager said.

Excess levy funds generate about $3.3 million in additional county funds which can be used as matching funds to help the school system acquire even more money in grant funding from the School Building Authority. Wager said the SBA is less likely to provide grant money to school systems if they cannot match the funds.

“This is not a raise in our taxes,” Wager said.

He also said that taxes should not raise unless the home owner’s property value increases. Otherwise, Wager said taxes should remain the same as they have been for the past 15 years.