Rotary Club hears from top Randolph schools official

The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Henry-Vance Randolph County Superintendent of Schools Gabriel J. ‘Gabe’ Devono speaks Monday to the Rotary Club of Elkins at the Elkins-Randolph County YMCA, outlining a range of goals and updates for the schools.

ELKINS — Members of the Rotary Club of Elkins heard Monday about a range of plans from the Randolph County Schools superintendent, who began serving in his position this summer.

Gabriel J. “Gabe” Devono said he enjoys getting out into the public as much as possible, and he and his staff also are visiting every school and trying to be more visible at local events and athletic games.

“We want to get out into the community and talk to the community members,” he said during the Rotary meeting, which takes place each week at the Elkins-Randolph County YMCA.

He was joined at the lunch meeting by Debra Schmidlen, the assistant superintendent of schools, who also began her new position this summer.

Devono’s three main goals for Randolph County Schools include opening up communication, addressing budget concerns and improving facilities. He also is putting an emphasis on the need for teachers in core classes, such as math, and is reviewing alternative programs for teacher certification.

“Math is the problem right now,” he said, noting he also is working with Davis & Elkins College to encourage more student teachers to gain experience in local classrooms and then hopefully stay and become employed in Randolph County following their graduation.

Another point he brought up was the recent announcement that the state’s School Building Authority approved $342,000 to go toward new heating and air conditioning at Coalton Elementary, as well as other building upgrades, such as updating windows and replacing roofing. He said he hopes this will be just the beginning of the improvements that can be made to county schools.

Devono also brought up the possibility of installing artificial turf on the football fields that serve Elkins and Tygarts Valley high schools.

“We’re going to look and see what it costs,” he said, and then pursue plans to finance the project, if possible.

He also added he has enjoyed working with community members, teachers and parents, and he also has high regard for the Randolph County Board of Education.

“They really have their hearts into doing well with our kids here,” he said.

Before starting his position in Randolph County on July 1, Devono served as superintendent of Gilmer County Schools.

He had been appointed in July 2014 as part of a “state takeover” of that county’s school system.

Prior to that, he served from 2002 to 2014 as executive director of Regional Educational Service Agency 7, which includes Randolph, Upshur, Barbour and nine other counties.

In addition to his work in Gilmer County and with RESA, Devono also has experience as supervisor/assistant superintendent in Lewis County from 1989 to 2002, and was assistant principal of Lewis County High School from 1986 to 1989.