We are glad the schools of West Virginia will have Dr. James Phares as state superintendent of schools, but we will miss him in Elkins. His vision and energy are evident in his willingness to try new ideas and his insistence on improved performance.
When Kump Education Center representatives met with Phares in 2009, he was quick to see the benefits of establishing Professional Development Schools (PDS) in Randolph County. While serving as superintendent in Marion County, he had recognized the advantages of the PDS program at Fairmont State, and he knew such collaboration between higher education and K-12 schools can be highly productive.
During his tenure in Randolph County, Phares has supported the Kump Center PDS collaborative with Davis & Elkins College and the Randolph County Schools. Kump Center PDS Coordinator Sue Talbott meets regularly with public school liaisons who guide and monitor the practical experiences of college students in the schools. Talbott tries to ensure that future teachers learn as much as possible about effective teaching practices.
PDS connections benefit public school students in a variety of ways. PDS Liaison Rich Leitner asked college students to work with the "Bonus Bucks" incentive program at Elkins Middle School. College students gave hours of their own time to keep the Bonus Buck Store open before school and at lunch hour this fall. Beth Cooper, PDS liaison at Midland Elementary, said that D&E students were a great help with her first-grade "Readers Theatre" program. The tech-savvy D&E students also helped with "Tech Steps" in the public schools to fulfill requirements for their teacher education classes.
Kump Education Center volunteer Grace Sundelin said, "Dr. Phares deserves many accolades for his accomplishment in Randolph County, but we especially thank him for his vision and commitment to excellence as shown by his support for 'best teaching practices,' for Professional Development Schools, and for Kump Education Center."