By Zack Hill
The Watauga County Board of Education held an open meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 13 at their main office on Pioneer Drive.
Superintendent Scott Eilliot, Vice-Superintendent Steve Combs, and board members Gary Childers, Jason Cornette and Marshall Ashcraft were in attendance.
Elliot started the meeting by praising the transportation department of Watauga County Schools for checking the roads throughout the previous night after snow and ice fell in some parts of the county.
He also noted the amount of safe miles bus drivers drive each day taking students to and from school.
Noting that the previous week was North Carolina Bus Driver Appreciation Week, Elliot said currently county bus drivers cover a total distance of 2,200 to 2,400 miles daily.
“To give a perspective, that’s about the distance from here to Mojave, California,” Elliot said.
Although the entire board has been recognized numerous times over the last few years with the North Carolina School Boards Association’s Gold Bell Award, on Tuesday the Watauga board presented Childers and Ashcraft with awards because they were being individually recognized by the state.
“I think I can speak for Ashcraft and say that we don’t work harder than anyone else here on the board,” Childers said. “We’re a hardworking group who wants to do well by all—our children, our families and our community.”
Speaking to superintendent Smith, Childers went on to say, “I hope you have an inkling of how much you are appreciated too.”
Deborah Smith, outgoing assistant to the board and superintendent in Watauga Schools’ main office was given a Servant’s Heart Award in recognition of her many years of service to the schools and community.
Several updates on ongoing projects, initiatives and awards were given.
The Tamara Stamey Memorial Fund has surpassed more than $16,000. It was established in honor of Stamey, a longtime Watauga County Schools educator who passed away recently. The fund provides money to help teachers get certifications in a variety of practices and methods that are helpful to schools.
“We were so pleased to see how much support has come from our community to honor the legacy of our colleague and friend Tamara Stamey. The more than $16,000 that the Tamara Stamey Memorial Fund has raised so far will go a long way to support learning and teaching in this community, and is a testament to the legacy of Tamara’s long career as an educator in Watauga County,” Elliott said.
The new Valle Crucis School building project has started in earnest with the digging of footers and preparation of foundation piers. The board has also been in constant contact with the general contractors, architects and other parties and groups involved in the construction.
The current school building was identified in 2016 as in need of replacement. Purchase of the new land plot was finalized in 2019.
“We are so excited to see so much progress is being made towards the construction of a new Valle Crucis School,” Elliott said. “We are looking forward to continuing work into the spring and starting to see the school really take shape. The project has taken so much hard work and care from so many people, and every step toward getting students into a new school building is a great feeling.”
The Pioneer Playmakers, an audition-only, honors-level theater troupe at Watauga High School are in the process of raising money to attend the Southeastern Theater Conference in Lexington, Ky. The Playmakers have surpassed their initial goal of $20,000 to get to Lexington after winning competitions at the regional and local levels to be North Carolina’s representative in the Kentucky-based competition.
Elliot also praised the student members of the board, Mia Shanely and Ellary Smith, for their recent work at open house and fundraising events saying, “We should use our student board representatives because they are among the best we’ve ever had. They are a wealth of knowledge and insight.
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