Although hastily organized by Mingo County Superintendent Don Spence and while that did seem a little out of the ordinary to Principal Deborah Starr and her staff,the last-minute assembly held at Kermit PK-8 last Friday afternoon otherwise didn’t seem out of the norm.
Spence simply told Starr he had arranged for a motivational speaker to come to the school on a spur-of-the-moment visit to speak to the staff and students about an important topic from which the entire school would benefit.
Assistant Superintendent Johnny Branch, who accompanied Spence to the school for the assembly, exaggerated the ruse by providing the fake speaker with a professional-sounding name and title.
It wasn’t until Starr, her staff and the entire student body had fully assembled in the school’s gymnasium that Spence introduced two officials from the West Virginia Association of Elementary and Middle School Principals who revealed the real reason for the assembly: Starr was officially being named West Virginia’s National Distinguished Principal.
“No one knew about this but Mr. Branch and me and we wanted to make sure it was a complete surprise for Mrs. Starr,” Spence said. “We’re very proud of what Mrs. Starr has accomplished here at Kermit PK-8. Her emphasis on a nurturing environment and always having a kind, warm smile always makes the school an inviting place to be ... she’s always here for her students and we’re just elated that she has received this award.”
Dr. Mickey Blackwell, who is executive director of the WVAEMSP which is based in Charleston and who was accompanied by Executive Board Member Dr. Sara Stankus, said Starr was selected from a group of statewide applicants by a WVAEMSP committee.
He said due to the fact that Starr is well-known within the Mingo County community as well as throughout the state as being “an outstanding principal,” her selection wasn’t a difficult one to make.
“She serves the state conferences and the national conferences, she always has a smile on her face and she always talks about the children at school, how much she loves them , what a great group of teachers she has and she always focuses on the kids first, the kids second and the kids third,” Blackwell said. “We’re just super happy to be here today to present her with this award.”
Stankus said Starr not only makes her students a top priority but she also is always singing the praises of her faculty and staff.
“Of course she’s always talking about how much she loves the students here at Kermit, but she’s always talking about her teachers and her staff as well,” Stankus said.
“Every time we would go to a conference she would say, ‘I’ve got to get this for my staff ... she would collect pencils and pens and any trinket she could because she really loves her staff.”
Starr summed up her feelings about receiving the award by giving a great deal of credit for her success to others.
“I’m proud to be a part of Kermit Pre K-8 School because we all work together here ... our staff, our students, our teachers, our families and our community. We all collaborate together for the good of our students,” she said. “Our goal is for our students to know we all care about them, that we want them to get an excellent education and to know that they can make a difference in the world. And I’m just very, very, thankful to be a part of that wonderful family here at Kermit PK-8.”