On September 28, 1991 the citizens of Harrison County passed a bond that included funds for the construction of the new Robert C. Byrd High School. Ground was broke for this state ot the art facility on August 28, 1992.
The dedication ceremony was conducted in the R.C.B.H.S. gymnasium on November 19, 1995. The Honorable Senator Robert C. Byrd was the featured speaker and honored guest. On December 10, 1995 and open house was held for the public to view this beautiful facility.
The first students passed through the doors to attend classes on January 4, 1996. Leon Pilewski became the first principal of R.C.B.H.S. and was assisted by Geary Rollins and William Fratto. Mr. Pilewski's chief goal was to continue the tradition of student academic excellence. This goal has become a reality through the accomplishments of the students, faculty, and staff of Robert C. Byrd High School.
Robert C. Byrd High School earned the distinction of "A West Virginia School of Excellence" during the 2001-2002 school year.
A History of Robert C. Byrd High School and its Predecessors
One cannot understand a tree by examining only its leaves. To understand a tree in its totality, the
seed, roots, trunk, and branches of the tree must be examined and understood. The same can be said of Robert C. Byrd High School. Robert C. Byrd High can be compared to the crown of a tree with its leaves flourishing in the sunlight of education, but utterly dependent on the branches that hold the leaves, the trunk that supports the crown, and the roots that provide the rest of the tree with the nutrients needed for it to be successful. This is the ongoing story of an educational system that sprouted in Clarksburg, West Virginia many years ago, and is still growing upward and outward. This tree of education is still producing magnificent fruit for the town of Clarksburg and will continue to do so for many years into the future.
The seed that eventually led to the creation of Robert C. Byrd High School was planted in Clarksburg with the opening of Clarksburg High School in 1884. “Classes were held in the Northwestern Virginia Academy building” (Davis 629). The school was eventually moved to Towers School, named for the Reverend George Towers, an influential minister in Clarksburg. The school would remain here until the completion of a new school. “Citizens in Clarksburg Independent District voted a bond issue in 1912 to construct a high school on the site of the ‘old Parr Mansion’ despite opposition because the school on Lee Avenue would ‘be so far away that not 1 in 500 will ever see it” (Davis 631). This site would be the new home of Clarksburg High School, later to be named Washington Irving High School. It was to become one of the premier schools in Clarksburg, and indeed even the state. The superintendent at that time was Mr. J. A. Jackson, who originally hailed from Bellaire, Ohio (Davis 631). Clarksburg benefited from his expertise. “He had an unusual faculty for placing a teacher in a situation where he or she could perform best and for inspiring esprit de corps among those who worked for him. He recruited teachers who were veterans and who were so proud to teach in Clarksburg Independent District that they spent a lifetime building their departments of work. Teamed with Mr. Orie McConkey, a Harrison County native and one of the finest high school principals in the history of education in the state, he fashioned a high school whose graduates could enter any college in the nation as well equipped as graduates of the best private school. Mr. McConkey was principal of the Clarksburg High School, later Washington Irving High School, for fifty years from 1896 until 1946” (Davis 631).
Clarksburg High School opened in September of 1914, still under construction, under the stewardship of Professor Orie McConkey, with a faculty of 20. The school had a gymnasium and swimming pool, something the previous school had lacked. The name of the school, however, was to be fleeting. After its first year of existence, Clarksburg High School would be changed to Washington Irving High School. “Mildred Anna F. Dunn, ‘Miss Anna’ to many of her students, taught English and civics at the school. She admired the author Washington Irving because he had been ‘courteous, scholarly, and intelligent’ – an ideal she hoped students would follow. The superintendent accepted her suggestion, and Clarksburg High School became Washington Irving High School” (Burnside 5).
Besides having a swimming pool and gymnasium, the school was also proud of its Commercial Department, which enrolled the most students, of its manual training classes, and eventually Art. “The modern domestic science lab was a particular source of pride. Here young women practiced cookery (basic food preparation, canning and preserving, and meal planning) and sewing (hand and machine work, embroidery, and lace making). By 1916 manual training students were supplying their own materials to craft hall trees, checkerboards, and library tables. The Art Department added instruction in millinery in 1923” (Burnside 5-7).
Students from Clarksburg made up the bulk of the students attending WI, but there was a strong contingent of rural students who traveled to WI to take advantage of this excellent learning institution. Some of these rural students traveled to school everyday while others stayed in town with relatives. Getting to school was no easy task for most of the students who lived in Clarksburg because there was no such thing as a school bus that would bring you to school. Some students walked a mile or more to catch a streetcar that took them to Main Street if they were lucky. They then trekked up the hill to the school (Burnside 8). It wasn’t until 1983 that all students could ride the school bus to WI High School (Burnside 181). It seemed that WI was the school of choice for many Harrison County students. In 1915, forty-seven students graduated from WI High School. By 1923, the school graduated one hundred sixty-five students Burnside 7).
The facilities offered at WI High School were not the only draw for the students of Clarksburg and the surrounding countryside. Most of the faculty was seasoned veterans, noted for their excellent teaching skills and dedication. “Many of these teachers became legends for their commanding personalities and kindness, as well as for their excellent teaching skills” (Burnside 7). Longevity was also a characteristic of the principal and the teachers under him. Orie, McConkey, WI’s first principal, served 32 years in this position from 1914 to 1946. Prior to this, Mr. McConkey was the principal for Clarksburg High School, beginning his tenure in this position in 1896 (Davis 629). All told, Principal McConkey served as principal of the same school system for 50 years! “At the time of Mr. McConkey’s retirement, Superintendent Arthur V. B. Upton said, ‘It is hard to estimate his great influence on the educational and cultural growth of this city, for he has a true passion for anonymity and for giving credit to others…this master teacher has been an inspiration to thousands of youth to higher ideals of citizenship and love of this great land of ours’” (Burnside 63-64). When Principal McConkey retired in 1946, the faculty purchased 50 rose bushes as a gift for his long and distinguished service to them and the students of WI. He had a special affinity for roses, so the staff felt that the gift was very appropriate (Burnside 64). One year after retiring, Principal McConkey was also honored when the school established the Orie McConkey Chapter of Future Teachers at WI. Principal McConkey passed away in 1957. “Clarksburg mourned the death of Orie McConcey in 1957. His memorial service reminded all that ‘his life had been a beacon to light the paths of learning and living for both the faculty and students of Washington Irving High School’” (Burnside 89-90).
His staff, in many cases, displayed the same longevity, very possibly leading to the school’s distinction as being the best in the area. Below is a list of members of the Clarksburg/Washington Irving High Schools faculty that decided that this was the school for them.
Grace Albright 1922-1958
Rene A. Andre 1934-1972
Glyde Bailey 1926-1964
Lillie M. Bauer 1924-1966
Margaret B. Bauld 1934-1943
Mabel Cunningham 1918-1946
Pearl Custer 1930-1970
Maynard Duckworth 1940-1975
F.U. Gregoire 1934-1966
Alice Griffin 1916-1959
J.E. Gudekunst 1924-1963
Clay B. Hite 1921-1958
Florence Hollins 1923-1965
William D. Judy 1926-1958
Clayce Kishbaugh 1929-1964
Harold E. Limpert 1937-1975
Helen D. Melody 1914-1940
Lillian C. Moore 1922-1954
Virginia Lee Nutter 1935-1972
Lena Stutler 1922-1956
Josephine Swiger 1943-1980
Emily Taylor 1924-1962
Yvonne Tiennebrunne 1924-1966
Cornelia Williams 1929-1966
Maude Yoak 1918-1958 (Burnside 234)
It seems that the longevity displayed by the early faculty was infectious because the same can be said about the current faculty now at Robert C. Byrd High School. Many of the teachers that were already ensconced at WI made the transition from WI to RCB and are still there today. Even more important is the number of former WI High School and Roosevelt-Wilson students that occupy teaching positions at Robert C. Byrd. Below is a list of teachers who have dedicated a large part of their lives to the students of WI and RCB. An asterisk next to the name indicates WI graduates, and the pound key indicates graduates of RW.
Betty Audia 1971-present
Carol Bray 1971-present
Colleen Coughlin * 1973-present
Gloria Fisher 1969-present
Gary Poling * 1970-present
James Reed * 1973-present
Joyce Westfall # 1973-present
Willard “Bud Wheelock * 1971-preesent
There are other faculty members now at Robert C. Byrd High School that were one-time students at one of the 3 high schools: Washington Irving, Roosevelt-Wilson, or Robert C. Byrd. I know of none that have expressed a desire to leave Robert C. Byrd High School. Hopefully, these excellent teachers, counselors, and secretaries will be at Byrd for many years to come. Here is a list – WI graduates will have a * next to their names, a # will signify an R-W graduate, and & will designate a Byrd graduate.
Paula Altmam *
Robert Beto *
Jim Broslawky #
Sherry Caplan *
Beverly Foster *
Eric Giaquinto *
Marilyn Kidd #
Sherry McCord *
Lindsey Mitchell &
Jeff Nuzum &
Cathy Pizzino *
Jeannine Queen *
Claudia Edwards Randolph *
Rhonda Reed #
Bill Sheldon *
Joyce Westfall #
From this list, only Paula Altman, a long-time counselor is not now a present member of the Byrd faculty.
When Principal McConkey handed over the reins of WI High School to Kenneth Cubbon, he also willed him the fern plant that he had kept in his office. This fern had become a symbol for Principal McConkey and eventually the school itself. “By the late 1920’s, ivy climbed the brick walls of Washington Irving High School. In his office, Orie McConkey’s fern thrived, just as his school thrived. A gift from Miss Anna Dunn, this botanically simple plant would become a complex symbol – of a man and his philosophy of teaching and eventually of the school itself. Succeeding principals in that office would accept the responsibility to care for the fern, to nurture it, to keep it alive. An almost mystical aura about the plant developed so that it became a talisman of good fortune for more than sixty years” (Burnside 19). This beloved fern did not, however, make the transition from Washington Irving to Robert C. Byrd High School. Mr. Pilewski, just like the other principals before him, faithfully took care of the fern during his tenure at WI. He did have some very dedicated help with this endeavor. Bill Hurst, a well-known custodian of the school and personal friend of mine, became a custodian at WI High School in 1978. He retired in 2000. Bill, always helpful, took on the responsibility of caring for the fern during the long summer breaks. He would lovingly care for the fern each summer by cutting off any dead branches and leaves and watering and feeding it. He carefully ensconced the fern under the shade of a large maple tree in his backyard, where it thrived. He would return it to its rightful place at the beginning of each school term, ready to greet another class of 9th graders and all the other students preparing for another year of education, achievement, hard work, and fun (Interview. Hurst). Alas, the fern was not to make the transition to Robert C. Byrd. Maybe it realized that life was changing and did not want to leave the old school where it had spent its entire life. Or maybe it realized that with the new school, new traditions should be a part of a new beginning. Shortly before the transition to Byrd, the fern inexplicably died. The spirit of that fern, however, did make the transition to Robert C. Byrd. The excellence of the students, faculty, staff and the community are as strong at Byrd as it was in the old WI High School building.
Kenneth Cubbon assumed the position of principal in the fall of 1947. He would stay in this position for 19 years, retiring right before the beginning of the fall term in 1966. He also served with honor during his 18 year tenure. Maynard Duckworth, who was a physics teacher and assistant principal at WI, as well as a WI graduate, took the job of principal with the understanding that this was to be a temporary position because he wanted to get back to teaching physics (Burnside 115).
During Principal Cubbon’s tenure, Kelly Miller High School, the black school in Clarksburg, was incorporated into WI following the 1954 case of Brown v. Board of Education, in which the Supreme Court determined that the idea of separate but equal schools was unconstitutional. Kelly Miller High School, opened in 1870, was one of the premier black schools in West Virginia. It attracted students from not only Clarksburg, but also from Weston, Phillippi, Morgantown, Buckhannon, and Grafton. “If a neighboring county did not provide educational facilities for Blacks of high school age, the county board paid tuition, room and board, and travel expenses for students from that county. These students would then travel, usually by train or street car, to Clarksburg and board with residents while attending Kelly Miller High School” (Dudley 106). In the same vein as WI, Kelly Miller was deeply rooted in the community. “Like many Black high schools throughout the state, Kelly Miller existed not just for the students, but for the parents, staff and administrators. Prior to integration the Black school was a focal point of the Black community. It served as a rallying point, a social center, and an institution with which the Black community could identify. The Black school had a close relationship with organizations within the community and with sponsoring groups by providing a place for them to meet, while these groups, in turn, often worked to raise money for the school and participated in other general support activities. The relationship between the school and the community was deeper, however, than the mere use of the school for community activities. School-sponsored activities drew almost the entire Black community. Plays performed by teachers, student performances, carnivals, and minstrel shows all raised funds for the school and provided entertainment for the community” (Dudley 106-107).
It is interesting to note the way in which Kelly Miller High School got its name. “The leaders of Black thought at the time (1920) were W. E. B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, and Kelly Miller. Washington advocated industrial education as the salvation of the Black race. Dubois, Kelly Miller, and William Pickens were among those in opposition to the movement. Dr. Kelly Miller was a member of the faculty at Howard University and became the Dean of The College of Arts and Sciences. Educated at Howard and Johns Hopkins universities, he became one of the best known lecturers of the early 20th century, and his writings were widely distributed on the controversial subject of the kind of education that was best for Blacks. Kelly Miller High School patterned its curriculum after the philosophies of Dr. Miller.” (Dudley 106). Kelly Miller offered both vocational and intellectual instruction during the time it was in existence. (Dudley 106).
Kelly Miller, did not completely espouse the ideas of Du Bois nor Washington. “Miller aligned himself with neither the ‘radicals’ – Du Bois and the Niagara Movement – nor the ‘conservatives’ – the followers of Booker T. Washington. Miller sought a middle way, a comprehensive educational system that would provide for ‘symmetrical development’ of African-American citizens by offering both vocational and intellectual instruction” (http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/aap/kmiller.html). Miller, in some ways, sought to keep peace between the two camps. “Miller later praised Washington’s emphasis on self-help and initiative. He remained an opponent of the exaggerated claims made on behalf of industrial education and became one of the most effective advocates of higher education for black Americans when it was attacked as ‘inappropriate’ for a people whose social role was increasingly limited by statute and custom to agriculture, some skilled trades, unskilled labor, and domestic service” (Williams 2). The black community was drawn to Miller’s encompassing educational ideas and decided to name the school for him. “Kelly Miller High School patterned its curriculum after the philosophies of Dr. Miller” (Dudley 106). Kelly Miller High School offered quality education in both vocational and intellectual instruction while it was in existence. The transition from Kelly Miller to WI went rather smoothly, if not somewhat painfully, without much incident. One incident at the beginning of school could have turned ugly, but it did not. “When they (blacks) went to school the first day, about ten people were blocking the door. ‘I wasn’t afraid,’ reflected Williams (Mercedes Forte). ‘We told them we didn’t want to be there any more than they didn’t want us.’ The confrontation ended, and the African-Americans entered with no further inconvenience. As she later told her children, also WI graduates, these few had paved the way” (Burnside 83). This is not to say that the road these first black students was without problems. “In the beginning, we were not well-accepted although some people were lovely to us…But some other teachers were openly prejudiced. It was a learning experience. All in all, it was not as bad as other places” (Williams qtd. in Burnside 83). At the beginning, integrating WI was not easy, but the payoff is present today. From my experience at RCB, the student body is well integrated, and the faculty and staff care about all their students regardless of the color of their skin.
The fall of 1967 brought James E. Bennett to “the Hill” as the new principal and a happy Maynard Duckworth returned to the classroom. Principal Bennett was a former WI High School student and football player. He once said that the reason for being hired for the job was because of an incident that occurred during summer school at WI while he was principal. “After two boys threw a cherry bomb in the back door, Bennett chased the troublesome pair down the hill to Pike Street and finally caught up with them in the Robinson Grand Theater” (Burnside 119). Principal Bennett oversaw WI High School during some turbulent times. He remembered the time when he first took the helm of WI. “Society was changing. With the Vietnam War, kids were questioning, not always following the rules. We had to handle them differently. WI had gotten a bad rap for kids being out of control. I told the students I was running a school for those who wanted to be educated. We did a lot of things like Spirit Week and teachers working with students. On breaks we joined them out back to talk and keep up on what was happening. We had a strong student council – I remember some heady debates in their meetings. We were keeping them interested in school” (Burnside 119)
Principal Bennett did other things to foster a good faculty – student relationship. When Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968, “I called our African-American students together – they were really torn up. I told them they could go home if they wanted; we would help them catch up with assignments” (Burnside 121). This caring spirit was just one example of the positive leadership displayed by Jim Bennett. Mr. Bennett left WI High School to become superintendent in Upshur County. He then became superintendent of Doddridge County. He retired from the superintendent’ job in Berkeley County. After his retirement, he became a Harrison County Board member and even served as president of this body for one year (Interview. Pilewski).
Principal Bennett knew that the most effective leadership would not a school make. He valued the faculty at WI High School because without them he could not have been successful. He commented that WI had “several of the best instructors he ever supervised” (Burnside 135). His attitude toward the faculty helped keep WI in the running as one of the best schools in the state.
Sam Scalapio became principal of WI in 1972 and served until the end of the school year in 1989. He knew that he had been given a position of distinction, but also the important job of keeping the standards of WI High School at the level of excellence that the faculty, students, and community expected. “I was in the right place at the right time,” said Scolapio. ‘I knew that the heritage of the school and its history were important. Graduating from WI was the same as having one year of college. I was afraid I wouldn’t succeed and do the job Mr. Bauld wanted. Josephine Swiger’s insight into Washington Irving was very helpful. Barbara Morris and Josephine Hutson made many important contributions. I was surrounded by good people” (Burnside 139). During Principal Scalapio’s tenure Geary Rollins joined WI as the second assistant principal. He is still at Robert C. Byrd High School, taking care of computerized grades and attendance, as well as many other administrative duties (Burnside 176). As a little sidelight, Geary’s mother and her entire family attended WI High School (Interview).
Tony Marchio became the principal of WI in the fall of 1990. He became the principal the same year that Roosevelt-Wilson High School was incorporated into WI. “At the same time, Tony J. Marchio returned to the hill, this time as principal, with a philosophy for educating youth to be productive adults of the twenty-first century. Not only was he a WI graduate, but he had also taught English at the school for nine years, so he was well equipped with the insight into Washington Irving’s traditions and record of excellence. And he was an experienced administrator – he had been assistant principal at Bridgeport High School and then principal of Roosevelt-Wilson High School (Burnside 197). While he was principal, graduation was held at the Rose Garden instead of the not-so-well ventilated auditorium of WI High School (Burnside 199). He remained principal for only two years. After his second year, Tony Marchio became superintendent for Randolph County for three years. He left this position to complete his doctorate and became superintendent of schools in Middletown, Delaware, where he still holds this position (Interview. Pilewski).
In 1992, Leon Pilewski became only the seventh principal of the Clarksburg/Washington Irving High School. Mr. Pilewski, like the principals before him, realized the extensive history behind the school and the responsibility that taking such a position required. “Leon Pilewski became Washington Irving High School’s principal in the fall of 1992. He noted that he was just the seventh principal in WI’s nearly eighty years while he had been the seventh principal of South Harrison High School in its twenty-seven year history. Before South Harrison, Pilewski was Roosevelt-Wilson High School’s assistant principal for ten years and had taught science at Salem and Liberty High Schools” (Burnside 211). When it came time to close WI High School, he admitted that it would be hard to do so because he had fallen in love with the old school. He said, “It’s going to be tough to close it – more difficult because it’s such a big part of the history of Clarksburg and Harrison County – so different from any other school” (Burnside 211). With mixed feelings, he successfully led the students of WI High School to the new school at One Eagle Way in January of 1996 to begin the next chapter in this history-steeped school system.
Academics have always been a strong draw for the residents of Clarksburg. Going to WI High School prepared you well for college. A student who graduated in 1926, Eleanor Coleman McMunn said, “Students could go from WI to any school without an entrance exam” (Burnside 29). This was not typically the case. Principal Cubbon, at one point, “stated that he was proud to be part of one of the top ranked schools in the state” (Burnside 69). National Merit scholars were a staple of WI High School. During the late 40’s and throughout the ’50, the school sported National Merit finalists every year and many received academic awards. (Burnside 81). The year is not mentioned, but in one year, either 1959, 1960, or 1961, six seniors were National Merit finalists (Burnside 97). In 1980 and again in 1986 WI juniors were national winners in the National Council of Teachers of English writing competition. In 1983, six students earned writing awards (Burnside 104). The reason for these achievements falls squarely on the shoulders of excellent educators. Helen Merriman Frashure, a 1947 graduate said of some of her teachers, “We had so many dedicated teachers whom we all feared – and fear is the word. I would have been terrified to go to Eura Gray’s class unprepared. Preparation meant four to six or seven hours of homework, but it was never left undone. Eura Gray, Virginia Nutter, J. E. Gudekunst, and Margaret Kyle demanded excellence and somehow we achieved it. When we got to college and the professors knew their reputations, we knew we had had quality work in high school (Burnside 91). Future teachers at WI would also continue in the vein of these great teachers. It was excellence such as this that won the school exemplary status, awarded in the 1985-1986 school year. “The purpose of the Exemplary Program was to call attention to schools that were unusually successful in meeting the educational needs of their students. Among the criteria for examining school quality were clear academic goals, high expectations of students, order and discipline, student incentives, effective teachers, administrative leadership, and a well-articulated curriculum” (Burnside 186)
Exemplary status was achieved by WI High School because of a dedicated staff that expected students to excel and gave them the means to do so. Some students, under the leadership of Latin teacher, Donna Goolie, began attending “the annual Latin Convention where they were standouts in such competitions as vocabulary and mythology” (Burnside 144). This proud tradition is still carried on by Latin teacher, Judy Dolan at Robert C. Byrd High School. Students in Gary Poling’s political science classes really lived in the political world by attending Ronald Reagan’s inauguration, and every inauguration since. They also periodically visit places like Yorktown and Williamsburg so that they truly experience history (Burnside 173). Mr. Poling also taught a class titled “Race, Class, and Gender” to seniors that allowed them to earn a semester of college credit for free (Burnside 218). This program has since ended with the opening of the Caperton Center in Clarksburg. The Caperton Center is a Fairmont State University regional campus, where many RCB seniors gain college credit without paying any tuition. Gary Poling and Jim Broslawsky, teach college classes at Fairmont State University and Teri Boggs teaches classes at West Virginia University after teaching high school students during the day (Interview. Poling).
Other teachers are remembered for their dedication and demanding curriculum by students of WI. Brad Fittro, a 1990 graduate, said, “The academics were great – we had an excellent faculty and unbelievable preparation for college” (Burnside 208). Janet Henderson remarked, “I enjoyed classes, especially Mrs. Westfall and Mrs. Fisher – they were excellent and prepared me for a medical field” (Burnside 209). But it is not always just the academics that propel students to excel in their studies. Sometimes, a caring attitude on the part of the teachers can have a lasting impact on the students. And WI had plenty of teachers who had this caring attitude. Victoria Olliveria McGahan, a 1990 graduated noted that “Miss Boggs was a friend I could talk to” (Burnside 209). I have found that the vast majority of teachers at RCB exhibit this same caring attitude while demanding educational excellence. It should also be noted that all the teachers mentioned in the last 2 paragraphs, except Donna Goolie, made the transition from WI High School to Byrd and are still teaching today. It is no small wonder then, that Robert C. Byrd High School received the distinction of School of Excellence during the 2002-2003 school year. And Mr. Pilewski attributed winning the award to the students and faculty. “The teachers and kids won the award. They are RCB,” Pilewski said. “It’s not just our award. It’s for all of Clarksburg and the communities of all the former schools that consolidated into this one and have been very supportive” (Barberio qtd. in www.rcbhs.org). All of this has been accomplished while having a diverse student population. WI had the most diverse student population in the county – geographically and economically (Burnside 214). And the same holds true today at RCB. Those receiving free or reduced lunches at RCB, and thus displays the amount of economically disadvantaged students stands at a little over 40 %. Despite this staggering statistic, RCB has experienced enough success to become a school of excellence. Principal Pilewski correctly identifies one of the most important reasons for the success of WI High School, all the schools that were incorporated into it, and Robert C. Byrd High School itself – community support. If it wasn’t for the type of community support that RCB enjoys, it would not be possible to maintain such high standards. I know from personal experience the kind of support parents and guardians give to the teachers at RCB. 99.9% of all the parents or guardians that I have phoned or sent letters to, responded positively, and I noticed a change in attitude in these students. The members of our community make our jobs as teachers much easier.
Many teachers at WI and RCB have had a hand in the success of their students, sometimes propelling them into the field that they would make their life’s work. Mary Wade Burnside, a 1982 graduate said, “We debated in Mr. Poling’s class and could argue without getting into trouble. When I was majoring in political science in college, I called Mr. Poling to discuss questions I had” (qtd. in Burnside 191). Another student credited Teri Boggs with the choice of her career. “I enjoyed Miss Boggs – she got me into writing, and I followed up on that in college” (Jones, Suzanne P. qtd. in Burnside 192). Still another student, James Reed II, a teacher of history at WI and now at RCB became a history teacher because of another teacher he had at WI. “Jack Frederick enjoyed the subject matter – I liked the way he taught – he influenced me to teach history” (qtd. in Burnside 111). Many more students were influenced to study the subjects in college that quality teachers at both WI and RCB taught them. In many ways, the excellent teachers at these two schools left their mark on their students.
Many traditions were started at WI High School, and quite a few of those have been carried over into the new school at One Eagle Way. Club meetings at RCB generally occur before school or after school. When clubs first formed at WI High School, they were always conducted after school (Burnside 15). SADD, a club formed in 1985 (Burnside 170) is still in existence at RCB. HUGGED (Harrison United Guys and Girls Eliminating Drugs) was formed by current art teacher, Georgette Griffith in 1991. It was such a success that she was awarded Teacher of the Year in 1992. Because of the success of this club, other schools have opened their own clubs, patterned after her program (Burnside 200). Hooked on Fishing – Not on Drugs began at WI High School in 1993 and became a model for national programs (Burnside 213).
JROTC was also established at WI in 1993. It was headed by retired Master Sergeant John Emerson, aided by Colonel Pete Taylor. This program has “provided tremendous opportunities that many students might not have otherwise had” (Burnside 215). This program is still a part of RCB. Colonel Pete Taylor is now in charge after the retirement of Master Sergeant Emerson two years ago.
Senior sneak day began at WI in 1933 and was sanctioned by the school (Burnside 38). Although this tradition has continued at RCB, the name of the day has been changed to Senior Skip Day, and it is not sanctioned by the school. As a matter of fact, every year the students are warned that if they miss that day, it will be counted as an unexcused day. Still the tradition lives on. Senior classes are generally barren on this day.
Homecoming at RCB is also steeped in tradition. The first Homecoming parade was held in November, 1960 on Main Street in Clarksburg (Burnside 98). The parade is still held every year at RCB, but the site has been moved to Nutter Fort. In 1961, students began selecting a king and queen for Homecoming (Burnside 100). This tradition still takes place at RCB during Homecoming week. Homecoming Week is marked by theme day. A different theme, such as hippie day, 1950’s day, couple’s day is assigned for each day and students dress accordingly. This practice was started at WI High School and has made the transition to RCB (Burnside 142). Some of the teachers also take part in theme day. Another tradition that the students really enjoy during Homecoming is the assembly is the mock Homecoming court. Selected football players dress as girls and cheerleaders dress as their escorts during this assembly. This first started at WI High School in 1991, when guys dressed like cheerleaders (Burnside 205).
MORP, began in 1988 by English teacher Sara Howe, is another tradition that has been passed down from WI High School to Robert C. Byrd High School (Burnside 189). If you spell MORP backwards, you get the word PROM, and you, therefore, do everything opposite of what you do at Prom. The dress is informal, and the cafeteria is used for the dance, instead of renting a posh place. Girls invite the boys to MORP, much like a Sadie Hawkins dance. The students even select a king and his court. This tradition is still alive and well at RCB. I have chaperoned several MORP dances and can attest to the popularity of this tradition.
Music has always been an integral part of WI’s history and this has continued at RCB. When Henry Mayer retired from WI in 1961, “his musicians had achieved eighteen Superior ratings and one Excellent in state competitions (Burnside 104). At RCB, this rich tradition continues, but I did not obtain requested information on the achievements of our band. I personally know of several students from RCB that have applied for, and been accepted to the All County Band, after completing high school.
Art is another area in which WI and RCB have had outstanding success. Under the leadership of Georgette Griffith, the art teacher at WI that made the transition to RCB and is still teaching, the art students at these two schools have been quite successful. Jason Barnard’s entry was chosen as the logo for the submarine USS West Virginia (Burnside 199). John J. Holyfield, who is a world-renowned artist, hails from WI. RCB now has one of his exhibits at the school. Mr. Holyfield has his own art studio in Washington, D.C. Oprah Winfrey has purchased two of his paintings. He has a website, www.holyfieldstudio.com that can be accessed to view some of his work. He was also the first WV. State winner of the Martin Luther King, Jr. poster contest. His winning poster was actually stolen, but later recovered. RCB students have won all 7 contests for the Martin Luther King, Jr. poster contest. No other school has won this contest. Several other students have achieved success in art after becoming involved in Ms. Griffith’s art classes. Matt Barnosky’s poster design won first place in the Rocket Boys’ poster contest in 2004, and his winning entry was etched onto the mugs given at the luncheon for the Rocket Boys held at the Harrison-Marion Airport. In 2005, one of my former students, Marissa Rosier won this very same contest. Another success story to come out of Ms. Griffith’s class is Kerry King, who is a WI graduate. She is now in charge of the Los Angeles school district’s art p