BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) — Raleigh County Schools Superintendent David Price comes from a long line of educators.
“I actually come from a family of about 30 educators,” Price said.
Price said it was in watching his family that he too became inspired to pursue a career in education.
“They influenced me to become an educator because I always saw what they did, their care and compassion for people and serving students,” he said. “What they did always intrigued me and I always wanted to do that – the influence they had, I wanted to have that same impact.”
After working 40 years as an educator where’s he’s served as a teacher, a coach, a principal, an employee for the state department of education and a county superintendent, Price is retiring.
With just under two months left as the superintendent of schools for Raleigh County before he passes the reins to the next superintendent, Serena Starcher, Price sat down with The Register-Herald to look back on his time in education.
Initially from Boone County, Price said he knew from a young age that he was destined for a career in education.
“My mom was a principal and a teacher. Her oldest brother was a teacher, a school administrator and he was a superintendent in Boone County for years,” Price said. “I have aunts and uncles, cousins – I have another cousin who retired as superintendent in Berkeley County. I’m actually the third superintendent in our family.”
Having started as a teacher for special education, physical education and driver’s ed and a coach for football and baseball, Price said he always assumed the administration side of education would not be for him.
“I had coaches growing up that had a huge influence on me, and that’s the reason I really wanted to get into education was to teach and coach. And I did that for my first 15 years,” he said.
Price said he remembers telling his mother that he would never be a principal.
“Actually, I always told my mother I would never be a principal because I saw what she did and I said, I’ll never do that,” he said. “And the day I got hired (as a principal), obviously the first phone call I made was her and she was laughing at me and said, ‘Never say never.’ ”
While it was never his goal to enter the administration side of education, Price said his mother’s words continued to ring true.
“I jumped into the administration world thinking, ‘All right you’ll be a principal for the rest of your career.’ Well, when certain things happen, and certain doors open, you take a look at it and that’s how we got here,” he said.
Prior to being chosen by the Raleigh School Board as superintendent in 2014, Price was assistant superintendent in the county for two years.
Even though his previous title contained the word “superintendent,” he said stepping into that role felt completely unlike any position he’d had before.
“You don’t know what you don’t know, and then when all of a sudden you become that person where everything really stops, there’s a whole new level of responsibility and stress,” Price said.
One of the first major initiatives Price worked on as superintendent was the iRaleigh initiative, which was started by his predecessor and focused on getting iPads in the hands of nearly every student in Raleigh County.
Price said Raleigh was ahead of schools across the nation when implementing this measure despite taking some time to enact and needing some adjustments later on.
He said it was because of the foresight of this initiative that Raleigh Schools was in a better position when Covid hit and closed schools in 2020.
“We’ve transitioned now from using iPads for K-12 to now we use Chromebooks in our secondary schools and iPads are still in our elementaries ... and then when Covid hit, we were way ahead of the game because all of our staff and students already had the technology in their hands,” Price said.
Price said he has only one word to describe Covid: “Wow.”
In trying to remember back to when Covid first started impacting West Virginia in early 2020, Price said everything was in a state of constant flux.
“I remember in March we were having a (county) superintendents meeting and the state superintendent was there and he said, you can probably prepare for in about a week here before we will have to close things down in West Virginia,” Price said. “... We didn’t even get out of that meeting and schools were shut down that day.”
With not much warning, Price said they, along with nearly every other school in the nation, had to pivot from in-person learning to a completely remote option.
“You know, it was the hand we were dealt, and we had to figure something out,” he said.
Price said he remembers the county’s first ever drive-through graduation ceremony where they had to figure out a way to make high school graduates and their families feel special and celebrated while also practicing social distancing.
“It wasn’t what everybody wanted to see, but it worked out well under the circumstances,” he said.
Although Covid has consumed his final years as superintendent for Raleigh County, Price said he has watched the district make strides since he stepped into the lead role.
Price said he’s especially proud of the advancements Raleigh Schools has made in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.
“We now have coding and the STEM education level in our middle schools that isn’t duplicated yet in West Virginia,” he said.
He added that in the past nine years, Raleigh Schools has had two National Blue Ribbon Schools, multiple Apple Distinguished Schools, had 60 percent of its gradates go on to higher education and 97 percent of completers at the career academy go on to either education, employment or enlistment.
Price said he’s also seen more than $130 million invested in facility improvements for Raleigh County Schools.
Most of all, Price said he’s proudest that he had the opportunity to serve students for so many years.
“The whole time that I’ve been an educator, it’s always been in my mind that I’m here to serve students,” he said. “Decisions were made based on how do they affect students first. It’s always students first, staff a close second.”
With retirement fast approaching, Price said he’s looking forward to spending more time with family and discovering new hobbies that he’ll now have time for.
“My focus definitely will be family first and then a little relaxation and maybe getting to get back into some hobbies I had prior to being a superintendent,” he said adding that he feels at ease knowing that he’s leaving the district in good hands.
“It’s just been an honor to serve Raleigh County. I’ve just been blessed to be able to do this,” Price said. “It was in good shape when we found it. I hope that we’ve left it in even better shape. And as we pass the torch, it’s the next person’s opportunity to take it to the next level. I hope we’ve been able to do that, and I think Dr. Starcher will.”