Man works his way through ranks to lead schools

February 25, 1997


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Berkeley County Board of Education turned to one of its own Tuesday to lead the school system, naming Assistant Superintendent Manny Arvon as the new school superintendent.

Hundreds of school officials, students and Arvon's family members packed the auditorium at Martinsburg High School to hear the announcement Tuesday morning.

The crowd gave Arvon a standing ovation after he was named superintendent.

"It is with great privilege, that I accept this most important position," said Arvon, who has worked in the school system for 23 years.


School officials said it is the first time in about 40 years that a teacher has risen through the ranks to take the top position.

Arvon will replace Superintendent James Bennett, who will retire in June.

When the board of education began looking for a successor to Bennett in December, board members said they wanted a person who would follow Bennett's personal style, and who would be attuned to rising test scores and declining drop-out rates.

"I would submit to you today we have more than fufilled that requirement," said Board of Education President G.W. Sonnik III.

Bennett said when he became superintendent four years ago, the school system had a strong teaching corps, but it was unclear what the system's instructional goals were.

The board of education then developed a set of "benchmarks," a precise proposal about what skills it wanted students to master, according to Bennett.

Arvon was involved in the early stages of the benchmark program, Bennett said.

Arvon started his career in the county in 1974 as a teacher at Rosemont Elementary in Martinsburg. He was also principal at Gerrardstown Elementary, Martinsburg South Middle School and Rosemont. In 1994, Arvon became assistant Ssuperintendent for instruction.

Arvon said his priorities for the school system will be setting higher academic standards for students, and completing a building program now in progress. The effort includes providing space for all-day kindergarten, a new Musselman High School in southern Berkeley County and a new intermedicate school in northern Berkeley County.

The school system has grown at a steady pace in recent years, adding about 300 students to its enrollment annually, Sonnik said.

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