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Arvon receives state accolades

August 28, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - It was not the eight-piece student orchestra, the hundreds of well-wishers, the plaques for being named state Superintendent of the Year or the surprise of being named a Distinguished West Virginian that Manny Arvon considered the highlight of his night Wednesday.

It was Bill Queen.

President of the Berkeley County Board of Education and Arvon's best friend, Queen spoke at a reception in honor of Arvon, who is superintendent of Berkeley County Schools.

Earlier this summer, Arvon was named the state's best superintendent. A surprise came during the reception when David Stewart, state superintendent of schools, presented Arvon with a rarely bestowed Distinguished West Virginian award. A personal letter from Gov. Bob Wise accompanied the plaque.

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"He's a great superintendent because he has so much passion," Queen told the crowd. "I can't even get the guy to take a vacation."

Looking toward his friend, Queen said, "Your commitment to the 14,000 students, to the 2,200 employees, to the citizens of Berkeley County and to West Virginia has absolutely been extraordinary."

Arvon, 51, who is originally from Boone County, has been in the education field for 30 years. After graduating from Shepherd College, he worked one year in Boone County before taking a job where he really wanted one, in Berkeley County.

Growing up, Arvon was surrounded by family members who worked as educators, including his mother and father. "You didn't play school because you were always at school," he said.

When family members gave their students tests with essay questions, Arvon would get mad because he couldn't help grade those.

"I never really wanted to be anything other than an educator," he said.

After starting as a teacher, Arvon worked his way up, first to assistant principal, then principal, assistant superintendent and, finally, superintendent seven years ago.

It can be stressful, dealing with a county in which the student population had steadily increased, last year alone by more than 400.

Baseball is where Arvon finds relief. There, he is an athlete and a coach and nothing more.

Get him started talking about baseball and Arvon recounts the summer he spent 11 days on the road with teenagers playing in the Senior League, a division of Little League. By the end of the road trip, the boys were state champions and playing in North Carolina in a regional tournament.

Arvon makes it a point to shake every graduate's hand.

Arvon and his wife, Pamela, have two sons, Matt and Trey, whose hands he also was able to shake. Matt, 24, works with computers in a local law firm, while Trey, 19, is a sophomore majoring in education at Shepherd College. He hopes to be a teacher and principal one day.

At the reception, after he was presented the Distinguished West Virginian award, Arvon shook his head, took a sip of water and raised his arms in disbelief. The award had been a secret.

"Tonight, I'm overwhelmed," he told the crowd.

Later, Arvon said he felt selfish accepting an award made possible by so many others, including the county's school employees, his board members and the community.

After the flashbulbs popped and the reporters put away their notebooks, most of those in attendance had left the reception. Still present was Queen.

Although they met for a practical purpose - "Bill is a dentist and I had a toothache," Arvon said - the mutual respect they share for each other is obvious.

Queen said a lot of people do not know that Arvon travels to Charleston, W.Va., nearly every week, meeting face-to-face with the people that can affect Berkeley County's schools, including the state superintendent and state Board members.

Arvon's congenial personality, knowledge and values make him special, Queen said. "He knows how to please people and still do the right thing."

Asked what one word would best describe Arvon, Queen was quick to respond.

"Amazing," he said. "Absolutely amazing."

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