Tolsia celebrates 25th anniversary
FORT GAY, W.Va. -- Twenty-five years ago Friday, students walked into Tolsia High School for the first time, signaling the closing of Crum and Fort Gay high schools and the start of a legacy that was celebrated with a ceremony on Friday.
School and county officials took time to reminisce about the opening of the school, pointing to both academic and athletic successes in the past quarter century.
"We made a lot of progress here," said Tab Mathis, who was principal from 1999 to 2005 and now is a middle school principal in Tyler County. "Those were six of the best years of my life."
Sandra Pertee, the director of Career and Technical Education for Wayne County, was a teacher and cheerleading coach then and recalled how fondly she thought of the school when it opened.
"I will never forget how proud I was that we were going to be the Tolsia Rebels," said Pertee, who helped lead the cheerleading team to three state championships. "When I get an opportunity to visit Tolsia High School, it's like walking into my second home."
The school is home to about 440 students this year, along with several former Rebels now working at the school. Principal Matt Stanley graduated in 1989, then returned as football coach and social studies teacher after college. In 2006, he got the job as principal after Mathis left.
"We just became the Tolsia family," Stanley said. "That's how we act and treat each other. Everything that's happened the past 25 years is on a path I think everyone can be proud of."
Several people explained that in rural parts of the state, the school is the hub of the community and serves as a connecting point for residents. That's why, Stanley said, it was good to take time and celebrate the anniversary.
"This is all we've got," he said. "It's more than a school. It's our community center and meeting place."
Marsha Walker agreed. She is a graduate of the class of 1992, the first class to attend all four years at the high school. She now teaches special education and hopes today's students appreciate the school as much as former students do.
Stanley also took time to celebrate those who have worked at the school since it opened, including teachers Drew Waller, Cindy Caudill and Wanda Ramey. Waller and Caudill are retiring this year.
Also in that bunch is executive secretary Ruth Spaulding, who Stanley said is the glue holding the school together. Students gave her a standing ovation when she walked to the microphone and asked to speak. She told the students she loved them and said has no plans to retire, ever.
Former principals Gary Adkins and Barry Scraggs were invited but unable to attend the ceremony.