© Clinch Valley Times
ST. PAUL ELEMENTARY IS AN OUTSTANDING SCHOOL. The achievements of the children who attend this school have made that fact abundantly clear over the course of nearly 30 years since construction of the current building.
With the passage of time, it’s easy to forget how things come about. Many people have forgotten that, principally, it was the tireless efforts of Ann Gregory that made this school building a reality. During her years as a member of the Wise County School Board, she became St. Paul’s number one cheerleader, helping demonstrate that the children of Southwest Virginia are the equals of children anywhere.
The Clinch Valley Times office on Russell Street is filled with mementos from Allen and Ann Gregory’s years of community service. Recently i found the program from the dedication of the present St. Paul Elementary School building preserved along with the remarks Ann delivered that day. It is worthy of mention that during the ceremony, the key to the new building was first presented to her.
I have a confession to make to you – I’ve never before asked to have a specific part in a program, until today. A couple of months ago, I called Dr. Graham and asked him if I could have the pleasure of introducing our speaker, Jack Davis. I have so much respect for this man as an educator and as an advocate of the Commonwealth’s children, and so much affection for him as a friend, that I wanted to introduce him – to let you know what a real friend he has been to the students in Wise County and in St. Paul, and to let him know how very much his efforts are appreciated by those of us who know all that he has done.
Dr. Davis earned his Bachelor of Science degree at Indiana University of Pennsylvania; his Master’s degree at George Washington University; and his Doctorate at American University. He was also awarded an honorary Doctorate by his alma mater, Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
He began his career as a science teacher in a junior high school in Arlington County. He became an assistant principal, then a principal in Fairfax County, and was then appointed as one of several assistant superintendents in Fairfax. From 1970 until 1979, he served as Fairfax County’s Division Superintendent. Fairfax County is the 12th largest public school system in the United States, with a student enrollment of 131,000, and a faculty and staff of 14,000.
In 1979, he was appointed by the governor to serve as Superintendent of Public Instruction for the Commonwealth of Virginia, a position he held until his retirement last year. He has hardly slowed down since his retirement – his activities have included such diverse pursuits as serving as interim superintendent for the Virginia Beach Public Schools, and helping with a Cub Scout group in his neighborhood.
Under Dr. Davis’ leadership during the 11 years he spent as State Superintendent, Virginia’s educational system underwent many positive changes, putting the state on the cutting edge of the reform movement which began during the 1980’s. Teacher salaries throughout the Commonwealth were significantly increased; a program to provide assistance to beginning teachers was put into place; advanced studies diplomas provided a more challenging course of study for Virginia’s students; and the performance of Virginia’s schools, though an examination of student achievement, was emphasized. That list merely scratches the surface, but gives you an idea of the scope of this man’s leadership.
Throughout those years as the state’s educational chief executive officer, Jack Davis was a steady supporter of Wise County education. I must tell you that he quickly became acclimated to our Southwest Virginia mountains. Visiting Wise County very soon after becoming State Superintendent, he told how he was curious at hearing so many references to “Pal Valley” when he had understood that the schools at the west end of the county were named Powell Valley. Let me tell you – before long, he began saying “Pal” Valley, too.
He was our advocate in the county’s successful effort to establish the state’s second electronic classroom here, and he provided consistent support for special projects, pilot studies and program grants which, though those years, greatly enhanced opportunities for Wise County students.
The first time that the State Board of Education ever held a regular Board meeting outside of Richmond was the time that Jack Davis brought them to Wise County. It was during that visit, incidentally, that he performed in a cameo role with the Wise County Schools’ Class Act Players during the dinner theater performance they staged for the Board of Education’s visit.
When Wise County’s name rose to the top of the Literary Loan list, and the money for this building became available, the county’s share of the funding was not yet in place. It was through Jack Davis’ influence and intervention that we remained on the list (without having to go through the approval process a second time), and, if I remember correctly, the delay brought us an even more attractive interest rate on the money we borrowed. He has visited St. Paul a number of times, and his interest in this building has been keen, so it’s particularly appropriate that he is here with us today to present our dedicatory address. I happen to know that he and Mrs. Davis postponed a trip which they had planned to Mexico in order to be in St. Paul today.
It is both a personal pleasure and a great honor for me to present to you our speaker and our friend, Dr. S. John Davis.