The History of Pleasants County Schools

Education in Pleasants County has a storied history. From the early establishment of the county itself to the present day, education has always been a priority of the residents of Pleasants County. Pleasants County offers a robust curriculum, many college and career readiness programs, and diversified programming to meet the needs of all students.

The Early Years of Education in Pleasants County
and Rural / One Room Schools

The early years of education in Pleasants County included tutors in the homes and mainly rural and one room schools until the construction of St. Marys Public School in 1897 and Washington District High School in 1920 (more information on these schools is included below.) Rural and one room schools served many of the county's students especially in times of limited availability of transportation. These schools were under the jursidiction of school districts that were divided by magisterial districts and overseen by the elected county superintendent. This caused many issues because some of the poorer districts in the state (not just Pleasants County) could not provide adequate funding to support and maintain or build schools. Pleasants County had several districts including the Grant, Lafayette, Union, Jefferson, McKim, and the largest being the Washington District in St. Marys proper.

1933- the first Pleasants County Board of Education

1933 was a landmark year for education in West Virginia because the State Legislature established County Boards of Education and County School Systems through the "County Unit Bill" to replace all former school districts. In Pleasants County, the first superintendent of the county school system as we know it today was Mr. Cramblett who wrote letters to the secretaries of the former school district boards within Pleasants County asking that all property and records be formally transferred and turned over to the Pleasants County Board of Education as he was authorized and required to do by the new state law. This officially joined and consolidated the administration of all public education in the county under one board and one entity. After Mr. Cramblett's request was fulfilled and all educational property was turned over, the new board was responsbile for Washington District High School (grades 7-12,) St. Marys Graded School (grades 1-6,) and fourty-four rural schools- most of which were one-room structures that housed students from grades one-eight with all 9-12 grade students going to WDHS.

The new board of education organized and met for the first time on July 3, 1933 in the Board of Education office which was housed in the Pleasants County Courthouse. Superintendent Cramblett administered the oath of office to the five new board members- W. E. Snyder, J. W. Ruckman, A. M. Kiester, E. Turner Flemin, and A. W. Locke who was unanimously elected president of the board.

Their first actions were designating thirty-five (of the fourty-four) rural schools to remain operational for the ensuing school term and officially re-naming Washington District High School to St. Marys High School (many were already calling the school by this name informally.) As population fluctuated throughout the next twenty-seven years and transportation improved, the rural/ one room schools slowly closed. The final four in operation closed in August of 1960.

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Listed below are the Rural and One Room Schools that the board kept open for 1933-1934 and the date of their subsequent closure.

  • Arvilla 1960

  • Belmont 1940

  • Bond 1939

  • Broad Run 1939

  • Calcutta 1959

  • Center Valley 1938

  • Clay Point 1959

  • Cloverdale 1939

  • Hebron 1960

  • Henry Camp 1935

  • Horseneck 1939

  • Jackson Hall 1955

  • Labelle 1934

  • Locust Knob 1939

  • Morris 1960 (named in honor of Ida Peryl Morris, Superintendent of Schools 1923-1931.)

  • Mt. Carmel 1956

  • Mt. Dewey 1935

  • Nine Mile 1943

  • Oak Hill 1935

  • Pt. Lookout 1959

  • Raven Rock 1940

  • Rock Run 1955

  • Ruckman 1938

  • Rush Run 1943

  • Schultz 1958

  • Schultz Rock 1953

  • Shawnee 1958

  • Spice Run 1938

  • Star 1951

  • Sugar Valley 1942

  • Twiggs 1935

  • Valley Mills 1951

  • Walnut Hill 1956

  • Wasp 1934

  • Wiley 1960

  • Wolf Run 1943

Schools opened by the board in 1934 and their subsequent year of closure

  • Borland 1944

  • Pleasant Ridge 1935

St. Marys Public School/
St. Marys (Graded) Elementary School

St. Marys Elementary is a building you have to see in person to truly appreciate the grandeur and history of such a building. The building first educated students in 1897, but has been carefully updated and cared for since that time. When you walk through the halls you can feel the history while appreciating its readiness for the future. On the outside you will see sandstone at the base that was hand-carved and carried from the Ohio River by generations before us, but on the inside you will see the current generation carries on its legacy.

St. Marys Public School first opened in December of 1896 at a cost of $11,705.00 on approximately a two-acre plot of land. Instruction began there in January of 1897 for its 176 students, and included just six classrooms and a basement. A bell tower, used to summon students to school, was also part of the building. The facility was actually the second school built for the town. The first was a wooden building which was constructed in 1876, but was soon outgrown.

In those days a college education was not required for teachers, but they had to pass the state teachers’ examination to be issued a teaching certificate. Textbooks were prescribed, but little attention was paid to the requirements of their use. The only legal obligation of teachers was to keep the school open twenty-two days each month and to report attendance.

The school was originally called St. Marys Public School, and with the 1899 addition of high school classes, it housed grades 1-13 until a separate high school was built in 1920.

By 1905, 330 students attended the school requiring the addition of more rooms by 1907.

After the construction of Washington District High School in 1920, St. Marys Public School became known as St. Marys Grade (or Graded) School, and it housed students in grades 1-6 until 1960. Sixth graders began attending Park School that year and were joined by fifth graders in 1961, leaving only grades 1-4 at St. Marys Grade School. In 1975, the school became officially known as St. Marys Elementary School. Kindergarten was added as an optional program in 1985 followed by Pre-Kindergarten in 1995.

In 1950, the building underwent major renovations with the addition of more rooms and a gymnasium / auditorium were constructed. The iconic bell tower and the gothic-style roofing was removed during this time to "modernize" the structure. During this major reconstruction, some of the students were moved to the basement of St. Marys High School and other facilities in town.

In 1982 the cafeteria and additional classrooms were added and the land for the playground was purchased. The total acreage of the property had increased to 4.5 acres.

Until 2002, a coal furnace (converted to be powered with natural gas) was still used to heat the large structure and at which time new furnaces were added and central air conditioning replaced window units. The hallway’s plaster ceilings were replaced with drop ceilings the following year, and a new roof was added to the high (origional) part of the facility.

Another set of major renovations occurred in 2005, which included all new electrical service, new lighting, new flooring, all new plumbing and an elevator. All of the restrooms were redone and a sprinkler system installed. The exterior brick was refinished. Three years later the school received all new windows and exterior doors. The installation of all new high tech interior door locks was also completed in 2017-2018. During the summer of 2018 SMES had 45 new security cameras installed with an upgraded monitoring systems. A safe-school entrance was also built on to the school and the office was renovated.

As the oldest continually operating school facility in West Virginia, St. Marys Elementary School holds many memories of the past and stands ready and strong to prepare our students for the future.

Principals of SMPS / SMGS/ SMES

  • 1897-1898 R. L. Pemberton

  • 1898-1899 W. E. McKnight

  • 1899-1902 John L. Hissom

  • 1902- 1903 D. Walter Dillon

  • 1903-1907 Harry R. Bonner

  • 1907-1908 W. H. Wayt

  • 1908-1910 A. D. Givens

  • 1910-1912 Charles N. Wagner

  • 1912-1915 H. C. Humphreys

  • 1915-1920 Dan B. Fleming

  • 1920-1921 Effie Gorrell

  • 1921-1925 T. D. Haught

  • 1925-1927 Lilian Cotton

  • 1927-1929 Lilian Goff

  • 1929-1937 Lewis F. Rosenlieb

  • 1937-1948 O. B. Farren

  • 1948-1950 Quentin Evans

  • 1950-1954 Emery Jones

  • 1954-1965 Irving L. Ambrose

  • 1965-1975 Calvin Hileman

  • 1975-1985 Otis Leggett

  • 1985-2009 Thomas Hardbarger

  • 2009-2014 Deborah Hisam

  • 2014-2015 James G. Brown

  • 2015- current Tammy T. Haught

Washington District High School/
St. Marys High School

High school classes were offered in Pleasants County for the first time in 1899 in the St. Marys Public School building, which then became a grades 1-12 building. The enrollment of the high school students continued to grow over the years and overcrowding became such an issue at SMPS that four classrooms were added to SMPS in 1906. Even after the addition it became necessary for the high school to have its own building and construction began in 1919. The new high school was "Washington District High School" and opened in 1920 and was under the administration of the Washington District Board.

Soon after its opening in 1920, the ten-classroom structure was outgrown! Five more classrooms were added in 1929 which helped alleviate the overcrowding and set the building up for success. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, physical education and school athletics became popular and the building at this time did not have its own gymnasium. To overcome this problem, the County Board of Education worked with the American Legion to use the Community Building's Gymnasium (which became known as "Park School") to meet the athletic needs of the students.

Initially students in grades seven through twelve who lived within the boundaries of the Washington District attended Washington District High School and a few students form the other districts of Pleasants County who paid a tuition fee to attend.

In 1933, the "county unit system" was established by the state of West Virginia. This created county school systems to replace the smaller school districts. Since there was no longer a Washington District, Washington District High School was re-named St. Marys High School by the Board of Education. For the first time, students from Pleasants County outside of Washington District could attend the high school at no charge and a bus system was established to bring students from other parts of the county. The athletic field which became known as Imlay Field, after a hardworking school custodian, hosted football, marching band, tennis, soccer, and outdoor entertainment. It was well known for the oil rig structures that were used as light poles.

Population in the county was still increasing and in 1937 the Board saw the need to add additional space to SMHS. A brand new chemistry lab and cafeteria were added on to the school which provided a common area for the students and with the addition of the chemistry lab, freed up additional space in the the building for classrooms to shift around.

In 1948, land adjoining the high school was purchased from A. J. Bills which cleared the way for additional expansion of the school in 1954. Construction started that year on the addition of a new auditorium, gymnasium, band/ music room, shop rooms, and six additional classrooms. Dedication ceremonies for these brand new additions were held in 1955. Almost immediately the auditorium was named after former Superintendent Lewis F. Rosenlieb and years later the gymnasium was named after Dan Greenleaf. More construction followed in 1963 when the Board of Education Offices were added to the side of the building adjoining the northern end of the building to accomodate a growing school community.

In 1955, all seventh and eighth graders were moved to St. Marys High School to help with overcrowding at SMES and BES. This was a directive of the Board of Education. Eighth graders remained at SMHS until Pleasants County Middle School opened in 1975. Seventh graders were shifted to Park School from 1961 until the opening of PCMS.

April of 2013 was an exciting month in Pleasants County as ground was broken on the new St. Marys High School. Through successful passage of a bond by the voters of Pleasants County, monies were made available for the construction of a brand new school. The new SMHS was the first completely new school building in the county since PCMS was completed in 1975. In the 2014-15 school year, SMHS students completed the first semester in the old building and started second semester in January of 2015 in the new building. The building was a drastic improvement and offers ample space for classrooms, the arts, and athletics. One of the notable parts of the building is the state-of-the-art Vocational Agriculture wing. Other improvements to the facility included that for the first time all athletic facilities were on one complex rather than in different parts of town. It also features quick access for students enrolled in programs at the Mid-Ohio Valley Technical Institute. One of the notable features of the new building is the purposeful integration of the old building's brick design above the windows of the new building.

Principals of WDHS (1920-1933)

  • 1920-1921 Ira O. Ash

  • 1921-1925 Jesse E. Riley

  • 1925-1926 John D. Garrison

  • 1926-1928 George W. Hogg

  • 1928-1932 Joseph L. Vincent

Principals of SMHS (1933- current)

  • 1933-1934 Joseph L. Vincent

  • 1934-1939 C. L. McMahan

  • 1939-1948 W. J. B. Cormany

  • 1948-1953 O. B. Farren

  • 1953 John D. Brisbane

  • 1953-1963 O. B. Farren

  • 1963-1968 Sam Williams

  • 1968-1973 L. P. Ingram

  • 1973-1974 William Wladeck

  • 1974-1979 Gary A. Ryan

  • 1979-1986 Charles Smith

  • 1986- 1998 Glen DeHaven

  • 1998-2006 Charles Heinlein

  • 2006-2007 (Dec.) Bruce Martin

  • 2008 (Jan.) -2010 David Gaul

  • 2010-2011 Michael Wells

  • 2011-2015 Jayne Tebay

  • 2015-2020 Jeff Sole

  • 2020-current Lori A. Barnhart

Belmont Consolidated School/
Belmont Elementary School

Belmont Elementary School began its story in 1940 as “Belmont Consolidated School” in a wooden structure that was located near the current Belmont Post Office. The school combined several small and one room schools in the Belmont and surrounding areas of Pleasants County.

In 1949 construction began on the main wing of the current facility on the property of the former Pleasants County Home (poor farm.) This was a result of the 1949 bond levy. In 1950, the main part of facility opened which included eight classrooms and a kitchen. The addition of the gymnasium/ auditorium portion was completed in 1952 followed by the addition of another classroom wing which currently houses one kindergarten and first and second grades in 1960. Belmont Consolidated School originally housed grades one through six until 1975 when Pleasants County Middle School Opened. At grade seven, Belmont area students would attend St. Marys High School (and for a few years, Park School for seventh and eighth and then SMHS for nine through twelve.)

From the time the school opened it was called Belmont Consolidated School (or just Belmont School for short) until April of 1974 when the Pleasants County Board of Education officially designated the name as "Belmont Elementary School" just months before the building housed only first through fourth grades, then adding kindergarten, followed by pre-kindergarten in 1992.

In 1980 under the leadership of Principal Thomas Braun, BES would see another addition with the completion of the special education wing which now holds one kindergarten, our Pre-K program, Music, one special education room, and our computer lab. A few years later, an addition was made to the building beside the gym that became storage and the library, but then became a classroom for health & wellness and a movement and exercise area for students after the library moved to the main part of the building.

A major renovation occurred in 2012-13 when the school saw the replacement of the HVAC system in two of the three areas of the school, all new restrooms, new ceilings, and energy efficient lighting along with the replacement of the flooring. This drastically modernized and updated the building and was funded by a bond passed by the tax payers of Pleasants County which also funded the construction of the new St. Marys High School which opened in 2015.

In 2018-19, through funding by the WV School Building Authority, BES saw another set of renovations when the main office was renovated, upgraded, and fitted with a safe-school entrance and all external doors were replaced for added security. During the summer of 2019, the HVAC system in the final wing was replaced and work was completed on the ceilings.

We are fortunate to live in a community that has supported bonds and levies to provide outstanding facilities for our children in Pleasants County.

Principals of BCS/ BES

  • 1950-1967 E.E. Simonton

  • 1967-1970 Oral Eugene Smith

  • 1970-1973 Robert Baughman

  • 1973-1975 Robert W. Smith

  • 1975 Thomas Hardbarger

  • 1975-1999 Thomas Braun

  • 1999-2007 Max Powell

  • 2007-2017 Rebecca Griffith

  • 2017-2020 Eric D. Croasmun

  • 2020- current M. Shelley Taylor

Park School

Park School was originally built as a community building in 1936 by the American Legion. Soon after its construction, the building was used for high school physical education classes through an agreement between the Legion and the Board. In 1959 the Board of Education purchased the building and converted in to a fourteen room school through a renovation and construction project that began in 1960. All St. Marys area sixth graders and some St. Marys area fifth graders attended classes there for the 1960-61 school year. When the renovation was completed in 1961 All fifth and sixth graders in the St. Marys area and all seventh graders from Pleasants County attended Park School. This helped overcome overcrowding at both SMES and SMHS which then housed grades 8-12 in 1961.

Park School operated as a fifth through seventh grade school until 1975 when Pleasants County Middle School opened. Park School closed that year and the building was deeded back to the county court of Pleasants County to be again used as a community building. Later, it was re-named the Jim Spence Center and houses the WVU Extension Service, Pleasants County Parks and Recreation Offices and Facilities, the Boys and Girls Club, and other community services.

Principals of Park School

  • 1960-1961 Irving Ambrose (St. Marys Grade School Principal oversaw both buildings.)

  • 1961-1975 Otis Leggett

Pleasants County Middle School

In 1973, a bond levy was passed by Pleasants County voters for the construction of a new middle school. Supplemented with funding from the "Better School Buildings Amendment" from the state, construction began in 1974. When it opened in 1975, it was a state-of-the art facility with a main instructional area, auditorium, heated swimming pool, a suite of rooms to house the music department, a robust related arts facility, a large gymnasium, a large office complex, and a large cafeteria and kitchen. The school was built to adjoin Belmont Elementary so the schools could share resources including the cafeteria and kitchen. In total, the PCMS/ BES complex then increased to approximately twenty-two acres. In 1976, for the first time, all Pleasants County students in grades five through eight were housed in one building. This reconfigured the grades at SMHS to 9-12, BES and SMES to K-4 and closed the Park School. Since the school opened in 1975-1976 school year and the Bicentennial of the United States was in 1976, the patriotic colors were chosen and the Minuteman was selected as the mascot. The first principal, Robert Smith had been the principal at Belmont Elementary. In February of 1975, Mr. Smith left BES and set-up an "office" in a house to plan the new school for the upcoming year. Tom Hardbarger served as BES principal from February to the end of the year to allow Mr. Smith to plan the new school and then became the assistant principal of the school upon opening.

Principals of PCMS

  • 1975-1977 Robert W. Smith

  • 1977-1985 Thomas Hardbarger

  • 1985-2004 Donna Barksdale

  • 2004-2010 Michael Wells

  • 2010-2018 Lori A. Barnhart

  • 2018-2020 William Aaron Hickman

  • 2020- current Kayla Spitzer

Superintendents of Pleasants County Schools

  • 1851-1852 C. W. Core

  • 1852-1855 Alexander H. Creel

  • 1855-1856 Granville Keller

  • 1856-1862 Alexander H. Creel


    Elected by voters to two year terms.

  • 1862-1863 Alexander H. Creel

  • 1864- 1865 C. J. Wood

  • 1865-1867 M. Williamson

  • 1867-1868 Aaron DeLong

  • 1868- 1872 William N. Jones

  • 1872-1873 Richard D. Towzey

  • 1873-1875 Archimedes W. Gorrell

  • 1875-1877 Clinton C. Davis

  • 1877-1879 Archimedes W. Gorrell

  • 1879-1881 J. F. Wayman

  • 1881- 1883 Archimedes W. Gorrell

  • 1883- 1885 E. T. Fleming

  • 1885-1887 Archimedes W. Gorrell

  • 1887- 1891 L. A. Ellis

  • 1891- 1893 Robert G. Anderson

  • 1893- 1895 Coleman L. Singleton

  • 1895-1897 Robert L. Pemberton

  • 1897- 1907 Albert W. Locke

  • 1907-1911 A. L. Baker

  • 1911-1912 Charles L. Farnsworth

  • 1912-1913 J. H. Fleming

  • 1913-1923 Guy C. Mac Taggart

  • 1923-1931 Ida Peryl Morris


    Appointed by the board of education with contracts of varying terms.

  • 1931-1935 Fred Cramblett

  • 1935-1937 O. B. Farren

  • 1937-1953 Lewis F. Rosenlieb

  • 1953 O. B. Farren

  • 1953-1966 John D. Brisbane

  • 1966-1967 Irving L. Ambrose

  • 1967 John D. Brisbane

  • 1967-1973 Irving L. Ambrose

  • 1973-1983 Larry G. Gainer

  • 1983-1998 Harold C. Carl, II

  • 1998-2001 Tilden 'Skip' Hackworth

  • 2001-2003 David Perrine

  • 2003-2006 Thomas Long

  • 2006-2011 Francis Joseph Super

  • 2011-current G. Michael Wells

Teacher of the Year Awards

  • Edna Fitzpatrick – 1974-75

  • Walter Carpenter – 1975-76

  • Barbara Reckard – 1976-77

  • Margaret Mercer – 1977-78

  • Cynthia Alkire – 1978-79

  • Elizabeth Prigga – 1979-80

  • Virginia Tennant – 1980-81

  • Frances Davis – 1981-82

  • Bill Howard – 1982-83

  • Wynema Wilson – 1983-84

  • Debra File – 1984-85

  • Shirley White – 1985-86

  • Johanna Gettings – 1986-87

  • Phyllis Barnhart – 1987-88

  • R. Jan Coby – 1988-89

  • Barbara Morgan – 1989-90

  • Susan Armstrong – 1990-91

  • Erwin Berry – 1991-92

  • Barbara Carl – 1992-93

  • Larry Lynch - 1993-94

  • Steve Parlett – 1994-95

  • Robert Hammel, Jr. 1995-96

  • Deborah Hisam – 1996-97

  • Patty Moffett – 1997-98

  • Karen Parlett – 1998-99

  • None – 1999-2000

  • John Armstrong – 2000-01

  • C. Vance Weekley – 2001-02

  • Jim Andrews – 2002-03

  • Carol Hysell – 2003-04

  • Jason Hughes–2004-05 WON STATE

  • Joyce Hagerty – 2005-06

  • Janet Baughman – 2006-07

  • R. Jan Coby - 2007-08

  • Joetta Moore - 2008-09

  • Melissa Carder - 2009-10

  • Paula Oliverio – 2010-11

  • Kriss Bodnar - 2011-2012

  • Melissa Emerson - 2012-2013

  • Elizabeth Liz Eddy - 2013-2014

  • Pat Boyles – 2014-2015

  • Sherri Murphy – 2015-2016

  • Amanda Mote – 2016-2017

  • E. Jane Derrington – 2017-2018

  • Paige Crawford-Cook – 2018-2019

  • Kathleen Johnson - 2019-2020

  • Emily J. Null 2020-2021

  • To Be Announced 2021-2022