Superintendent of Botetourt County Public Schools John Busher received two commemorative plaques last Thursday for his service to the school system.
Photo by Matt de Simone

By Matt de Simone

Contributing writer

A special presentation was given for a man who has touched the hearts of many Botetourt residents at the Botetourt County School Board meeting last Thursday night. The meeting marked John Busher’s last meeting as superintendent. A gracious grin permeated across his face as he sat in front of the School Board and community members who were in attendance. Busher looked like a kid who knows school’s out. Summer is here. Here comes the sun on a new horizon— and deservedly so.

School Board Chairman Michael Beahm asked that members of the School Board share their thoughts on the time spent with Busher as superintendent. The board members were not at a loss for kind words.

“Once upon a time, in a land far away,” School Board member John Alderson recalled, “a telephone call was made to John Busher. He was asked, ‘Would you consider being interim superintendent?’ and he said, ‘Why doesn’t someone ask me?’ Then I said, ‘Well, John, what do you think this is?’” Laughs emitted from the rest of the School Board.

“We find ourselves in a very happy place today as far as the division and the morale among our folks,” Alderson added as he lauded Busher’s aggressive campaign not only for more funds given to Botetourt County Public Schools, but also for the construction of a new Colonial Elementary School.

The next to thank Busher was School Board member Michelle Crook, who said, “There’s a saying that ‘it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important being nice.’ Mr. Busher had a very important position for the last four years leading our school division. More than anything, he was nice in doing it. It shows you can be a very good leader and also be kind.” Crook also accentuated Busher’s compassion for the children of Botetourt County and their future success.

Board member Anna Weddle continued, “Thank you for giving teachers the respect and freedom to teach in the way they see fit and I know they appreciate that, too.”

School Board Vice Chair Scott Swortzel looked over at Busher and said, “All right, here’s my comment. Stand up.” Swortzel rose from his chair as did Busher. The vice chair’s “thank you” came in the form of a hug. This hug also had a metaphoric meaning. Swortzel added, “This is basically what [Busher] did for our school system.”

The recognition had reached its emotional peak.

Beahm rounded out the appreciations. “We so much appreciate what you’ve brought to the system. It’s been said from that standpoint and also from the standpoint of how it reflects on what the comradery of, I think, the collective body of employees have felt under your tenure. Everybody’s here for a purpose and your purpose has certainly been fulfilled.”

Now the recognition had reached its emotional peak.

Beahm continued, “You know your statement of: ‘It’s not what I think, it’s what I know’? In this case, what I think counts for a lot of what I know in terms of how you’ve related. Thank you so much.”

Following the heartfelt sentiments from the School Board, Beahm presented Busher with two plaques of recognition. The first was the standard commemorative plaque that will hang with the rest of the plaques recognizing past superintendents in the Botetourt County Public Schools Administration Building.

Mike Ketron, supervisor for career and technical education and adult education, was at the meeting to bring a plaque made by the students at the Botetourt Technical Education Center. The wooden plaque contains a map of Botetourt County with each school’s name engraved in their respective geographic positions within the map. The students also engraved the mission statement Busher carried in his pocket.

Ketron thanked Busher as well. “It’s just a thank you from not only the CTE, but all the teachers.”

Busher shared some gracious parting words as well. “It’s been a real team effort,” he said standing in front of the School Board and community. “It’s been a pleasure to have a dialogue with you about where we are and me and my mission statement. I’ve actually handed that over to Lisa Chen.”

He continued, “She said, ‘Can I have a copy of that?’ and I said, ‘You can have it.’” This story elicited more laughter.

As he looked at those who gathered at his final School Board meeting as superintendent, Busher closed with a statement about where he spent the last four years and many before that. “This is a special place— Botetourt County. When I talk about Botetourt County and the Botetourt way, it’s not only about the school system, it’s also about the community as a whole.”

Busher also thanked members of the Board of Supervisors who he worked with in the past.

In closing, Busher said, “We are a family of educators. We truly hold responsibility to prepare kids for citizenship. It’s preparing kids for careers. It’s preparing kids for the responsibility of coming back to Botetourt and continue the great efforts of this division. It’s been a team effort. It’s not me. All I can say I did is that we identified true skill, true craft, and true heart about caring for this division and I gave permission.”

Busher said he is honored to be a part of the Botetourt County culture. He thanked everyone once again and received a thankful ovation in return.