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John Marshall High School Principal, Cafeteria Manager Are Best in State

CASSIE PORTER (LEFT) AND SANDY KOTSON (RIGHT)

GLEN DALE – At the head of the school and at the head of the cafeteria, John Marshall High School’s staff are standouts in their respective fields.

JMHS principal Cassie Porter was recognized as the 2022 State Principal of the Year by the

West Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals and cafeteria manager Sandy Kotson was named 2022 Manager of the Year by the West Virginia School Nutrition Association. Porter will go on to be one of 50 nominees for the 2023 National Principal of the Year.

Porter’s dedication to students and focus on STEM were noted in the release for her award, particularly her focus on Project Lead the Way. Porter oversaw the construction of a fabrication lab at JMHS, the first in the state to be certified through MIT, as well as the construction of the lab at Sherrard Middle School.

“When I worked at the middle school, I was a former science teacher, … and I loved the Project Lead the Way idea because it’s introducing STEM – science, technology, education, mathematics – into the curriculum for students,” she said Monday. “I always believe that when students can work hands-on, they can learn better, because they’re actually involved in it. You remember what you’re doing.”

Grants helped bring the fabrication labs to the two schools, which provide standardized, quality education in the three tracks of Project Lead the Way – biomedical, engineering and computer science.

Porter added that JMHS staff members work to support each other across the board, particularly with mental health.

“We always want to take care of everyone. We always talk about taking care of the students, we also want to take care of each other, and focus on making sure our mental health is in check, so we’re much better equipped to take care of our students.”

Porter will go to Morgantown in July to be inducted as president of the board for the WVASSP.

Kotson started an afterschool supper program for students remaining on campus after hours. Beginning with around 20 students, the program grew to more than 80. Kotson wanted to ensure that kids staying after the last bell still got a good meal and weren’t trying to learn a little extra on an empty stomach.

“A lot of these kids, when they get home, if they go straight home at 3:30 or 4 p.m., they’re starved,” Kotson said. “If they’re staying here ’til 6 and trying to do more work, they’re really thinking about their stomach versus getting the extra work done to get their grades up like they’re trying to do.

“What started out as a small little sample grew, we had more and more kids coming, and the kids just love it because they’re not so starved when they get home,” she added. “They can concentrate on what they’re supposed to be doing, and thinking to learn and advance their grades.”

Kotson added that she’s tried to expand the menu of lunch offerings at JMHS over the years beyond chicken nuggets and hot dogs. While some students prefer the classics, others have jumped at offerings such as lasagna, buffalo chicken wraps and sausage gravy over biscuits.

Kotson has worked with Marshall County Schools for 17 years, and as head cook and cafeteria manager for 15.

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