Debra K. Sullivan
Debra K. SullivanWest Virginia Board of Education

Meet Debra K. Sullivan

For more than four years, Debra Sullivan has served as a member of the West Virginia Board of Education. She said being involved in educating our West Virginia children is a serious undertaking, with the work ultimately affecting individual students’ futures and our future as a state.

“Members of county boards and the state board have a responsibility to provide solid educational opportunities for children to grow intellectually and personally in the short-term so they can prosper in the long-term.”

To fulfill this obligation, she said board members can best serve when they use quantitative and qualitative data to analyze current conditions, determine goals, implement plans, and monitor results.

“While numbers provide valuable information, intangibles are powerful indicators, too.  Are schools and classrooms safe, emotionally, and physically, for children and educators? Are there non-academic ways for children to explore personal interests and develop new ones?  Do parents and guardians feel welcome and comfortable in their children’s schools? Are schools and classrooms pervaded with a sense of respect, order, purposefulness, and positivity? How do all members of a school community interact to work collectively to solve challenges and plan for the future? How do communities actively and visibly support their schools?”

These are questions school boards across the nation ask of their school communities each year to ensure that all students have what they need to learn and grow. It is the commitment of board members like Sullivan who help West Virginia students achieve and succeed.

“Bottom line, schools can be energizing, intellectually and emotionally engaging, joyful places that have inspiring, life-altering impacts on individual children,” Sullivan said. “School board members at all levels can help make such schools a reality.”

Getting To Know Board Member Sullivan

  • Academic Background: Mrs. Sullivan earned an undergraduate degree in English and Education from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in Language Communications from the University of Pittsburgh. She also completed additional coursework through Marshall University and received intensive training in teacher effectiveness research at the Teaching and Learning Institute (Palo Alto, CA).  

  • Professional BackgroundMrs. Sullivan began her career teaching English and remedial reading in rural and inner-city schools in Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. She also served as State Coordinator of Reading at the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) and as Director of Adolescent Education with Putnam County Schools, including involvement in K-12 curriculum and staff development for the county. Additionally, she worked as principal of Sacred Heart Grade School (pre-K-grade 5) and retired as principal of Charleston Catholic High School (grades 6-12). Mrs. Sullivan currently serves as Chairperson of the West Virginia Communities In Schools Advisory Council, working closely with First Lady Cathy Justice’s staff and WVDE staff to support implementation and expansion of this student support program in West Virginia public schools.

  • Favorite Subject(s): “As an elementary and high school student, I liked anything that involved reading – including word problems in math!  I took to heart the notion that reading opens doors: we can walk in someone else’s shoes and benefit from their experiences; we can imagine different worlds; we can learn about history and government and perhaps avoid the missteps of the past; we can appreciate the intricacies of the natural world. Ultimately, we can dream big dreams.”
  • Favorite Hobbies: “I value spending time with my husband, son, daughter-in-law, and two school-aged grandchildren; reading novels, newspapers, and magazines; cooking (tasty but not fancy); spending time outside; assisting my husband in his various projects; driving the backroads of West Virginia; serving on a community foundation board and a state commission focused on libraries; keeping an eye on current events; and trying to encourage others.”