Open letter to Jefferson County officials, community
March 9, 2018


An open letter to Dr. Gibson, members of the Board of Education and the community of Jefferson County:

I sit here on the eve of schools opening after a nine-day, statewide work stoppage in our public education system, and I can't help but be proud. Proud to be an educator. Proud to be a West Virginian. But most importantly, proud to be a member of this Jefferson County community.

I am writing to you as Katlin Thorsell, a Charles Town resident, who, since Feb. 22, has seen the outpouring of support for our educators, service personnel and public employees from Dr. Gibson, our school board members and community citizens and businesses. Every act of kindness-small and large-has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated, and it reminds me why I chose to stay here.

Five years ago, I was a half-day agriculture teacher at Washington High School. As the school year started to wind down, the uncertainty of my position caused me to apply elsewhere for a job. I was offered a position in Virginia teaching high school agriculture, and I had a tough decision to make-did I take a risk that my position at WHS could remain part-time, or take a guaranteed full-time job in a neighboring county?

While it seemed like a tough decision at the time, looking back, it was fairly simple. I chose to stay in Jefferson County because this was my home. Not home in the sense that I lived here, but more a feeling because of the people I encountered within its boundaries. The people who supported me when I was a student were the same people who were now supporting the students in our agriculture program and education system. The comradery among the teachers and service personnel within our schools truly made it seem like I was part of a second family. The sense of togetherness that I felt when I attended community events was a feeling I knew I wouldn't find anywhere else. The overwhelming amount of service to others that I observed and participated in was remarkable. The reasons that made me stay here five years ago are the same reasons why I'm writing this letter.

I would like to say thank you. Thank you to all of the businesses and community partners who have donated food, services and time to provide a meal or a place to go for the students of Jefferson County. You have opened your doors to so many children and your service will never be forgotten. To the students and residents of Jefferson County: Thank you for honking your horn, pulling over to hand some food out your window and making your voice heard at the rally points. Your kind words and servant actions have provided a lifeline for those involved in this movement. To Dr. Gibson, Mr. Sudduth, Mrs. Skinner, Mrs. Ogden, Mr. Kable and Mr. Osbourn: Thank you for fielding relentless communications and never faltering in your support of our Jefferson County Schools staff. I know I would never have the fortitude to be in your position and make the decisions you make day in and day out.

I know that those reading this letter may have a different opinion on its content, but this movement is about more than a pay raise and better insurance. It's about having a voice and fighting for what you believe in. It's about never giving up when the odds are stacked against you and being a part of something much larger than yourself.

I know tonight teachers and service personnel are putting the finishing touches on their lesson plans and activities for tomorrow and are more than excited and grateful to be back in the classroom with the students they love and cherish. While the time has passed, what hasn't changed is the commitment that we have to changing the lives of our students. Hopefully, this movement has taught not only our students, but this community, the power of being united, sharing our voice and supporting one another in times of need.

Jefferson County, thank you for making home more than a place and more like a feeling because of those we are surrounded by. We are #55strong and I am #JeffersonProud.


Katlin Thorsell


Regular Size Shepherdstown Chronicle