MARION COUNTY, W.Va. — Marion County Schools have been named one of 16 districts in the state to earn the Purple Star Award given by the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) and Common Ground Partnership. The award recognizes districts and schools that dedicate support and services to military families.

Superintendent Donna Heston said this is the second time the district has won the award, and serving military families is an honor for each employee.

“It is the highest commitment that anyone can make to their country, and we’re thankful for their service,” Heston said. “We’re honored to be a Purple Star district, and certainly it is especially an honor to salute our students who make that commitment.”

The program started at Rivesville Elementary School with then assistant principal and member of the West Virginia National Guard, Chris Donato, who is now the principal at Pleasant Valley Elementary School.

On the most recent Military Signing Day, Donato, who is in training in Oklahoma, participated virtually with the Board of Education to recognize students in the district who have made the commitment to serve in the military.

“We got to see our principal through his leadership and service to our country and speak to his community, as well as being live streamed during the board of education meeting,” Heston said.

In the district, every school has a sponsor to connect with military families to offer support. Heston said that support also extends to employees of the district, like Donato, who took time during training to address wearing uniforms.

“We certainly support him as the principal and leader of one of our schools. We certainly support that commitment and the example he’s setting for our students and families,” Heston said. “That was just a very special moment.”

The dedicated program in Marion County Schools recognizes the unique needs of students with family members serving in the military, and Superintendent Heston calls the mission “vital” to the district.

“That is all that we can do to support them and recognize as a school system what their family is doing for our country and what we can do to keep them connected,” Heston said. “That’s vital for our school system.”