By Chapin Jewell

Tribune Correspondent

SHORT GAP - After a combined 39 years spent in education, the last 16 of which as the principal at Frankfort High School, Joe Riley will officially be retiring this fall.

As such, Saturday’s drive-up graduation ceremony at Frankfort was the last such ceremony Riley has presided over.

In an effort to recognize a job and career well done, West Virginia House of Delegates member Ruth Rowan was on hand just prior to the ceremony to present Riley with two citations - one from the House of Delegates and one from Gov. Jim Justice.

According to the legislative citation, "Over his highly successful career as an educator and administrator, Joseph E. Riley has been an outstanding teacher, coach and administrator who has set a high standard of excellence. For the past 16 years he has served as principal at Frankfort High School with great distinction His solid leadership and steady hand has guided the school to earn numerous accolades."

The citation illustrates a multitude of accomplishment for Frankfort High School under Riley’s leadership. During his tenure, Frankfort has consistently been honored as a West Virginia Exemplary School, and since 2013 has been ranked as one of West Virginia’s Top Ten High Schools, due mainly to high academic achievements.

The legislative citation notes, "The success of the students is a testament to Mr. Riley’s strong leadership style. He empowers his faculty to establish high expectations that reap exemplary results. Student achievement is fully illustrated in annual test scores that are above the average scores for schools in both the county and state."

One particular accomplishment noted by the legislative citation is that, "Frankfort High School led the state with the highest graduation rated during the 2014-2015 school year."

The governor’s citation extended thanks and appreciation to Riley for 39 years of hard work and dedication to his job. According to Gov. Justice, "Your experience, wisdom and friendliness has made you an exceptional employee and a valuable asset to Mineral County Schools. Your record of accomplishments must be a source of great pride to you, your family, and many friends."

After presenting the citations, Del. Rowan thanked Riley with the following words, "Thank you. Thank you for everything you’ve done. You’ve always welcomed me here if I’ve come in and I see it. Even if you just walked into the cafeteria, the kids just have so much respect for you. And I remember seeing you in Charleston, you were in Charleston accepting an award for this school, for being the best in the state (for graduation rate)."

For both Rowan and Riley, the moment represented a connection that had come full circle. Rowan, who has known Riley for many years, acknowledged too a strong connection with his parents, Ed and Janet Riley, both accomplished educators in their own right.

According to Del. Rowan, "I’ve known the family for years. Janet right there, my very first teaching assignment, back in 1983, she was there. We taught together from my first year of teaching, so I’ve known the family since at least 1983. In 1991, I was up for teacher of the year with Janet, and she won that year."

"And Eddie, I’ve know Eddie for years. I can remember being at dinners and meetings with Eddie," Del. Rowan stated.

Ed Riley followed up by stating, "I was still subbing when this epidemic came, it made my 65th year in education. I enjoyed every minute of it, every job I had."

Joe Riley comes from a distinguished line of educators and distinguished himself through hard work and dedication over a 39-year career that delivered fruit from his labors, most notably as the principal at Frankfort High School.