CHARLESTON, W.Va. _The West Virginia Board of Education (WVBOE) today voted unanimously to declare a state of emergency at South Branch Career and Technical Center. Board members agreed to send a monitor to South Branch following an Office of Education Performance Audit (OEPA) report citing serious personnel issues at the school. Located in Petersburg, West Virginia, the school serves Grant, Hardy and Pendleton counties.
Kenna Seal, executive director of the OEPA, conducted an audit of the school in February and March. Today, he told board members that the school climate is tense and volatile. Seal went on to state that relationships between teachers and administrative staff have deteriorated to the point of open conflict and confrontation of a hostile nature.
“It is the responsibility of the WVBOE to ensure our students are being taught in a safe and healthy school environment,” said Board President Delores Cook. “It was very evident to us that we needed to act quickly in an effort to restore safety.”
The Board rescinded its delegation of operating authority of South Branch Career and Technical Center from the Administrative Council and delegated it to the State Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine.
“We expect to send a monitor into the school as soon as possible,” said Paine. “Meanwhile, the department will continue to work with the Administrative Council. I am encouraged by the actions already taken by the Administrative Council but I know there is much more left to be done,” Paine added.
The Administrative Council had previously requested that the OEPA conduct an audit of the school. Members also requested an independent financial audit of the school. Following the results of the independent financial audit, the Administrative Council hired a private investigator to look into allegations of financial wrongdoing. All information was handed over to the West Virginia State Police.
“We fully support the action taken by the WVBOE,” said Ron Wetzel, chair of the South Branch Administrative Council. “The OEPA report gets to the heart of what is wrong at South Branch. We pledge ourselves to work 100 percent with the state appointed monitor and do whatever is necessary to bring South Branch back to exemplary status.”
The state appointed monitor will oversee operations at South Branch, including personnel matters, and will report directly to Superintendent Paine. Meanwhile, Superintendent Paine is expected to report back to the WVBOE.
The WVBOE action comes one week after three former employees of South Branch were criminally charged with alteration and deletion of computer data. The independent audit found missing computer equipment and financial discrepancies.
For more information about South Branch Career and Technical Center, contact the West Virginia Department of Education Communications Office at (304) 558 – 2699.