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W.Va. Board of Education Intervenes in Preston County Schools

March 10, 2009

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Board of Education on Tuesday intervened in Preston County Schools following a recommendation by the Office of Education Performance Audits (OEPA). The OEPA told the board that serious financial and personnel problems exist in Preston County as well as leadership, facility and curriculum issues.

“It looks bleak and we think things are getting worse and not better,” said OEPA Executive Director Kenna Seal. “Students are being deprived of what they deserve from the educational system.”

Immediately following the unanimous vote in favor of intervention, the board accepted the following recommendations by West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine:
 
-          that the state board approve Gus Penix as the interim county superintendent. In 90 days, Larry Parsons, the current Mason County superintendent, will become the permanent replacement. The current county superintendent, John Lofink, retired as of Tuesday morning.
 
-         that the state board limit the authority of the Preston County Board of Education as to the expenditure of funds, the employment and dismissal of personnel, the establishment and operation of the school calendar, and the establishment of instructional programs; and
 
-         that the state board delegate to the state superintendent the authority to conduct hearings on personnel matters and school closure or consolidation matters; the ability to conduct real estate transactions; and the authority to replace administrators and principals in low performing schools and to transfer them to alternate professional positions within the county at his discretion.
 
“We expect to work in cooperation with the local county board to address these issues,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine. “I think it is important to point out that there are pockets of excellence in Preston County Schools, however; the financial and personnel irregularities leave us no choice but to intervene.”
 
At its December 2008 meeting, the state Board of Education directed the OEPA to conduct an audit of the Preston County school district. The OEPA was specifically instructed to review facilities, finance, leadership and curriculum. A second audit of the Preston County school district was conducted Jan. 26-28, 2009, and Feb. 17-19, 2009.
 
For the full OEPA report, contact the West Virginia Department of Education Communications Office at (304) 558-2699.

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