CHARLESTON, W.Va. -The West Virginia Board of Education on Wednesday declared a state of emergency in Gilmer County Schools and placed the school system on nonapproval status. The board voted unanimously to intervene in the school system immediately. The West Virginia Board of Education and the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) will oversee all finances, instructional programs, personnel, policy development and facility issues in the school system.
The action comes after an Office of Education Performance Audit (OEPA) report cited significant leadership, technology, facility, personnel and finance issues in the county.
An unannounced OEPA visit of the Gilmer County School District was conducted May 2-4, 2011. Auditors found that “county board members were in discord; the county board operations were dysfunctional; and meetings were unproductive and resulted in the board being incapable of following State Code and West Virginia Board of Education policies.”
“It is further recommended that delaying the intervention for any period of time would not be in the best interest of the students,” said OEPA Executive Director Kenna Seal. “Based on the entirety of the problems in the county and the decisions, or lack thereof, there is scant hope that the school system can be improved with the current county board.”
The OEPA report further states that county school board meeting minutes reflect that the school board is trying to micro-manage, essentially replacing its administrators’ and county superintendent’s recommendations with their own, leading to a flawed hiring, transferring and reduction in force system. Numerous questionable and irregular decisions are being made by the county board prompting distrust and suspicion.
According to the report, technology infrastructure is lacking and rules are not being followed due to board decisions. Financial irregularities are occurring in part due to decentralized accounting procedure decisions. Three of the five school facilities in the county are sorely lacking and maintenance at all facilities is desperately needed.
The state board appointed Ted Mattern as the interim superintendent until a permanent replacement can be hired. The Gilmer County board also has been directed to work with the WVDE to jointly develop and present to the state board a set of standards and/or a strategic plan that must be implemented in order for the Gilmer County Board of Education to regain control of the school system.
Currently, Lincoln, Preston, Grant, Fayette, McDowell and Mingo counties are under state intervention. For more information, contact the WVDE Communications Office at 304-558-2699.
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