CHARLESTON, W.Va. – It has taken more than a decade but on Wednesday McDowell County regained full control of its school system. To a cheering crowd, the West Virginia Board of Education voted unanimously during its monthly meeting to accept the Office of Education Performance Audits' (OEPA) recommendation to hand over full control to the county board of education. The board also supported the OEPA's recommendation to continue to employ the current county superintendent, Nelson Spencer.
"The McDowell County School System has faced challenges but today teachers, parents and students should be proud of what they have accomplished," said state Board President Wade Linger. "I am confident this school system will thrive and continue to grow stronger each day."
State Board Member Gayle Manchin added, "I am so honored to be part of this vote to return control to McDowell County Schools. It is never easy to answer all the issues in any county. One lesson that we have learned is that no one can do it alone. Improving a school system is truly about a community building capacity. It is about teachers, parents, businesses, the faith community and health care outlets all saying the children are the most important priority so how can we join together to provide them the best opportunities."
In October of 2001, the WVBE intervened in the operation of McDowell County Schools due to extraordinary circumstances that resulted in major barriers to providing education programs and services to students.
The OEPA team returned to McDowell County in December 2005 and January 2006 to determine progress in correcting the definiencies that resulted in state intervention. Substantial progress had been made in correcting most of the original findings related to finance, curriculum and transportation however, many personnel and facility issues remained.
A full education performance audit was conducted in November 2009, with findings presented to the WVBE in January 2010. At that time, the state board issued McDowell County conditional approval status, initiated an exit agreement between the McDowell County Board of Education and the WVBE, and returned partial control to the McDowell County Board of Education in finance, curriculum, transportation, the establishment and operation of a school calendar, and other decision-making authorities.
However, because of deficiencies that remained in personnel, the lack of resolve to update county policies, and facility issues, the WVBE continued intervention in those areas.
In January 2013, an OEPA audit of the McDowell County School District was conducted as recommended in the Exit Strategy for Returning Control to the McDowell County Board of Education document. The audit was a thorough review of the entire school district. Based on findings of the audit, the OEPA determined the following:
For more information, contact Liza Cordeiro in the West Virginia Department of Education Communication Office at 304-807-6988.