The board declared a state of emergency and immediately restricted the authority of the local board in the expenditure of funds, the employment and dismissal of personnel, the establishment and operation of the school calendar, the establishment of instructional practices and rules, and declared the office of McDowell County superintendent vacant effective immediately.
In the report presented by the Office of Education Performance Audits, it was revealed that “extraordinary circumstances exist in the county that constitute major impediments to the provision of education programs and services.” The report indicated that many statutory and policy requirements were not being followed and deficiencies in leadership exist throughout the system.
State Superintendent Dr. David Stewart named Dr. Mark A. Manchin the new McDowell County superintendent at an annual salary of $92,000. Manchin’s contract runs from December 3, 2001 to June 30, 2005. He currently serves as Webster County superintendent. Assistant State Superintendent G.A. McClung will serve as interim superintendent in the county from November 8 to December 2 until Manchin takes over.
“It is always a difficult decision to intervene in the operation of a county school system,” indicated Stewart. “But when we observe major deficiencies that affect the safety and future of these young people, it is our legal and moral obligation to intervene. I am certain that with the leadership of Dr. Manchin and the cooperation of McDowell County teachers, staff and the community, the school system will make tremendous strides,” Stewart noted.
Stewart received a letter yesterday from McDowell County Interim Superintendent Mike Cortellesi indicating that the county board had seen the audit report and would welcome a state takeover.
“This would ensure the additional technical and professional expertise to a school system that has been struggling and is in dire need of change,” wrote Cortellesi.
This is the fourth time the State Board has intervened in the operation of a local school system. In 1992, they seized control of Logan County Schools and, after major improvements were realized, returned full control in 1996. In 1998, the State Board took over financial and supervisory control of Mingo County Schools. In June 2000, the board took full control of Lincoln County Schools. Both Mingo and Lincoln counties remain under state board control.
For a copy of the McDowell County Report visit the Office of Education Performance Audits Website: http://oepa.state.wv.us