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Lincoln County schools returned to local control

By Staff reports

HAMLIN, W.Va. -- For the first time in 12 years, local officials in Lincoln County will have complete control of their school system.

State Board of Education members, who met Wednesday in Lincoln County, voted to return complete control to the Lincoln school board and grant full accreditation to the school district.

In October, the state Office of Education Performance Audits conducted a new audit of Lincoln County.

"The county superintendent and the local board are functioning well," OEPA Director Gus Penix told the board, according to a state Department of Education news release. "A professional culture and climate exist at both the county and schools. Extensive evidence shows that Lincoln County Board of Education members no longer are attempting to interfere in employment decisions nor are they allowing political factions to influence personnel decisions."

In 2000, the state intervened in Lincoln County after discovering questionable financial and hiring practices in the county offices as well as serious issues with facilities, curriculum and leadership.

At a June meeting that year, state board members voted unanimously to take over the school system and remove the county superintendent after reviewing a 179-page audit report that blistered Lincoln administrators. School officials continue to violate personnel laws and provide a substandard education to children, the report concluded.

The audit team's report in June 2000 noted that Lincoln's high schools offered no Advanced Placement or dual-credit courses whereby students take high school courses and receive college credit. At one school, students got out of class for a week to prepare for a talent show.

In November 2010, former state Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine said Lincoln County school officials had made "tremendous" progress toward regaining local control. A month later, state board members voted to provisionally return control of personnel, finances and teacher training to Lincoln County.

At the time, Paine wanted the state to keep an eye on the county's improvement, and the state continued to control curriculum and instruction decisions.  

Also Wednesday, the state board voted to return partial control of Grant County Schools to the local school board.

State board members voted to return curriculum decisions, policies, facilities, transportation and the school calendar to Grant County.

The vote comes after the county improved deficiencies discovered in an audit by the OEPA. State school board members voted today to maintain control of personnel and financial issues.

Some concerns regarding board leadership remain in Grant County, Penix said Wednesday.   

The state first intervened in the Eastern Panhandle county in 2009. At the time, former Grant County superintendent Marsha Carr-Lambert had sued three school board members who had not renewed her contract. Brewing tensions led to divisions within the central office staff, and employees' taking sides.

Schools in Fayette, Gilmer, McDowell, Mingo and Preston counties also are under state intervention.


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