Chris Schulz Published

State Board Of Ed. Reviews Local School Takeovers, Elects New Leadership

Wooden classroom desks in close up with no students.Adobe Stock

Four of the state’s county school systems are currently under state control, and much of the West Virginia Board of Education’s Monday morning meeting was spent hearing updates on three of the state interventions into local school systems.

Local School Takeovers Update

Logan County Schools has been under state control since the fall of 2022 after a report from the Department of Education’s Office of Support and Accountability found 46 points of non-compliance in the school system ranging from failing to post meeting agendas, to improper use of county funds.

Upshur County Schools began their intervention a year ago in June 2023 after a “special circumstances” review revealed tens of thousands of dollars in misspent federal funds, among other financial misappropriations.

It was reported that county policies have been reviewed to correct and improve practices including overtime pay policies and more than $800,000 in federal and state funds have been repaid.

Hampshire County Schools Special Education Services was most recently placed under a state of emergency in November 2023.

Board President Paul Hardesty said Hampshire’s special education program was not alone across the state’s 55 counties in facing issues.

“I wish some of them would come to us and call us and say hey, we got a problem.” he said. “We’re having problems, come and help us – rather than wait until after the fact [when] we come in to do our reviews.”

Jeff Kelley, officer of educational accountability for the Department of Education, reported that all three school systems are improving. But he said near the end of the meeting that there is no specific timeline for intervention to end.

“You don’t check off a set of boxes and then hand the keys back,” Kelley said. “It’s not the way it works. If things are better in the current construct, why are you trying to get out of it? I don’t think intervention’s necessarily a bad thing.” 

Kelley reflected that many of the state’s recent interventions have come from what he saw as decision makers setting aside accountability to appease adults. 

“They do so at the expense of student learning and what’s best for kids,” he said. “What I know about these folks that are involved, is they’re not gonna put adult happiness ahead of student achievement and student learning, they’re not going to do that, we need to be proud of the work they’re doing.”

The board placed Martinsburg North Middle School in Berkeley County under a state of emergency in May.

New Leadership

The board also voted on its new leadership, with member Nancy White becoming the new president. White previously held the position of vice president of the board and has served on the board since 2018 when she was appointed to fill an unexpired term. She was reappointed in January 2023. 

“I am humbled to be elected as president of the West Virginia Board of Education,” White said. “This board is dedicated to the education of children in our public schools and the advancement of education to support our state’s economy and future. We have worked earnestly to represent our education community and the critical work that occurs every day at the hands of our educators and administrators. It is a privilege to continue to serve my state because the work ahead of us is so very important.”

Victor Gabriel was elected to vice president, and after the restructuring of offices F. Scott Rotruck was elected as secretary. Hardesty, who served as board president for the past two years, will move to the newly created position of legislative liaison. 

The board holds elections each July to elect or re-elect officers. President White may serve two consecutive one-year terms as President.