During its monthly meeting Wednesday, Aug. 9, the West Virginia Board of Education received an update on the investigation into Upshur County Schools, which was placed under state control earlier this summer.
Jeffrey Kelley, accountability officer for the state Department of Education, reported to the board that the investigation into Upshur County Schools’ management of funds is ongoing with the collaboration of the state police.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has also become involved based on an early inspection of child nutrition in the county.
With the start of the school year just around the corner, Kelley commended Upshur Schools’ central office, including Superintendent Christy Miller, for balancing the investigation with their regular duties.
“All of this stuff that we reported out last month and this month, these corrective pieces that have been spearheaded by Superintendent Miller have taken place while they’re also trying to get ready for the opening of schools and navigating the craze we call summer personnel,” he said.
Both Kelley and Miller discussed outdated policies that have been discovered as part of the investigations that are being replaced.
“Operationally policy is a big deal,” Miller said. “Each time we open the supposed policy manual that’s in place, we do find outdated policy, outdated language.”
Miller told the board Upshur is on the mend and is on its way to becoming a lighthouse example for others across the state.
“I’m a believer that I have to go in with the enthusiasm, confidence in them, that we’re all there to do the job that we are hired to do, which is to support our students, and improving their outcomes,” Miller said.
Later in the meeting, board members received a detailed report on the state’s Schools of Diversion and Transition. Formerly titled the Office of Institutional Education Programs, the West Virginia Schools of Diversion and Transition provide educational services to juveniles and adults in residential and other state-operated correctional facilities.
Jacob Green, superintendent of Schools of Diversion & Transition, gave the board an overview of the various facilities and programs his department oversees, including a truancy diversion program in 14 counties.
“For instance, in Putnam County, Judge Towers can actually sentence a kid to our classroom instead of going to detention,” Green said. “Last year we served 408 students.”
He said his department also served around 6,000 adults in correctional facilities across the state, and discussed how his department has to deal not only with the state’s shortage in teaching positions, but the correctional officer shortage as well.
“We have a lot of challenges being spread out,” Green said. “We are affected by the correctional officer shortage every day, we sometimes do not have enough officers to hold class the way we normally do. We have to improvise and work with those host agencies because we don’t own any of the buildings we’re in. We are a guest of either the DHHR facilities, those that run those facilities, or the Division of Corrections.”
The board also heard a report on the year’s summative assessment results from Vaughn Rhudy, director of assessment for the department. He reported that overall students showed improvement year over year.
“In math, we increased two percentage points over last year. 35 percent, where we were 33 percent,” Rudy said. “Last year in English language arts, another two percentage point increase 44 this year, 42 Last year. And in science, we did see a one percentage point increase to 29 percent over 28 percent last year.”
Accounting for grade level and subject, there were some small decreases or no change, including for seventh grade language arts from 41 percent to 39 percent. The full results can be viewed on the Zoom WV website.