Julia Roberts Goad
CINDERELLA — The Mingo County Board of Education heard from Dr. Jack McClanahan from the West Virginia Department of Education (DOE) concerning the process of regaining control of the county’s schools.
Following an Office of Education Performance Audit (OEPA) in 2005, the West Virginia Board of Education took control of Mingo County schools.
The OEPA examines factors such as a school system’s facilities, transportation department, personnel, finances and achievement and performance of its students.
The audit then scores that system based on criteria such as reading levels and test scores, how a county system provides for special needs students, the length of time students spend traveling to and from school and how many of its teachers are teaching in their fields.
The OEPA gives those recommendations to the state BOE.
After the audit of Mingo County schools, the state BOE elected to take control of the Mingo system.
Some of the decisions that were taken out of the Mingo Boards hands include hiring and firing of personnel, acquisition of property and the school’s calendar. Decisions concerning expelling students and class field trips, however, are still made at the county level.
Since 2005 the Mingo BOE has been working since then to correct the problems found in the OEPA.
The current status of Mingo Schools is “intervention,” meaning the state saw fit to take control from the local Board.
However, Dr. McClanahan said he feels the time has come for the state DOE to take a look at Mingo Schools and reassess the local Board’s ability to govern the county’s schools.
The first step of that process is for the OEPA to perform another audit, and examine the areas that were problematic when the system was placed in Intervention.
If WVBE is satisfied with the audit, they may vote to provisionally return control over certain areas to the county for a period of two years. At the end of that two year period, the OEPA returns to the county to verify the progress made by the county board.
Dr. McClanahan expressed confidence in the progress Mingo County has made since the system has been in intervention. He explained some of the things the OEPA looks at when performing this audit, including curriculum, the learning environment in the schools and electives offered.
“If there are few electives offered, you know there is a problem with finances or staffing,” McClanahan said. “They make sure the principal is getting feedback on lesson plans, because that is one of the key spots of a school. Is the community involved, are teachers and principals being evaluated, personnel.”
He said many times problems in a school system can be traced to the leadership in the county.
“One of the big problems schools have is the personnel issue,” he told the BOE. “When the state takes over, they look at that. Sometimes it is a leadership issue. We can correct processes at the State, you have to get culture corrected to get leadership corrected.”
Board members asked why it has taken the WVBE so long to conduct the audit that would begin the process of getting the Mingo Board out of intervention.
“It should have been done sooner,” Mingo BOE President Bill Duty said. “There should have never been that kind of a time lapse.”
He said the state of intervention creates problems in and of itself.
“We have a hard time getting teachers,” he said. “The students are the ones that are suffering.”
“Where are we, what do we have to do, how far are we away from getting out of intervention,” Cheetah Marcum asked. “It bothers me when a kid comes to me with a problem, and I have to tell him my hands are tied.”
“My guess is that the audit will happen sometime this year,” McClanahan said. But, the Board has not received notice that an audit has been scheduled.