W.Va. BOE: Logan Co. Schools in Jeopardy of Takeover
The West Virginia Board of Education has put Logan County Schools on alert. The county is in jeopardy of state takeover if they can’t turn things around before January of next year.
The vote by state board members came after a detailed audit of the county school system by the state Department of Education’s Office of Education Performance Audits. In that report, the OEPA found mishandlings of personnel matters, finances and failures in curriculum.
In July 2013, Logan County’s Superintendent Phyllis Doty hired Robert Lucas, then principal at Logan High School, to step in as assistant superintendent in charge of personnel. The OEPA audit team found he was very cooperative while conducting their report, but Lucas appeared to have little to no training in personnel matters and was relying on the former personnel secretary for advice on how to perform his duties. The report stated Lucas did not have access to a West Virginia Schools Law book to reference, something the audit team called necessary for the job.
“When we were there in January, the personnel director did not have a law book. He still didn’t have one when we were there in April,” Dr. Gus Penix told the state board when delivering the audit report, “and it’s essential that that person have a law book to reference when making decisions.”
The audit said Logan County schools were not lacking in funds, in fact the county has a surplus due to their excess levy. Instead, the report showed the county was not following state purchasing procedures, often misdating reports causing them to be out of order. The county has issues with paying for services from county employees by check instead of through the payroll office and hiring teachers or family members for work.
“We have a document that is page after page after page of things that were financially misappropriated or disappeared,” Dr. William White, state board member, told Logan County Superintendent Phyllis Doty.
“I think your leadership, your staff and your board need to sit down and look at it from a broader perspective.”
Graduation rates in Logan County have dropped by three percent over the past three years while state rates have steadily increased. Of the 60 percent of graduates who go on to college, 34 percent were enrolled in developmental English while 47 percent were enrolled in development math, both numbers nearly double the state average.
The audit called the distribution of technology infrastructure throughout the county a success, but said teachers were not properly trained on how to use it. Instead of using SmartBoards as they’re designed, interactive boards ranging in prince from $1-7,000, the audit team witnessed teachers using them as projector screens.
Board member Wade Linger pointed to a lack of leadership as a major factor in the county’s troubles. The county superintendent has been in her position for less than a year and the audit called the county board of education “dysfunctional” and board meetings “unproductive and inconsistent with following state code and WVBOE policies.”
Penix noted there were many examples of meetings during which Logan board members were in executive session for hours longer than in an open meeting.
The audit also noted a situation, confirmed by three board members, in which a Logan County Board member directed the superintendent to call and offer a job to an applicant during an executive session.
The latest audit, conducted in April, is the second the OEPA has performed in the county this year. After the first in January, the audit team left suggestions for ways to correct current mishandlings, but when they returned a few months later found little to no progress.
“It does not appear Logan County takes recommendations very seriously,” said state Board President Gayle Manchin at the meeting Wednesday.
The state board voted unanimously to give the county until January 15, 2015, to align with the OEPA suggestions before considering taking over the county.
Should the state board choose to do so, it would be the second state takeover in the county’s recent history. Logan County was the first county school system in which the state intervened, dating back to 1992.