CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia’s Board of Education voted Thursday to take control of the Logan County public school system, citing multiple problems including allegations of improper use of funds and intimidation by executive staff.
It’s the second state takeover of the county school system in the past three decades. The state board took over control of Logan County schools in 1992, returning it in 1996.
“I am truly sorry this school system is in this situation, again,” said state school board President Paul Hardesty, a former Logan County schools superintendent. “Change starts today.”
A review that began last month resulted in nearly four dozen points of noncompliance. A team from the state Department of Education’s accountability office arrived unannounced at several schools and the county’s central office on Sept. 15 to investigate complaints and documentation submitted through routine monitoring of federal programs, the department said in a news release.
Among the findings, the department alleged that public funds were used to subsidize private education in the county; county funds were improperly used for county board member travel, special events and the acquisition of vendor services; and federal program funds were spent on activities, programs and vendors outside of the scope allowed by law.
In addition, executive staff allegedly intimidated school administrators, educators and staff that led to low morale and a toxic work environment.
The county board also overused executive sessions at meetings in violation of an open meetings act, leading to poor public transparency, the statement said.
The state board approved numerous recommendations made by state Schools Superintendent David Roach, including the removal of the existing county superintendent and appointment of Jeff Huffman as interim superintendent, and limiting the purchase and governance power of the county board.
“The Board’s action today reflects the seriousness of the findings and the urgency to address issues in Logan County,” Roach said. “We have designated a team that will begin the immediate work necessary to protect students, educators and staff in the county. It is important that we create a more productive environment for academic stability and growth that also promotes a healthy work environment for employees.”
There are about 5,200 public school students in the southern West Virginia county.