By Jim Workman
for the Daily Telegraph
The West Virginia Board of Education voted to return full control and authority to the McDowell County Board of Education effective July 1, during a meeting Wednesday morning at River View High School.
The state had control of the local school system for about 11 1/2 years.
“There are many passionate people in McDowell County,” said state board member Gayle Manchin. “They care about their children, their families and their homes. A lot of people worked very hard. One of the lessons that we learned is that no one can do it alone. The children are the most important priority in front of us. The great news is that we have a community pulling together.
“The state board promises to be an ally,” Manchin added. “We see this as a partnership. When the children of McDowell County succeed, the state of West Virginia succeeds.
The motion passed by unanimous vote.
“This is a very positive day for this county,” said state board member Lloyd Jackson. “We’re so proud of what is going on today. We see a rebirth happening in McDowell County.”
The Office of Education Performance Audits recommended the West Virginia Board of Education return local control of the county school system to McDowell pursuant to the Memorandum of Understanding between the two boards effective July 1, 2013, subject to three conditions:
• The current appointed superintendent, Nelson Spencer, remains in that position for four years
• Training is provided to the McDowell County board in the following areas: personnel, finance, and board leadership
• The McDowell board be mindful that it is under the watchful eye of the WVBOE as noted in West Virginia Code 18-2E-5 (q)(2), which indicates the state board may intervene immediately in the operation of the county school system, “… if the state board finds the following: That the conditions precedent to intervention exist as provided in this section and that the state board had previously intervened in the same school system and had concluded the intervention within the preceding five years.”
The findings of the audit were:
• The McDowell County Board of Education has completed all tasks set forth in the Exit Strategy Document.
• Previous deficiencies that emerged in the January 2010 OEPA report in personnel, policy development and facilities have been resolved in an exemplary manner.
• The school system is moving forward and showing progress.
• The superintendent is providing sound leadership and the schools are progressing.
State Board President Wade Linger stated, “The McDowell County School System has faced challenges but today teachers, parents and students should be proud of what they have accomplished. I am confident this school system will thrive and continue to grow stronger each day.”