Faith Bannister & AM Stone WVOW News
UPDATED: 10:22 AM Oct. 28th
CHARLESTON The West Virginia Board of Education on Thursday, October 27 heard the results of a special review of Logan County Schools and voted unanimously for a takeover of the school district.
The state BOE found that Logan County schools presents extraordinary circumstances and is in a state of emergency. The school system has been designated with non-approval status, deeming the conditions require immediate intervention.
The state board limited the authority of the Logan County Board of Education and delegated decision-making to State Superintendent David Roach, who presented the board with twenty recommendations state board members unanimously accepted. Roach now has authority over purchases, establishment of instructional programs, delivery and operation of special education. Moreover, Roach now oversees the establishment of policy, county board governance, and operational relations.
County School Superintendent Patricia Lucas and Assistant Superintendent Darlene Dingess Adkins were ordered to vacate their offices by four o’clock Thursday. The state board appointed Jeff Huffman to the position of county superintendent in the interim. Huffman is an experienced superintendent working in other counties and he begins Monday, October 31. Lucas was kept in a leadership role but demoted to the position of assistant superintendent. State Superintendent Roach has also been granted authorization to hire a new county superintendent to replace the interim at a later date.
Amongst other actions, the Logan BOE approved the retirement of Assistant Superintendent Darlene Dingess Adkins during a meeting Tuesday, October 25.
The retirement was added to the board’s agenda last week and Ms Dingess Adkins was listed under termination. The termination on the personnel portion of the agenda was struck and the retirement was amended before voting.
In the recommendation, the state Board directed the Logan County superintendent and the state superintendent, after consultation with the local Board of Education, to jointly develop and present to the state a set of standards and strategic plan to be implemented for the Logan County Schools to regain control in the future.
The state superintendent will have the authority to fill other administrative and principal positions
Roach is to also act as Logan County Schools in the event of a purchase, sale, transfer, or any other transaction regarding real estate, and replace or fill the positions of administrators and principals with individuals deemed as the most qualified for that position.
The review said the local school district lacked transparency and board members did not comprehend the actions the local board had taken in previous meetings. The Logan board conducted 78 hours of executive sessions in all of 2021 and 2022 so far. Executive Session is closed door discussion usually reserved for disciplinary action for personnel or students.
The report all stated contracts approved by members were done so without cost estimates.
For instance, board members approved a turf in-field for a Chapmanville Middle School baseball field at a cost of $350,000 in September. The decision was rescinded on October fourth as members said the vote was not the board's intent. The money was supposed to cover the entire project according to members of the board. Cost estimates were then needed to move forward on the field when those estimates weren't required before.
State Board President Paul Hardesty said he’s embarrassed by the report on his home’s school system. Hardesty lives in Logan and is a former member and past president of the local board of education.
“It’s not about me,” Hardesty said. “It’s about the five thousand plus children and almost 800 employees that comprise Logan County Schools. It’s about them today. It’s not about me.”
Hardesty finished his comments with a message to those children and employees.
“I am truly sorry that this school system is in this situation… again,” Hardesty said.
The review was at the specific direction of the State Superintendent Roach to investigate official complaints submitted to the department of education and through routine federal programs monitoring.
“The board has been distracted from the primary responsibilities to oversee a thorough and efficient system of free schools for the students in Logan,” said Charlene Coburn, senior officer for support and accountability for the West Virginia Department of Education.
Many shortcomings of the Logan BOE and its administration were highlighted during a nearly two hour meeting.
One area said to be the most troubling to the investigative team was the county’s virtual program. Students were assigned an instructor that was not employed by the county or the virtual provider.
“This area was very troubling to the team,” Alex Criner, coordinator for the support and accountability office said. “Where the academic, achievement, safety, well-being of students in our charge is at stake, there can’t really be a lack of clarity with who’s responsible.
This is a developing story. The Logan BOE is scheduled for a special session meeting at the Central Office at Aracoma. That meeting begins at 5 p.m. Thursday evening.
Read the full report on Logan Count Schools at the link below: