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W.Va. Board Assumes Control of District for 1st Time

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For the first time in its history, the West Virginia state board of education has assumed control of a school district.

Citing extreme administrative mismanagement and poor student performance, the state board last month took over the school system in Logan County, in the southern part of the state.

State officials severely restricted the decisionmaking powers of the district's five-member school board and appointed a new superintendent to run the system.

The takeover was carried out under the authority of a comprehensive 1988 education-reform law that gave the state board a more powerful role in setting and maintaining education standards and authorized it to intervene in the operation of a district whenever "extraordinary circumstances'' existed.

Problems at the rural, 32-school district were first documented by state officials at an unannounced on-site review last year. A follow-up investigation led to a report charging a "lack of organization regarding personnel matters'' dating back to 1986.

The takeover led to the ouster of Superintendent Cosma Krites, who previously had served as the district's director of personnel. Ms. Krites, who was unavailable for comment, was slated to move to a teaching position in the system.

Faulty Records Cited

In addition to finding poor student performance, low attendance, and high dropout rates in several schools, state investigators uncovered significant problems with personnel and certification records from 1987 through 1992. Over that five-year period, they found, an average of 67 percent of teachers worked without valid contracts, while fewer than one-third had required teaching licenses.

The team also determined that the district paid $31.4 million to teachers whose salary classifications were lower than pay received. In addition, the district was found to have received $49.5 million in state school-aid funds through inaccurate lists of certified teachers.

Most code violations were traced to faulty record-keeping and administration in the personnel office. During one site visit, state examiners found unfiled teacher contracts and certification applications, some dating back to 1987, in a box under the certification analyst's desk.

"The teachers took all the right steps, but the process stopped at the personnel office,'' said John Sims, the legal counsel to the Logan County schools.

The investigative report also noted major deficiencies in special-education services, including inadequate student evaluation, shortened instructional days, and uncertified instructors. Inaccuracies on financial-aid reports for these programs brought the county more than $600,000 in federal funds it was not qualified to receive.

"We're not taking monetary sanctions against Logan County, but we will have to recoup the special-education funds, because that's federal aid,'' said State Superintendent of Schools Henry Marockie.

Other findings included false teacher assignments, files either missing or in disarray, and overuse of substitute teachers, including one who had worked at a school for 12 years.

Logan County board members initially planned to fight the takeover in court, but decided to hold off after learning they could not spend any public money on legal costs, according to state officials.

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