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Audit Spurs Board To Eye Takeover of Ky. District

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Kentucky officials have brought charges against a school district that they expect will lead to an unprecedented state takeover of a local district.

The state board of education is expected to decide next month what action to take in Letcher County, a mountainous rural district on the Virginia border.

A state audit presented this month offers a bleak assessment of the district, where state officials say corruption, neglect, and spotty record-keeping are chronic.

Commissioner of Education Thomas C. Boysen brought administrative charges against Jack Burkich, the superintendent, for incompetence, nonfeasance, and neglect of duty. Mr. Burkich had already planned to resign on June 30. Letcher County officials could not be reached to respond.

State officials said last week that they also expect to bring other charges in an effort to remove the Letcher school board in conjunction with the takeover plan.

If approved, a local board and superintendent would nominally govern the 4,600-student district, but the state education department would have final say on any administrative decisions. A takeover would be the first under a 1992 law that gives the state blanket authority to run schools within a targeted district.

Homebound Program Faulted

The state charges have focused on Letcher County's alleged lack of oversight in areas such as transportation, food services, and purchasing, as well as its loose administration of special-education programs.

"Many of the Individual Education Programs have the same goals and objectives for whole groups of children,'' according to the audit, which says violations might threaten federal funding.

The district liberally applies the rules of a program for homebound students, which is meant for youths with medical problems, state investigators added.

The audit found that nearly 200 secondary students--about 10 percent of the district's total in 1992-93--were involved in the home-instruction program.

The state charges that abuses have arisen in an effort by district officials to reduce dropout statistics, dodge high special-education costs, continue receiving added state funds, free certain teachers for extra duty and pay, and make up for a lack of alternative programs.

Students have been allowed to stay at home and receive weekly tutoring for reasons that have included claustrophobia, hyperactivity, and a condition explained only as school phobia.

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