State Returning Control To Lincoln-McDowell?

State Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine says that local leaders in Lincoln and McDowell counties might soon regain control of their school systems.

State education officials took over the systems a number of years ago.

“In fact, the board supported me when I suggested talking about where they are and timelines for them to retake control,” Paine said.

Paine told media that progress has been made in Lincoln County between local board members and Superintendent Dave Roach.

Voters passed an excess levy and the consolidated Lincoln County High School has worked well for students, Paine said.

The state has controlled Lincoln County schools since 2000.

DELEGATE SPEAKS OUT

Newly elected Delegate Josh Stowers said Lincoln citizens are frustrated because of a hopelessness by the lack of public dialogue about when the county will regain local control and the effectiveness of the takeover.

“The state has had control for eight years and what has it brought us?” Stowers rhetorically asked the BOE. He listed several less than stellar results recorded while the county school system has been under state control, including a lower graduation rate, a lower college attendance rate, and longer bus rides, which correlates with a higher drop-out rate.

“Our votes and voices mean nothing on our local school board. The state can do whatever they want with our tax dollars, even close our schools,” Stowers said.

“We’ve cooperated, been patient, bit the bullet on consolidation and put our arms around our new community high school and made it our own.,” he continued.

He questioned what state courts have denied, the constitutional right to local control.

Stowers said that he is an “eternal optimist…seeing hope that our people will once again feel ownership in their school system.

“Lincoln Countians are reasonable, thoughtful, yet a fiercely independent people. They have lost patience, hope and tolerance for an eight-year experiment that has not proven to be worth all that it claimed,” Stowers concluded.

STATE CLAIMS IMPROVEMENT

State school board member Lowell Johnson said “The finances seem to have stabilized with the passage of the [Lincoln County] levy.”

Johnson predicted that officials with the state Office of Education Performance Audits will return to Lincoln County to see how the schools are doing.

He also believes the state Board of Education should establish an understanding with Lincoln County board members that if things don’t progress, the state can step back in.

“The Lincoln BOE members and faculty are eager to regain control to tackle the problems that still exist after nearly 9 years of state control,” said Lincoln board member and Challenge WV’s Thomas Ramey.

“The passage of our recent excess levy is not an abrupt development, the good people of Lincoln county have supported an excess levy for 60 years,” he said, “Dr. Johnson’s threat of re-intervention intentionally misleads the public that the state has been successful.”

“We are committed to engaging in solving existing problems,” Ramey said.

“I think it’s been a long time coming and I think we are making progress here,” said Lincoln board president Carol Smith.