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WV Board of Education returns full control of McDowell schools to the county

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The West Virginia Board of Education voted unanimously May 8 during its monthly meeting to return full control of McDowell County Schools to its local school system after more than a decade of state control.

According to a news release from the West Virginia Department of Education, the crowd cheered after the board's vote to accept the Office of Education Performance Audit recommendation to hand over full control to the county board of education. The state meeting took place in McDowell County.

Board President Wade Linger said in a news release he's confident the school system will thrive and continue to grow.

"The McDowell County School System has faced challenges but today teachers, parents and students should be proud of what they have accomplished," Linger said in a news release.

The board also voted May 8 to keep current McDowell County Superintendent Nelson Spencer.

The WVBE intervened in McDowell County in October 2001, according to the WVDE news release, "due to extraordinary circumstances that resulted in major barriers to providing education programs and services to students."

In December 2005, the OEPA team returned to McDowell County, but according to the news release, it decided that substantial progress had been made regarding the county's finances, curriculum and transportation, but personnel and facility issues remained.

In November 2009 a full education audit was conducted then presented to the WVBE in January 2010, when the board issued conditional approval status and started an exit agreement while returning partial control to the McDowell County Board of Education. The WVBE continued its intervention in certain areas, because of "deficiencies that remained in personnel, the lack of resolve to update county policies and facility issues," according to the WVDE news release.

OEPA reported in January that McDowell County Board of Education had executed everything set forth in the exit strategy; the school system is moving forward and showing progress; deficiencies in personnel, policy development and facilities have been resolved "in an exemplary manner,"; and the superintendent "is providing sound leadership and the schools are progressing."

Board Member Gayle Manchin said in a news release that she was honored to be part of the vote to return control of McDowell County Schools.

"It is never easy to answer all the issues in any county," Manchin said in the news release. "One lesson that we have learned is that no one can do it alone.

"Improving a school system is truly about a community building capacity."