W.Va. to retain control of Preston school system

KINGWOOD (AP) — A new audit of the Preston County school system recommends the state Department of Education restore local control in only two minor areas _ the school calendar and district policies.

The report being presented Wednesday by the Office of Education Performance Audits concludes that serious problems remain in the district despite a now “harmonious relationship” between the local board and its superintendent, and an eagerness to regain decision-making power.

The state took over the schools in March 2009 after discovering problems with finances, facilities, personnel and other areas.

At the time, state officials described the situation as “bleak … and getting worse,” and concluded that the district’s nearly 5,000 students were being denied the “thorough and efficient” education that West Virginia’s Constitution requires.

The state essentially stripped the local school board of all power, limiting its ability to spend money, to hire or fire staff, and to create instructional programs.

The Dominion Post says the report is the first since the takeover.

It concludes that the financial problems aren’t fully resolved, teacher evaluations aren’t done in a timely fashion and vehicles were bought without competitive bidding.

Student test scores have been falling, the report says, but Preston has no system to analyze data, and identify and then work with students struggling to perform at grade level.

Superintendent Larry Parsons, appointed by the state to lead during the takeover, said he couldn’t comment on the report until after it was publicly presented.

The report says that while the district has made “a little progress” financially, its deficit stands at more than $2 million.

It also says that county taxes aren’t enough to support the current level of staffing.

“That is one of the reasons they have not made tremendous progress in reducing the financial deficit,” the report says. “The other being that they have not sufficiently reduced other expenditures.”

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