State Takeover of Logan County Schools

Charleston Gazette
August 6, 1992

State takes control of Logan school system

By Chris Miller

For the first time ever, the state Board of Education on Wednesday took control of a local school system - limiting the authority of the Logan County school board and appointing a new superintendent.

By unanimous vote, the board ordered Cosma Crites, Logan's superintendent of 13 months, out of the job. Her replacement, Marion County superintendent John D. Myers, begins his four-year term Aug. 17.

State school Superintendent Hank Marockie said Crites could retain a job within the system, but that she has made no decision. Staffing changes will be made in Logan's central office, he said.

Crites, who would not talk with reporters after the board's one-hour meeting, got her job over two candidates with doctorates and experience as superintendents. She has served as the system's personnel director before that. She is the sister-in-law of Bill Abraham, a political power in Logan County.

Logan County's 32 schools and central office have been the focus of a state Department of Education investigation since October, when an accreditation team uncovered dozens of problems, including more than 100 uncertified teachers and dozens more teaching courses for which they weren't qualified.

"This board is not anxious to take this action at all," state board member Virgil Cook said after the votes. "We're doing this because we feel we have to."

Charles White, who joined the Logan board last month, told state officials he was glad they intervened. "I ran on the same concerns you just acted on," he told the state board.

Marockie would not say if Logan had more problems than the state's other 54 school systems. "I suspect it does send a strong message to other counties," he said. "It demonstrates the state will do whatever we have to do to bring about changes."

Many of the county's 9,500 students sleep in class, score poorly on standardized tests, repeat grades, skip class and drop out, the report found. Few programs are in place for at-risk students, the report said.

Some teachers studied during the unannounced review provided no instruction, the report noted, while others offered little of the "active" instruction that is viewed to be the most effective way of teaching kids.

Last month, the state board received a 100-page report that offered more details of the system's troubles, including officials' altering of records to get $50 million for which they weren't entitled.

On July 13, the Logan school board voted 3-2 to forgo an appeal of the state's findings. "Why prolong the inevitable?" board member Janet Doss said at the time.

Marockie said he didn't want to talk about whether criminal charges could result from the changes officials made to personnel records and other documents. "That goes beyond the scope of what we can do here," he said.

Logan's school board members plan to meet at 9 a.m. today to discuss the state board's action. Logan's board will continue to meet twice each month, Marockie.

Myers, 51, said he will move to Logan next week. A native of Aurora in Preston County, Myers has been superintendent in Marion County since 1983. He will earn $80,000 in his new job, with $20,000 of that coming from state funds.

"People in Logan are dealing with an unknown right now," Myers said. "I hope we can develop an understanding that we all want the same outcome - to start making Logan schools better."

Marion board members may discuss naming an interim superintendent when they meet tonight.

Bill Luff, state assistant superintendent, said problems with Logan's personnel certification were found during an accreditation review seven years ago. At the time, Luff said, the state board could only withhold money from the system, which it did.

When the Legislature overhauled education in 1990, the state's accreditation process was strengthened, Luff said. "The law was changed to allow the action we took today," Luff said Wednesday.

Logan residents welcome state's intervention

By Scott Bekker

LOGAN - A state Board of Education takeover of the Logan County school system can only help, residents say.

But residents aren't sure state officials can get the politics out of the school system in the two to four years they're planning to work with the county.

"Couldn't hurt," Logan meter man James Hill, 23, said of state officials intervening in Logan schools.

The state board, in a special meeting in Charleston Wednesday, voted to limit the Logan County school board's power and replaced Logan Superintendent Cosma Crites with a superintendent from Marion County. The state board has never exercised those powers.

A board report released in July showed Logan County schools had received almost $50 million more than they deserved from the state because many teachers lacked certification, were teaching subjects they weren't qualified to teach or had other paperwork out of order.

Standing in front of the Aracoma Hotel on Main Street, Michael Charyssofos, 30, echoed Hill's words. But rooting politics out of the Logan County schools won't be easy, the Chapmanville cook said. "I'd say it runs pretty deep."

If state efforts work, residents agreed it would be good for the county schools.

"The politics needs [to be] taken out of the schools," said Diana Nelson, who has two children in the county school system.

"I don't know if there's any hope for that," Nelson said with a shrug.

Amos Doss, supervisor of transportation for Logan schools, expressed more optimism. At the Charleston board meeting, Doss, whose wife is a member of the Logan board, said, "I'm proud of what happened. We've got to get Logan straightened back up. I believe it'll turn out to be the best for Logan County."

Charyssofos said he hopes the schools improve before his 11-month-old daughter starts school. "We got a little time for them to get things straightened out."


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