State Takeover of Logan County Schools

The Logan Banner
August 6, 1992

State takes control

Crites removed, board limited substantially

Managing Editor

CHARLESTON - The State Board of Education on Wednesday voted unanimously to take control of the Logan County school system because of concerns about finances and the quality of education. The takeover is a first for the state school system.

The state board named Marion County Schools Superintendent John D. Myers, 51, to head the county program under a four-year contract at a salary of $80,000 - $25,000 more than Logan Superintendent Cosma Crites received.

Therefore, a local board must pay $60,000 of Myers' salary while the state has agreed to pay the remaining $20,000. Crites will remain superintendent until Aug. 16.

State Superintendent Hank Marockie also said further Central Office changes are inevitable, but would not specify which departments will be affected.

Logan school board member Rick Grimmett said Crites became superintendent at an unfortunate time and that any other person would have been scrutinized just as much.

"I think this is a sad day for Ms. Crites," Grimmett said earlier today during a special meeting of the local board.

Crites, the sister-in-law of Democratic power Bill Abraham, was selected as Logan County's new superintendent in 1990 over several other highly qualified applicants.

"Than's probably the only thing she's guilty of - being Bill Abraham's sister-in-law," Grimmett said. "Politics is being played against Ms. Crites."

"I guess this shows people how much political power I have - it got me right out of office. Maybe now I can be known as Cosma Crites," Crites said today in her only comment since Wednesday's state meeting.

Under state law, the state board also declared a state of emergency in the Logan County School System while restricting the authority of the Logan School Board in personnel, financial and instructional matters.

"We regret having to take this action," said state board President James MacCallum. "But we believe this is necessary in order to maintain the high standards of education as set by the state board. We take this action on behalf of the citizens of Logan County whose children deserve a quality education."

Several teachers and concerned citizens from Logan County had opposing views of the state board's decision.

"No matter what they say about supporting us, I think this was a Gestapo action," responded Logan Grade sixth-grade teacher Martha Mullins of Logan. Mullins said the state board was too drastic with the measures.

Dorothy Baisden, a reading teacher at Logan Grade, added, "I whole-heartedly support the state's decision. I think we do have many problems within our school system."

"I'm glad it's over with. Now we can worry about teaching and not internal problems," said Carol Moore, a fourth-grade teacher at Holden Grade.

Meanwhile, Gov. Gaston Caperton supported the landmark decision.

"Education has and always will come first for me," Caperton said. "The state Board of Education is charged with the responsibility of determining what's best for our children. While I have not been personally involved, I am confident that working in partnership with the citizens of Logan County, we can accomplish what's best for our children."

The state board, without dissent, approved a five-part motion on the matter. It stripped the Logan County Board of Education's authority over funds, hiring and firing, fixing the school calendar and other education-related matters.

"I think Dr. Marockie has made a mistake," voiced Logan Board President Donnie Steele today, noting that the limitations will force the local board into "lame duck" status. "I think it's wrong to persecute this board. We will be watching every penny the state spends while they are in charge."

The state school board also gave Marockie unspecified authority to "take whatever action the state superintendent deems appropriate."

Marockie said he believes it will take Myers two or three years to correct the problems and another year to make the final transition back to local control. Myers is moving to Logan and will take over his duties Aug. 17.

"It's our intention to get this on line as quickly as we can," Marockie told an overflow crowd that packed into the Capitol for the emergency meeting of the board.

Last April, the state Department of Education released a report critical of the school system that resulted from an unannounced inspection in October and November of 1991.

In late May, the department inspected all personnel files of teaching staff and found 67 percent had no contract or an invalid contract and almost 32 percent of the teachers lacked an appropriate license, Marockie said.

A state report also said students routinely sleep in class, score poorly on standardized tests, skip class and repeat grades. One gym class had a single teacher for 80 students, the report said.

A July 10 follow-up report said school officials falsified records to fraudulently obtain $50 million in state funds and altered personnel records to obtain $30 million in unearned pay for teachers.

Three days later, the Logan County Board of Education voted not to appeal the state's findings. "Why prolong the inevitable?" board member Janet Doss said at the time.

By law, the state can take over county systems, declares the superintendent's job vacant and limit board members' power to spend money and set policy.

Board member Charles Wagoner said it was not a seizure. "We're just taking over and tightening up in order to enhance the education," he said.


West Virginia Archives and History