The state says it will lead a “transformation” for the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind following a review of the schools’ operations.
The plans were announced last week during the State Board of Education’s monthly meeting in Charleston, where Charlene Coburn, a coordinator in the Division of Education’s ESEA department, presented findings of what the department calls a Special Circumstances Review – mostly in closed session.
After the session, the State Board directed Superintendent Clayton Burch to prepare a public report of the findings, which his office says will be ready later this week or next.
The board also directed Burch to appoint an intervention team to work at his direction to lead WVSDB through a litany of changes from payroll practices to residential life and “any other areas he finds to be necessary.”
Areas specifically mentioned include:
• Modernizing facilities;
• Restructuring personnel;
• Refining employment and payroll practices;
• Reallocating financial resources;
• Developing an effective school leadership model;
• Enhancing residential life; and
• Reforming instructional practices to meet the needs of deaf, hard-of-hearing, blind and low-vision students throughout the state.
The state’s Office of Support and Accountability sent a team of 11 to visit the Romney campus the last week of April.
“It was very comprehensive,” Personnel Director Sondra McKenery said.
Superintendent Pat Homberg said she has seen the complete report, but nobody else on campus has.
The tone of the state board agenda and subsequent press release was ominous mentioning “non-compliances” and “corrective actions.” But several of the areas mentioned in the review have already started being addressed this year.
In March, WVSDB announced plans to combine the until-now separate schools for the deaf and the blind. Students up through 5th grade will be together in one building and 6th-12th-graders will be in another.
As part of that restructuring, dozens of staff received either transfer or reduction-in-staff notices.
The combination of the schools was outlined in the 10-year comprehensive educational facilities plan that also included renovations of some buildings and relocation of residential and administrative operations.
The multi-million price tag for the facilities overhaul will be mostly paid for by reallocating the yearly budget.
State Board Policy 2322 provides for a Special Circumstance Review to be performed “upon its determination that circumstances exist that warrant such reviews.” School systems can also request a review.
The on-site review can include verifying data the school reports to the state, examining compliance with state laws and policies, investigating official complaints, or examining local actions if student performance is failing to increase.