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Preston Board of Education tables action on charter school application

KINGWOOD — The Preston County Board of Education tabled action until Nov. 30 on a proposed charter school that would serve Monongalia and part of Preston Counties.

The action came after prolonged discussion on whether state policy on charter schools is being followed.

West Virginia Academy Ltd. submitted an application July 24 to both boards of education. State law says the counties had 90 days to review the application, ask the applicant to correct deficiencies and approve or deny the application.

Academy President John Treu said the clock started on the 90 days on July 24 and the application is approved by lack of action by the boards.

Preston Superintendent Steve Wotring said there’s also language in the policy that says boards must make a decision by Nov. 30.

On Monday, Wotring initially advised the board to yield to the Mon County Board of Education, just agreeing to whatever it decides. State policy allows students to attend school in whatever county they desire anyway, he said.

“That’s no different than some of them transferring to Mon County schools like some of them do now,” Wotring said.

“I think when the state board made this policy, they were assuming that if somebody wanted to start a charter school would start it in a county. But I can’t imagine very many counties in the state of West Virginia that wouldn’t draw from surrounding counties,” Wotring said.

Board members were hesitant to take his recommendation. Are we approving the process or the charter school, Board Member Pam Feathers asked?

The board could also approve the application or deny it, Wotring said. No one knows what will happen if one county approves it and one doesn’t. Treu, who was at the meeting, said the application was approved by the two boards’ inaction.

Board President Jack Keim asked for a motion to delay action until after discrepancies identified by Mon County Superintendent Eddie Campbell in the application are addressed.

No board member made the motion, so Keim moved on to the next agenda item. Feathers objected that she didn’t realize not making the motion meant an end to the discussion. Board Member Bruce Huggins agreed.

Board Member Jeanne Dreisbach asked if a meeting could be arranged with the Mon County BOE? Feathers suggested a board work session.
Ultimately, the board voted 4-1, with Board Member Jeff Zigray in the opposition, to table action until it meets Nov. 30. Wotring also said he would ask the state department of education to put something in writing on how the two counties are to handle the application.

In a letter to both boards sent last week, Treu also questioned why no members of either board of education were at an “interview” Campbell conducted with the Academy on Oct. 20. It appeared to have been set up to avoid being part of a meeting, Treu wrote.

Treu also identified other flaws in the process that he said a judge would not look favorably on.

In a presentation before the board’s discussion, Preston County Education Association President Susan Waugh and Vice President Cassandra Sisler asked the board not to approve the charter school application.