HINTON, WV (WVNS) — 10:20 a.m. Tuesday, May 19, 2020 UPDATE: The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) will be holding a Special Circumstances Review at Summer County Schools. This comes after Summers County Board of Education members voted in April to open a possible investigation.
In a letter to Summers County Superintendent Kimberly Rodes, State Superintendent Clayton Burch directed the WVDE to conduct the review from June 1-5, 2020. They will look into financial indicators and purchasing compliance, grading policy and practices, and county board member effectiveness. There will also be on on-site review.
The review will investigate if Summers County Schools complied with financial requirements to ensure public funds were spent appropriately and for allowable purposes. Regarding grading practices, West Virginia code states teachers cannot be required by the a principal or other person to change a student’s grade.
There are three points of focus on reviewing county board member effectiveness. These are based on complaints and a review of agendas. Here is a list of what they are looking at:
- Open Governmental Meetings Act
- Procedures for the Collection, Maintenance and Disclosure of Student Data
- Failure to adopt and review policies to promote school board effectiveness
If issues are found, they will be forwarded to the appropriate agencies, including the West Virginia Ethics Commission. Leaders of the WVDE stated they cannot make further comment due to the ongoing nature of the review.
On April 2, the Summers County Board of Education unanimously voted to oust Superintendent Kimberly Rodes and open a possible investigation into invoices and associated purchase orders.
Stick with 59 News as this story continues to develop.
ORIGINAL STORY — 7:20 p.m. Aprial 2, 2020: A board of education meeting turned upside down on April 1, 2020.
Members voted unanimously to start searching for a new superintendent to replace current superintendent Kimberly Rodes, whose contract ends June 30. The board also voted all in favor of opening a possible investigation into invoices sent to them without completed purchase orders and inconsistencies in how those purchase orders were filed.
Board President, Stan Duncan, said such action is recommended by the county prosecutor.
“If we think there is something as stated to us by the prosecuting attorney, which attended the meeting… it is incumbent to self-report something like this,” Duncan said.
In response, superintendent Kimberly Rodes said the board did not notify her about the investigation into the alleged errors, calling the vote a “scare tactic.”
“We are human. There are errors,” Rodes said. “But if [the board wants] to spend seven or eight thousand dollars of the county’s money, we welcome an investigation by all means.”
But members still made the unanimous decision.
“Anybody who has internet service, they can certainly look and listen to the meeting,” Duncan said. “They can draw their own conclusions.”
Duncan could not comment any further on the nature of those possible investigations or who they are looking for in the county’s next superintendent.
As for Rodes, 59News unable to reach her for further comment. But in a response video following the meeting, she defended the track record of those audits.
“We have had at least five years of very good audits with no major findings,” Rodes said. “We have another audit coming in the next week or two… and it too looks very good.”
The Summers County Board of Education also unanimously voted for a possible investigation into the grades of some students being changed without the teachers’ consent.