CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Superintendent of Schools and the superintendent of Nicholas County schools say they’ve been continuing to talk about consolidation issues.
“We want to assure the public that we are working toward a solution together and believe the best days in Nicholas County are yet to come,” the two said in a joint statement issued today.
The state Board of Education and the Nicholas County Board of Education went all the way to the state Supreme Court as adversaries on consolidation issues.
The Supreme Court ruled that the state board has the final say-so over such issues, but urged the two boards to work together for a resolution.
This week, both sides got together to again try to find common ground. Their statement struck a positive tone but provided few details.
“We are pleased to report that representatives from the State Board of Education and the Nicholas County Board of Education had a very productive meeting with representatives from FEMA this week,” state Superintendent Steve Paine and Nicholas County Superintendent Dr. Donna Burge-Tetrick wrote in their joint statement.
“The meeting focused on how we can work together to identify a facilities plan that meets the needs of all students in Nicholas County. We collectively agreed to work as a team to be innovative and develop a plan that best serves all stakeholders. Our meeting laid the foundation for a path forward and we are committed to supporting each other through a joint and open dialogue to identify a resolution.”
The issue took shape after devastating floods struck Nicholas County two summers ago, destroying Richwood High and Middle and Summersville Middle schools.
After a series of public hearings, the Nicholas County board decided on its consolidation plan, opting to use an alternative form of Federal Emergency Management Agency funding to pool all flood-recovery money into one pool to rebuild schools.
The local school board voted to combine five schools — Richwood Middle and Summersville Middle Schools and Nicholas County and Richwood High Schools, along with the Career and Technical Education Facility — at one campus in the Summersville area.
The state board twice rejected that plan — expressing concern that local board members didn’t adequately listen to concerns from Richwood residents and that alternatives might exist.
In late August, Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom ruled in favor of the county board and ordered the state board to let consolidation go forward. He concluded that the state board had overstepped its own policies and regulations and was overly swayed by community sentiment.
It was that decision that the Supreme Court reversed.
In his own concurring opinion, Chief Justice Allen Loughry said the ruling should not be construed as a victory for the Richwood residents who fought the consolidation plan or as a defeat for the Nicholas County school board.
“What the decision of the WVBOE in rejecting the CEFP amendment suggests, when fairly construed, is simply that there is more work to be done to determine the best solutions for these schools,” Loughry wrote.