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SBA member criticizes development of alternate Nicholas County plan

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SBA member criticizes development of alternate Nicholas County plan
By Jeff Jenkins, WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State School Building Authority member Tom Lange criticized SBA Executive Director Frank “Bucky” Blackwell and state School Superintendent Steve Paine Monday for a recent development involving the Nicholas County school system.

During Monday’s SBA meeting, Lange spoke out and said he didn’t like the way Blackwell and Paine worked together on an alternate proposal to the Nicholas County Board of Education’s consolidation plan.

“I just support letting the local boards of education do what they have to do in working in conjunction with the SBA,” Lange said. “Not the SBA developing plans for the (state Board of Education) and surprising them saying, ‘Here it is,'” Lange said.

The Nicholas BOE voted in March to consolidate Nicholas and Richwood high schools along with the county’s technical center into one school. The plan also would combine Summersville and Richwood middle schools. The June 2016 flood destroyed three schools.

The state Board of Education refused to approve the plan at a meeting earlier this month and instead heard an alternate plan from SBA Director of School Planning and Construction Scott Raines. The plan would consolidate Richwood Middle and Richwood High into one school while merging Summersville Middle and Nicholas County High into a separate school.

Lange said the Nicholas County BOE should have been involved in the discussions of the alternative plan instead of it hearing about it for the first time at the state BOE meeting.

“Our executive director (Blackwell), who has been here for four months, he has our staff put a plan together without any knowledge to the Nicholas County Board of Education–that’s not fair to them,” Lange said. “I’m not for consolidation one way or another, I’m just defending the right for the (local) boards of education to do what they have to do.”

Lange said he is concerned the Nicholas County move may erode the trust other county superintendents have in the SBA.

“There’s a trust factor involved, ‘Do we trust the SBA to go along with our plan and if they haven’t are they going to surprise us and not share with us?’ That’s my concern–we have to be open and transparent,” Lange said.

Also during its meeting Monday, the SBA agreed on the allocation of $6.7 million to 10 school districts for Major Improvement Projects (MIP) funding. Fayette County received the most at $1 million for a project at Oak Hill High School.