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State BOE meets Monday on Nicholas County

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State BOE meets Monday on Nicholas County
By Jeff Jenkins, WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Board of Education is scheduled to meet in emergency session Monday in connection with the ongoing dispute with the Nicholas County Board of Education over the county’s school consolidation plan.

The official notification of the meeting, posted Friday, said the purpose of the meeting would be “to help expedite a final resolution of the matters pending before the Circuit Court so that federal funding will not be in jeopardy.”

The Nicholas BOE filed a lawsuit late last month after the state BOE denied its plan to create two new schools from the consolidations of Richwood and Nicholas County high schools along with the county’s career technical center and Richwood and Summersville middle schools. The lawsuit, which is scheduled for a show-cause hearing Tuesday in Kanawha County Circuit Court, alleges Gov. Jim Justice and state School Superintendent Steve Paine worked to stop the plan and that Paine gave misleading information to the state Board of Education.

The lawsuit also goes into detail about so-called “political pressure” placed on officials to make sure the plan was not approved.

The Nicholas County BOE voted earlier this year to consolidate after the schools in Richwood and Summersville Middle School were destroyed in the June 2016 flood. The plan was rejected by the state BOE on June 13. Instead, the board heard an alternate plan at that meeting from from state School Building Authority 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, keeping the Richwood schools in Richwood.

State School Building Authority member Tom Lange criticized SBA Executive Director Frank “Bucky” Blackwell and Paine at an SBA meeting last month for their roles in the controversy.

“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 governor has denied playing in a role in the state Board of Education’s decision.

“The Governor and his office stayed completely out of the state Board of Education’s decision on Nicholas County,” Justice Press Secretary Grant Herring said in a statement after the lawsuit was filed.

Because of the flood, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to pay for most of the construction of the new schools. FEMA had given Nicholas County until June 25 to make its decision. The agency recently granted a six-month extension.

The state Board of Education’s meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday.