WV Schools for the Deaf and Blind superintendent to retire

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WV Schools for the Deaf and Blind superintendent to retire
By Marla Pisciotta, For The State Journal

Lynn Boyer, superintendent of the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind since July 2011, told the school's Board of Advisers April 21 she would be retiring June 30.

“I offer my thanks to you and the West Virginia Board of Education for the extraordinary opportunity to lead this campus through four years of change and innovation," Boyer wrote in a letter to Gayle Manchin, president of the West Virginia Board of Education. "As you know, those years have been filled, at times, with the struggles that always accompany change. The Board's support of me through those times allowed me to move forward, and I am enormously grateful for that."
Boyer said the recent actions of the Legislature and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin presented unexpected complications for the timing of her retirement.

“I assure you that those actions were not a part of my decision and that, in the several months between now and my retirement, I will work with the WVBE to establish a plan that addresses the governor's intention and to assist you in identifying persons who can be depended upon to implement the plan,” Boyer said.

Boyer said the last four years have been years of change, innovation and in many cases, struggle. Boyer was hired to replace Patsy Shank, who stepped down as superintendent in March 2011.

The school was audited by the West Virginia Department of Education for the first time ever in the fall of 2010. The result was a scathing, 51-page audit report listing issues with the administration, lack of security, meals, dormitories, instructional materials, lesson plans, building upgrades and issues with teacher's credentials.

“We are beginning to develop a strategic planning initiative to help the school determine what its organizational structure and instructional programs will look like in the future,” Charles Heinlein, executive director of the office of school improvement, said at that time,

Boyer worked with her staff to improve the condition of the deteriorated and out-of-date buildings. The school also updated curriculum to meet state standards.

In 2012 Boyer said it was her intention to move the campus into the 21st century and incorporate all the design features the children need with classrooms that will enhance their learning. The cost estimate for that initial plan was estimated to be between $75 million and $80 million. Eleven buildings would be torn down and a set of new buildings would be erected over a 10-year period.

And cost became the overriding blockade of the construction.

When former West Virginia Board of Education President Wade Linger asked if the facility wasn't already in Romney, would a new one be built in Romney? His comment led to a string of meetings and correspondence between officials and the public to clarify that the BOE had no intention of moving the schools.

Boyer delicately worked to find compromise when child care workers objected to taking classes to improve their education. The state board has approved Boyer's request that child care workers require an Associate of Arts degree in child development, psychology and social work.

In November 2014 legislators visited the WVSDB. The bipartisan delegation focused on funding capital improvements and other needs for the schools. Legislators seemed to be willing to steer funding toward the schools for improvement, but funding was ultimately trimmed from the state's budget after a veto from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

Boyer had said one of her goals was to retain some of the school's history while accommodating technology and amenities such as health and wellness facilities that many other schools across the nation offer. Nineteen building are on the campus, eight of which are not used. There are three education buildings and two freestanding dormitories. They range in age with the oldest dating to 1845 and the newest to 1992.

Boyer said she would remain until June 30 doing the business of the Schools.

“During that time, I will be involved in facilitating the independent assessment of the Schools that Gov. Tomblin has directed to happen," she said. "I will also be ensuring, however, that WVSDB is prepared to begin school in August fully staffed and with plans that will carry them through the selection by the Board of Education of a new leader."