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PC schools: Probe might be a positive

Thursday, November 22, 2012

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Some members of the Patrick County School Board said issues raised by a draft report by the state will make the school division better.

The draft report “as a whole is not as bad as the executive summary would present it to be,” said Bobby Mangrum, board chairman and Smith River District board member.

“There are some errors in the report that will need to be corrected, but there also is a lot of good information in the report that the administration and school system can use to make it better. I have every confidence that we will implement” changes to make the school division better, he said Wednesday.

The changes likely “will not make everybody happy,” but from a business standpoint, and from his experience in working with regulatory agencies, Mangrum said the review process and the draft report are not uncommon.

The draft report follows an investigation by the Virginia Department of Education that was prompted by complaints received about the Patrick County school system. A DOE spokesman said Tuesday he did not know when the final report would be issued.

The draft report, which was given to the school system Friday, stated that some complaints did not have merit and others were outside the scope of the investigation.

But it raises several issues, from students graduating without earning the proper credits to a lack of training, policies and procedures.

However, “if you look at the draft, there is nothing” to suggest that the school division’s accreditation “is in jeopardy. There are no sanctions, and we also are not under any probation,” Mangrum said.

He noted that the division either has or will ask for several corrections to be made to the draft.

Also, referring to page 33 of the 80-page report, Mangrum said the state found that “the errors were procedural and technical .... There were no willful, intentional or purposeful violations.”

With nearly 500 employees, the school division is the largest employer in the county, and it educates roughly 2,500 students, Mangrum said. “I would be very concerned if two teams of auditors” found nothing after spending a week reviewing practices in the division, he added.

“All that being said, I’m disappointed” that the situation occurred, Mangrum said. Going forward, “we will meet as a board,” discuss the issues, and take corrective actions. “I do have confidence in the board, and we will work together to resolve the issues. We will be, and still are, a strong school.”

Blue Ridge District school board member Ronnie Terry said that while he was surprised at some of the findings, the draft report “is going to be a good thing” because it will allow the division to “get this straightened out.”

Overall, Terry said he was “not really surprised that they found some things, but I know there were some things that they were looking for that were alleged that were not there.”

Terry also said the issues did not “happen in one year. It had to be something that was dropped for few years, something we just feel fell through the cracks there somewhere.”

Also, there have been changes through the years that may not have been implemented, he said.

“I apologize to the parents,” Terry said. “This is something that shouldn’t have happened, and a lot of things are good. A lot of things are OK. Somebody just dropped the ball somewhere. We’ve just got to find out where it’s at.”

The investigation and final report will have a positive impact “as far as I’m concerned,” Terry said. “We are doing something wrong, and we need to try to fix it.”

Peters Creek District board member Annie Hylton said Wednesday she had not read the draft.

“I’ve been busy and haven’t had time to read it yet, but it is what it is,” she said. “I have to wait to make an analysis and comments when final report is done.”

Board members Michelle Day of the Mayo River District and Quinn Brim of the Dan River District could not be reached for comment.


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