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Kanawha County Board of Education members review self-assessment

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Kanawha County Board of Education gave itself average grades in its annual self-assessment, presented Monday during a special board meeting.

The West Virginia School Board Association administers the assessment, Executive Director Howard O'Cull said.

State law has required a self-assessment from every county since 2003, O'Cull said. Using 136 items clumped into 15 indicators on a scale from one to five, with one representing "not very effective" and five representing "highly effective," the board had an average score of about 3.9.  

The board gave itself no rating that would qualify as "not very effective," O'Cull said, adding that is very common.  

"With a self assessment, it's not really likely anyone's going to list themselves as not effective," Kanawha board member Robin Rector said. "I'm trying to figure out how to value this."

Based on the assessment, O'Cull thought there were seven areas where the board might want to concentrate in the future: communications, parent and community, influencing others, leadership, board development, employee relations and board expectations.

In those categories the board gave itself an average score of about 3.6.

O'Cull thought these areas were particularly interesting because responses from board members varied more than in other categories.

"I think the main thing to get out of this is . . . to the board, are there areas here that these questions raise by themselves that we need to take a look at?" he said.  

The Kanawha board's rankings were lower than the state and region averages — the region includes other counties in a school system's Regional Educational Service Agency — in nine of the 15 categories. Although O'Cull believes region and state comparisons are not as beneficial as an individual county's data, Rector thought the relation could be noteworthy.  

"Either we're a little more critically assessing ourselves, or we have some work to do," Rector said.   

The assessment is merely a tool the board can use to improve, O'Cull said. Six county school systems are under state control in West Virginia, the highest percentage in the nation. He thinks such assessments could alert boards to problems that have led to state intervention.

He suggested the board review the findings and direct any questions to the association.  

In other action, the board voted unanimously to expel a student. The student was not identified by name at Monday's meeting, but student disciplinary hearings typically take place during a closed session and the method signified a procedural change, said Board Attorney Jim Withrow.

"At least until I hear otherwise, we'll probably in the future continue to do these without the board doing hearings," Withrow said Monday afternoon in a phone interview.

Any student facing expulsion has the right to appeal that ruling, Withrow said. An independent examiner hears testimony from the student and school officials and then makes a ruling. The student or superintendent can chose to appeal that decision to the school board, Withrow said.

Withrow estimated the county goes through a couple hundred hearings a year, but appeals make it to the board only a handful of times. In the past the board went through another hearing for this process in addition to reviewing the transcript for the examiner's session.

Board members recently have expressed frustration at preparing for these meetings only to have parents cancel at the last minute, Withrow said. They will continue to review material — they said they had reviewed material during Monday's meeting before unanimously expelling the student — but will not have the additional hearing, Withrow said.

There is no requirement for the board to have a hearing, he said.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.


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