In 2001, state officials took control of the McDowell County school system, which local officials had run into the ground despite receiving from state taxpayers more money per pupil than the national average.
McDowell's school system included schools without principals, at least one teacher with no college degree, and students who could not attend because the district failed to hire substitutes when bus drivers called in sick.
Those students were marked as present anyway to keep attendance looking good. Officials fudged test scores. There were irregularities in central office spending.
Now, 12 years later, the state has finally passed control back to a local school board that has an energetic new partner - Reconnecting McDowell.
It's a public-private partnership headed by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and Gayle Manchin, a state school board member and the wife of Sen. Joe Manchin.
Their partnership's efforts are laudable, but this is not the first time someone has tried to save McDowell County. In the 1960s, the federal government invested money to help the county make the transition as the coal industry died out.
"Eight community centers were opened, each with a library and recreation area, classrooms for Head Start and well-equipped sewing and cooking areas.
Instructors were hired to teach adult education and home economics," the New York Times wrote in an article in 1966. "Recreation directors were employed.