WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Students statewide would benefit if the West Virginia Department of Education would allow more local control, Putnam County School Superintendent Chuck Hatfield said Monday night.And he believes the state department will, based on their recent response to an education efficiency audit released last week.The audit, conducted by Pennsylvania firm Public Works LLC for $750,000 about a year ago, projects up to $90 million in annual savings if all the recommendations are applied.One of its more than 100 recommendations was to strengthen school leadership by giving principals more control over school staff and budgets."Who best knows what students in Putnam County need than us?" Hatfield said.Counties should also be allowed more control and flexibility but should still be offered support, according to Hatfield.
"It's difficult to develop policy or laws to govern education in all 55 counties when they're all so different," he said. "Looking at the response [to the audit] by the state board, I think there will be change."The board's 130-page response to the audit's main goals is intended to recruit and reward teachers, raise educational quality statewide, align education with workforce needs, increase technology in schools and maximize efficiencies.Also at the meeting, Hatfield told board members that the state Department of Education had changed its mind two weeks ago and approved a grant that will allow Putnam schools to hire someone to help at-risk students choose a career path.The state had refused Putnam's Dropout Prevention Innovation Zone Grant application in October, but since then, more money became available.Putnam was awarded the maximum $300,000 and plans to use the money to help students explore career possibilities outside of college. A counselor will be hired to train other school counselors about postgraduate opportunities with the grant.Reach Kate White at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1723.