Jeff Kelley, who’s led Kanawha County’s St. Albans High for almost a decade, will become the new superintendent of the Lincoln County school system.
The Lincoln Board of Education offered him the contract earlier this week. He confirmed Thursday that he will sign it.
The West Virginia Department of Education has been investigating Lincoln, though a department spokeswoman said the coronavirus has postponed needed on-site reviews.
The outcome could include the state Board of Education taking over part or all of the school system, which sometimes means the state appointing its own superintendent.
The Lincoln school board unanimously offered Kelley the contract, according to an online video of the meeting recorded by The Lincoln Journal.
Board members spent about an hour in closed session before emerging to hire Kelley for the next three years.
His salary for the first school year will be $115,000, and it will be $117,500 the next and $120,000 the next.
The board could eventually decide to extend his term. He’ll start July 1.
Kelley, 45, said he began teaching at Kanawha’s Horace Mann Middle in the early-to-mid 2000s before becoming an assistant principal at St. Albans around 2006.
He said he’s made a lot of friends in the community, so the move is “kind of tugging at both ends of the emotional rope, so to speak, but I’m excited and looking forward to this next step.”
On March 11, days before the state closed schools to stem the coronavirus’ spread, the state school board heard a report from the state Department of Education on issues at Guyan Valley Middle.
State board President Dave Perry said a student had killed herself, generating complaints to the education department that contributed to the department doing an on-site review of the school.
That review concluded that, among other issues, Guyan Valley’s then-principal had often barred students from seeing the school’s social worker and counselor, who wasn’t properly certified.
Although the report didn’t name her, Johnnalynn Davis was the principal at the time.
The report said the principal often questioned students about what they talked to the social worker about — and, sometimes, disciplined them for it.
After hearing the report, the state board ordered that the whole county school system be reviewed. In official motions it passed, the board said it “questions the capacity of the [Lincoln] central office to address the deficiencies at Guyan Valley Middle School and in the county as a whole.”
Lincoln board President Steve Priestley said this week that the department has requested various information from the school system over the past few weeks.
“I don’t know anything about a takeover and I don’t anticipate one,” he said. “What we’ve been requested to do, we’re doing, and any information they’ve requested we’re supplying.”
Kelley said “I’ll get in there and, you know, we’ll take a close look at the report that was issued and we’ll work with the local folks there in the county and also the folks in the state department to try to make sure we address any concerns.”
He said principals are always evaluating and self-assessing, whether it’s regarding curriculum or other areas.
“It’s not going to be anything new,” he said. “It’s just the issues may change a little bit from what I was dealing with as principal.”