UPDATE 12/18/12 @ 11:15 p.m.
LINCOLN COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The Lincoln County Board of Education had its first meeting Tuesday night as an independent board in more than 10 years.
Board officials say they have made great strides improving management and the overall quality of Lincoln County Schools since the West Virginia Board of Education assumed control in 2000.
The board says it's trying to identity any weaknesses and prove it’s capable of running the schools without state help.
The state relinquished its control to the county last week.
A round of applause was given to the Lincoln County Schools after a unanimous vote by members of the State Board of Education to return control of the school system back to Lincoln County.
Lincoln County schools have been on provisional oversight by the state, but after meeting all the requirements set by the state, the Lincoln County Board of Education is now in charge of the local system.
Wade Linger is President of the West Virginia Board of Education and says the board is pleased to turn control back over to the Lincoln County school system.
"This really a big step to give that control back. We don't want control of these school systems, we want it at the local level and clearly their need to have that control back is big," Linger said.
The audit of the Lincoln County school system shows that the county has made great strides to turn the educational system around, according to state board member Loyd Jackson who made the motion to return control back to Lincoln County.
"Yes, they still have a ways to go, you can see that from the numbers but the fact if the matter is that it's not this board's job to correct every ill in every county in the state. It's our job to be sure that the counties have the leadership, the ability that is both willing and able to do that. I'm not sure if everyone here in this county was always both willing and able to do that but today I really think they are and I think we're doing the right thing in turning this county back over," Jackson said.
The state Board of Education voted Wednesday to return full control to Lincoln County. It also decided to restore Grant County's powers over all areas except personnel and finances.
Lincoln County's public schools have about 3,700 students. The state first seized control in 2000 because of rundown buildings, illegal hiring practices and low student test scores. It returned control on a trial basis in 2010, but again found backsliding on personnel issues last year. Follow-up reviews this summer and fall led to Wednesday's decision.
The state took over Grant County schools in 2009 amid concerns about the personnel, curriculum and county board leadership. Grant has around 1,900 students.
It is expected that later Wednesday the state board will decide what to do with filling the open position of State Superintendent.
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The State Board of Education voted Wednesday to give the school system preliminary full accreditation status.
Office of Education Performance Audits director Gus Penix recommended the move. This fall, the office will conduct a full audit of the school system. If the findings are favorable, Lincoln County would regain full control of its schools.
The state seized control of the school system in 2000 due to shoddy buildings, illegal hiring practices and low student test scores. In December 2010, the state returned control of most of the system's operations to the county school board.
The State Board of Education seized control of the school system in 2000 for shoddy buildings, illegal hiring practices and low student test scores. Last December, the board returned control of most of the system's operations to county school officials.
An audit presented to the board Wednesday found that members of the county school board may have tried to influence the superintendent's hiring decisions. The audit also found that some job openings weren't properly posted.
State board members voted to continue "provisional oversight" of the school system for two years.
The board announced its decision on Wednesday, while noting it's still important to monitor the county school system closely.
The state board seized Lincoln County schools in 2000 for shoddy buildings, illegal hiring practices and low student test scores. County officials have since worked to resolve most of its issues.
In 2009, the board voted to restore control over curriculum to the county.
State Schools Superintendent Steve Paine said the local board is "functionally well."