Ohio County School District Won’t Pursue Computer Probe

Will instead seek backup options

Photo by Joselyn King Ohio County Board of Education members Christine Carder and Tim Birch gather thoughts before the start of Monday night’s board meeting.

WHEELING — Ohio County Schools will not pursue an official investigation into how some central office computers were found with wiped out memories after a new superintendent and administration took office in July.

Instead, school district officials will work toward creating back up mechanisms for the computer system, while developing written policies regarding employee computer use, school board members have directed.

All five board members — President Zach Abraham, Christine Carder, Shane Mallett, Sarah Koegler and Tim Birch — voted to discuss the issue of the wiped computers in private executive session with legal counsel during their meeting Monday night. They returned to public session 30 minutes later, and unanimously voted to follow the advice provided them by their attorney.

They were advised not to pursue any official investigation pertaining to the wiped computers, but to instead develop further policies regarding the alteration of computer equipment used within the county, according to Abraham.

“What transpired with the transition, we would agree, was not in the best interest of the school district. It was not professional, “ Abraham said. “At the same time, based on what was recommended to us, the best path to move forward is to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Superintendent Kim Miller, Assistant Superintendent Rick Jones, Federal Programs Director Walt Saunders, and Student Services Director Raquel Welch McLeod all assumed their current positions July 1, and computer issues were discovered at that time.

In other matters, Maintenance Director Brian Harto updated the board on the $7 million renovation project at Ritchie Elementary School. Work came to a “substantial completion” at the end of December, and school district officials are presently doing a punch list needed to finalize construction.

Work to replace the roof structure above the pool is ongoing, and is now expected to cost $330,000 — up from the original cost of $300,000, he said. This is because contractors have determined construction will be more labor intensive than first thought, according to Harto.

School employees attending a recent training program in New Martinsville regarding how best to prepare schools in the event of an armed intruder also briefed board members. The ALICE program provides instruction on how best to alert those in the school, suggestions on lock-down procedures, how to inform the public, how to counter the intruder and how to evacuate the building.

The employees were educated on how best to approach young children on the subject without causing them undue fear. As such, teachers in the schools will approach the students with curriculum from the book, “I’m Not Scared. I’m Prepared.”

The board will next convene for an 8:30 a.m. meeting on Jan. 19 at the board office, where they will discuss with local legislators issues pertaining to education. The next regular board meeting is set for 6 p.m. on Jan. 24 at the board office.