Story by Carrie Hodousek, MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Officials at Philippi Middle School in Barbour County are working to improve student safety and well-being in response to a Special Circumstance Review by the state Department of Education (WVDE).

The state Board of Education voted to accept the report and required the Barbour County Board of Education to take necessary steps to address issues during its Wednesday meeting in Charleston.

Alexandra Criner, director of the WVDE’s Office of Accountability, told the board there’s concern with school cleanliness, lack of school counselors, some non-compliance related to special education and administrative procedures for discipling.

“We found points of non-compliance related to students having access to the services of a qualified school counselor, the school crisis response plan, there were some concerns regarding the cleanliness of the facility and there some safety concerns regarding propped doors,” Criner said.

Barbour County Schools Superintendent Eddie Vincent has been working to address problems at Philippi Middle since he started the job in May 2023, which is why he requested the review from the state. He told the board they need help.

“We’ve got to do better. We’ve got to do better with special ed services and the discipline stuff that’s happening. Some of that is classroom management issues that we know is a problem. We have to do a better job training people,” he said. “We have uncertified people in some positions that are important and that’s unfortunate.”

Vincent said the report “doesn’t sound great” but he believes it’s a wake-up call. He said they’re having trouble recruiting counselors and custodians.

“We only have one certified school counselor in Barbour County. We have a job posted, but we’re really struggling getting certified school counselors in our county,” he said. “Not to make excuses, but we did not have a custodian that week. We didn’t have a sub available. We have to do a better job compensating for that.”

The local board will work to address the deficiencies outlined in the report for Philippi Middle School by following recommendations from the state.

“They include addressing the counseling component and the school crisis response plan, implementing and retraining on supervision protocols and expectations, retraining staff and implementing, monitoring protocols for safety and cleanliness in the building, creating a disciplinary response matrix to ensure, fair, firm and consistent responses, and to examine and revise the division of administrative responsibility,” Criner said.

WVDE will continue to monitor progress at Philippi Middle School in the months to come.