HAMLIN — The Lincoln County Board of Education unanimously approved a contract for services with former Boone County Schools Superintendent Jeffrey Huffman during its regular session on Feb. 26.
Huffman resigned his seat in Boone County with his last day on the job scheduled for March 3.
The contract binding the Lincoln County school system and Huffman would run from March 8 through Sept. 30, at a rate of $500 per day.
According to the contract for services, Huffman will focus on the efficiency of operations within the transportation department coupled with its financial operations.
In November 2020, the West Virginia Department of Education declared a state of emergency for Lincoln County Schools that outlined deficiencies related to “noncompliance within the finance and transportation indicators.”
Those items included, but were not limited, to:
- Inadequate purchasing procedures;
- Excessive overtime among employees;
- Lack of oversight of supplemental pay process;
- Purchasing inconsistencies and non-compliance;
- Inadequate records regarding bus repairs, maintenance and parts replacement; and maintenance schedule of bus fleet that exceeded the preventative maintenance window and may have resulted in buses breaking down.
The vote to task Huffman with stabilizing the transportation department came after extensive discussion. Board members expressed their concerns for the department.
Board member Rodney Baker had questions for Superintendent Jeff Kelley that were direct.
“Why do we feel like we need to hire someone externally to handle the transportation problem?”
Kelley responded, “I think we need fresh eyes on this situation. From a commonsense approach, the people that are in these positions currently, they were here while this stuff happened. I don’t think it behooves us to allow the people that have been in charge to do the assessment.”
President Steve Priestley spoke about the time frame for which Huffman will have to address the issues outlined in the report from the state.
“Obviously, any actions in that area are not going to happen this school year because personnel season is already underway,” he said. “I would not anticipate Mr. Huffman or anyone else coming up with any new ideas that would be addressed this year. Does that mean that in the interim, (he can) do some things and make some suggestions for months after his contract expires? Possibly so.”
The board discussed using an inventory system that was purchased in 2016 and that, according to board members, has not been utilized to its full potential in the transportation department.
President Priestley stated that he’d like for Huffman to report to the board on his progress on a consistent basis and additionally stated that before actions take place regarding Huffman’s recommendations, that the board be updated.
Questions arose regarding the financial compensation element of Huffman’s contract.
Superintendent Kelley said the school system would be reimbursed for 95% of the contract and that, through his research, the compensation was in line with the value of the services provided.
Board member Dana Snyder asked Kelly, “Are you saying to me that the approval of this contract with Mr. Huffman will provide the county with a more thorough, efficient and effective system?”
Kelley responded, “I believe so, yes, 100%.”
Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at pperry
@hdmediallc.com or at 304-307-2401.
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