Employing too many staff members is a central problem with the counties at risk, Panetta said, especially for counties without an excess levy to offer additional funding for schools.
Board members voiced fears that their recommendations won't suffice if county administrators don't enforce them. They also agreed that frequent follow-up visits to counties at risk are crucial.
"There are patterns here that scare you -- like local boards' reluctance to take recommendations to cut personnel," said state Superintendent of Schools Jim Phares. "But, it's a catch-22. It's a difficult thing to do. It really takes a real taskmaster with a lot of attention."
Also at Wednesday's meeting, Lynn Boyer, superintendent of the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, requested that decisions about whether to move the Romney-based schools to a more central location be postponed until next January.
Boyer had requested about $4.8 million earlier this year to conduct major renovations to the school's campus, and received a $1 million "3 percent grant" from the School Building Authority in December to help complete the project.
But in order to receive the SBA grant funding, the Schools for the Deaf and Blind must make up the difference.
Boyer called on the state Board of Education last month to appropriate $3.4 million for the schools as part of its legislative improvement package. But the board tabled the decision, inquiring about a potential new location for the school and asking Boyer to come back with more information.
"This is not something to be taken lightly. It's better to take the time and make the adjustments, and make the repairs and renovations we can with the money the state does authorize for us from their general fund, than to make the wrong decision," Boyer said. "The point of taking another 11 months is to come to a conclusion.
"Whether the SBA will continue to keep the money that they've allotted for us in a holding pattern, I don't know," she said.
Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.