The Times West Virginian


April 27, 2014

Selecting right candidate to be superintendent critical for state

We’ve stressed many times over the years that strong education is critical to the economic health of West Virginia.

That applies to pre-kindergarten through high school, as well as higher education.

That’s why an upcoming hire of a new state superintendent of schools is vitally important.

West Virginia Superintendent James B. Phares, a former superintendent in Marion County, announced his retirement this month after only 15 months on the job. He will step down at the end of the fiscal year June 30.

His announcement came the same day that an Iowa firm was hired to conduct a national search for Phares’ replacement.

Phares officially took office in January 2013. While he didn’t carry the interim tag, the West Virginia Board of Education had agreed to search for a long-term superintendent. Phares had said he supported that decision.

“Dr. Phares was not a placeholder,” state board President Gayle Manchin said. “He was a very actively engaged superintendent, which is what we wanted him to be.”

It’s a job with high responsibilities. The superintendent oversees a Department of Education with a $2.6 billion annual budget that directs school systems in the state’s 55 counties.

The previous superintendent, Jorea Marple, was fired in November 2012.

Marple served a year and nine months when the board cited lagging student performance and a desire to “head in a new direction with new leadership.”

The dismissal led to ongoing legal action on behalf of Marple and the resignation of board members Jenny Phillips and Priscilla Haden, who voted against Marple’s firing.

Some have suggested a West Virginian would be the best choice as the next superintendent

“They would know our circumstances, our culture and our education system,” Doddridge County Schools Superintendent Rick Coffman said last week.

Mark Manchin, who will take over as Harrison County superintendent on July 1 after serving as the state School Building Authority’s executive director, said that “we have outstanding leaders from all over the state. I think your first look should be here. If they come back and say they haven’t been able to find anyone here, I certainly would have no problem with them talking to somebody from outside.”

We’re confident the board will carefully look at the full field of applicants after the May 26 deadline arrives.

Challenges are certainly there for the person who will be the third state superintendent in less than four years.

The board embraced the bulk of a sweeping review that found the West Virginia education system heavy with state-level staffers and policies made inflexible by laws, but light on student achievement, shortly before Phares took over.

“I have often told people this is the hardest job I have ever loved,” Phares wrote at the time of his retirement announcement.

The Legislature in 2013 approved a wide-ranging education reform package that called for more local control for county school boards, increased third-grade reading proficiency and other changes.

There’s no time for a new superintendent to coast.

“Personally, I believe it needs to be someone as experienced in West Virginia, knows our schools, and has the desire to move education forward,” Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, said after Phares’ announcement.

Choosing the right candidate is critical, whether it is a West Virginian by birth or by choice.

Text Only
  • United effort to keep NASA in Fairmont is essential project

    The high-technology sector is obviously vital to the economy of North Central West Virginia.
    That’s why a strong, united effort to keep the NASA Independent Verification and Validation Program in Fairmont is absolutely essential.

    July 27, 2014

  • COLUMN: Calling all readers: Be heard

    I love to talk to readers.
    I love to hear concerns they have about stories we’ve written, things they think should be included in the newspaper and things they think shouldn’t be.

    July 27, 2014

  • Korean War veterans are deserving of a memorial

    NEEDED: A total of $10,000 for the Korean War Memorial this year.
    And a good man has been placed in charge of the funding. Charlie Reese, former president of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, is now director of the Marion County Development Office. His task was to make a recommendation as to what steps are necessary to keep the project moving.

    July 25, 2014

  • Roll up your sleeves, give blood and you can save lives

    It takes up to 100 units of blood to save the life of someone who sustains life-threatening injuries in a vehicle accident.
    We’re hoping that the number of people who come to Fairmont Senior High School on Friday for and American Red Cross blood drive will exceed that amount.

    July 24, 2014

  • Vehicles and motorcycles must share the road safely

    The days are long. The weather is superb. There’s plenty of leisure time in these lazy days of summer.
    It’s the perfect time to take a long motorcycle ride.
    It’s also the perfect opportunity for us to take the time to remind not only riders but drivers of the need to share the road. And we feel compelled to mention it because just within the month of July, there have been two motorcycle-versus-car accidents within the City of Fairmont alone — one with severe injuries sustained by the motorcyclist and the other with less serious injury.

    July 23, 2014

  • Too many taking too few steps to protect selves from skin cancer

    July 22, 2014

  • Distracted driving: It isn’t worth fine or a life

    Today marks the day that police agencies from six states are joining forces to crack down on one thing — distracted driving.
    And they will focus on that traffic violation for a solid week, with the stepped-up effort to curb distracted driving wrapping up on Saturday, July 26.

    July 20, 2014

  • COLUMN: Are we people watchers or people judgers?

    Let me tell you about my little friend Robby. Well, actually, it’s more about his family and especially his mom. I didn’t get her name. I heard Robby’s name quite a bit, though, during a trip home from Birmingham, Alabama.
    I noticed the family in the Birmingham airport immediately. They were just the kind of family you’d notice.

    July 20, 2014

  • Relish the rich bounty of state’s diverse, unique food traditions

    This week, a group of federal officials on a three-day culinary tour of the state visited the Greenbrier Valley to find out what most of us here already know — we have a rich food tradition in West Virginia.
    The group was made up of officials from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    July 18, 2014

  • Soup Opera in need of your support again this time of year

    It’s happening again.
    It usually always happens about this time each year. Sometimes it’s a little earlier and sometimes a little later.
    But Soup Opera executive director Shelia Tennant knows it will come — usually in July. And she’s never that surprised about it.

    July 17, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Politics
House Ads