The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

December 13, 2012

Phares hired as state superintendent

Board also agrees to conduct a national search, asks Legislature to revisit job description

HAMLIN — James Phares will serve as West Virginia schools superintendent, for at least the short-term, after the state Board of Education chose the Randolph County school chief Wednesday.

The board unanimously voted to hire Phares after interviewing both him and Kathy D’Antoni, an assistant state superintendent, during a daylong meeting held at Lincoln County High School.

The length of Phares’ tenure, which would start Jan. 2, is unclear. The board also agreed Wednesday to conduct a national search for a long-term superintendent. That plan calls on the Legislature to revisit the job’s qualifications and duties, amid questions over whether the relevant law is too restrictive or fails to reflect current needs.

Board members nominated and then interviewed both candidates ahead of the vote, with D’Antoni choosing to be quizzed behind closed doors. Phares fielded 10 questions before the board and its audience on such topics as spending, leadership and the much-discussed audit of West Virginia’s education system.

Phares noted that finances improved while he was superintendent of Randolph, and before that for Pocahontas and Marion counties. He recounted the successful passage of a property tax excess levy to raise school funding as an example of successfully working with parents and the community. He expressed support for the changes called for by the board in the wake of the education audit.

“I’m willing to become part of the momentum that’s building here,” Phares told reporters after the meeting. He added, “I’m willing to serve and work as hard as I can to implement the audit response and put it into action.”

The board has said that a desire to change direction led to its vote last month to fire Jorea Marple as superintendent, less than two years into her tenure.

Phares pledged to work with the Department of Education, given the fallout surrounding Marple’s ouster and the partial blame assigned to bureaucracy by the audit for West Virginia’s poor student performance. Asked whether he has second-guessed any of his decisions, Phares spoke of the October stabbing death of a Randolph County student by another juvenile shortly before the start of a high school football game. Phares supported allowing the game to be played but has since mulled over that call, he told the board.

Phares will take over from Charles Heinlein, a deputy superintendent who was asked to fill in after Marple’s firing.

Board President Wade Linger endorsed Phares almost immediately after that surprise Nov. 15 vote. The board met again last month to affirm the dismissal, while fielding protests from Marple supporters, amid concerns that the initial meeting violated the state law requiring open proceedings. A pending Supreme Court petition filed by two Boone County parents alleges the board failed to comply with the open meetings law. James and Michelle Hicks say Marple had refused to support no-bid contracts involving conflicts of interest. They are asking the justices to void Marple’s firing and block any new hire.

Linger on Tuesday called for an independent review of all board and Department of Education contracts in light of that accusation. Linger wants a lawyer with no ties to the department or state government to conduct the review. The board’s monthly meeting agenda included discussion of the case, and of Freedom of Information Act requests filed by The Associated Press and other media organizations in the wake of Marple’s firing.

The board on Wednesday also welcomed just-retired Delegate Tom Campbell as its newest member. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin appointed the Greenbrier County accountant on Monday for a full nine-year term. The 51-year-old Democrat served eight terms in the House of Delegates and chaired its Education Committee in 2005 and 2006. Campbell chose not to run for re-election this year.

1
Text Only
West Virginia
  • Gee’s move could save Ohio State millions

    Ohio State University expects to save millions of dollars because former president Gordon Gee is giving up part of his retirement package as he becomes president of West Virginia University for the second time.

    April 19, 2014

  • W.Va. AG court filings: Dismiss gun law question

    The attorney general says a court challenge should be dismissed over whether West Virginians can bring guns to city recreational facilities that hold school events.
    Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s filings Thursday argue the city of Charleston shouldn’t receive court guidance on how to implement a state gun law.

    April 18, 2014

  • Energy-state Dems split from Obama

    Scrapping to keep a West Virginia Senate seat Democratic in a state that’s sprinted to the right, Natalie Tennant is counting on her allegiance to the coal industry to separate herself from an unpopular President Barack Obama.
    Her approach reflects common Democratic strategy and tactics this midterm election year in energy-producing states that lean Republican: Sen. Mary Landrieu is vying for a fourth term representing Louisiana; Alaska Sen. Mark Begich is running for re-election for the first time; and Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes wants to replace Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

    April 17, 2014

  • Official: $2M in chemical spill costs reimbursable

    Public agencies and nonprofits that helped after a Jan. 9 chemical leak into the water supply could receive $2 million in reimbursements for their emergency work, a West Virginia homeland security official said.
    Federal and state emergency officials briefed fire departments, paramedics and other government groups Wednesday on how to recoup costs.

    April 17, 2014

  • Manchin urges mines to speak out for coal

    The Democratic senator leading the battle against the White House’s strategy to fight climate change urged the mining industry on Tuesday to speak out about coal’s role in providing affordable, reliable electricity to the country to help combat strict new emissions rules for coal-fired power plants.

    April 16, 2014

  • Many schools already meet new mandate for breakfast

    Many West Virginia public schools have changed the way they serve breakfast to students ahead of a requirement that goes into effect in September.

    April 14, 2014

  • W.Va. grower promotes unmodified feed corn

    Lyle Tabb is hoping that his non-genetically modified corn will take off with farmers who can charge top dollar for “all natural” eggs.
    Genetically modified or GMO corn has greatly simplified the process of getting rid of weeds, but has also substantially increased the amount of a chemical call glyphosate.

    April 13, 2014

  • Geologists link small quakes to fracking

    Geologists in Ohio have for the first time linked earthquakes in a geologic formation deep under the Appalachians to hydraulic fracturing, leading the state to issue new permit conditions Friday in certain areas that are among the nation’s strictest.
    A state investigation of five small tremors last month in the Youngstown area, in the Appalachian foothills, found the injection of sand and water that accompanies hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Utica shale may have increased pressure on a small, unknown fault, said State Oil & Gas Chief Rick Simmers. He called the link “probable.”

    April 12, 2014

  • Phares looks forward to retirement

    James Phares looked forward to the challenge and opportunity to help make a difference in a state education system under fire when he was hired in late 2012 as West Virginia’s schools superintendent.
    After 18 months, Phares will be stepping down on June 30 — which he said was set long ago as the day at age 61 that he’d walk with his wife into retirement.

    April 11, 2014

  • Teacher planning, abortion ban among W.Va. vetoes

    Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed about 200 bills and nixed eight this year, leaving teachers and abortion opponents unsatisfied.

    April 7, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads