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WV schools superintendent Phares announces retirement

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CHARLESTON, WV (AP) -

 

West Virginia schools Superintendent James B. Phares plans to retire on June 30.

Department of Education communications office secretary Christine Galusha said Phares announced his retirement Tuesday in a letter to state Board of Education President Gayle Manchin.

Phares officially took over the position in January 2013, two months after the board ousted Jorea Marple. He oversaw a Department of Education with a $2.6 billion annual budget that directs school systems in the state's 55 counties.

Phares arrived in his job shortly after the board embraced the bulk of a sweeping review that found the state education system heavy with state-level staffers and policies made inflexible by laws, but light on student achievement.

Phares and Marple didn't immediately return telephone messages Tuesday.

At the time of his hiring, the length of Phares' tenure was unclear. The board had agreed to conduct a national search for a long-term superintendent. That plan called 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.

Phares had taken over for Charles Heinlein, a deputy superintendent who was asked to fill in after Marple's firing.

Phares had said he supported the board's decision to search for a more long-term candidate. Last July, then-state board President Wade Linger said that the board was moving forward with the search but that members wanted to ensure the hiring process was done correctly.

During the 2013 regular session, the Legislature dropped a requirement that a superintendent's master's degree has to be in education administration. In 2000, that requirement forced the board's top choice to pull out because he didn't have the degree.

Before taking over as state schools superintendent, Phares was the superintendent in Randolph County from 2009 to 2012. He also served as superintendent in Pocahontas and Marion counties.

Marple was hired by the board in February 2011 but served less than two years. In firing her, the board cited lagging student performance and a desire to "head in a new direction with new leadership." Board members Jenny Phillips and Priscilla Haden, who voted against Marple's firing, resigned a month later.

Marple sued the state Board of Education in February 2013, claiming she was denied due process and that board members secretly plotted to oust her. It also alleged the handling of the dismissal wrongly damaged Marple's reputation.

Phares' retirement was first reported by The Exponent Telegram.

For previous coverage of Phares by The State Journal, click HERE


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