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State Superintendent replacement targeted for June 30

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With the resignation of West Virginia State Superintendent James Phares set to take affect June 30 comes a search for the next state superintendent to fill the open position.

Helping in the national search is Ray and Associates Inc., based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and specializing in educational executive leadership searches.

In past searches for the West Virginia State Superintendent, methods of both utilizing and not utilizing search firms have been used.

All hands on deck

According to William L. Newman, national executive director for Ray and Associates, the firm’s first task was helping the Board of Education identify a profile for the position.

Through an online survey, the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, community members, business leaders, teachers, principals, superintendents, Regional Educational Service Agency directors and other education officials could list the most desired qualities.

The survey listed 33 qualities and asked participants to list the 10 they found to be the most important.

Initially, Newman said the 55 county superintendents were slated to provide the majority of the input used to generate the profile. However, the ability to provide input was extended to include several additional voices.

Based on numbers, Newman said the survey was very helpful and insightful.

“We got about 2,000 responses from the survey,” he said.

Donna Peduto of the West Virginia Board of Education agreed.

“The survey was really great,” she said. “(Ray and Associates) compiled the survey results and categorized them.”

After finalizing the desired candidate profile, Newman said the next step was creating a flier for the position.

“We used the survey primarily for the flyer,” he said. “The flier has the listed items with the qualities desired.”

The information gleaned from the survey is also being put to use in the preliminary interviews being conducted by Ray and Associates. After the preliminary interviews are completed, the names of the semifinalists will be presented to the State Board for consideration.

“We’re using a lot of what we learned to craft questions for interviews,” Newman said.

According to Newman, the search is right on course.

“The search is going good,” he said. “We’re going to get good candidates for West Virginia.”

Meeting deadlines

Until Phares’s June 30 retirement, Peduto said Phares is conducting his normal day-to-day duties.

While the ideal timeline involves having a new state superintendent before Phares’s retirement date, Peduto said Phares has offered to stay on longer if need be.

If a body is needed to fill Phares’s vacant spot before a new state superintendent is officially selected, Peduto said the board has several options, even though those options haven’t been discussed.

Options include instituting an interim superintendent or taking Phares up on his offer to extend his stay.

However, Peduto said everything appears to be on cue.

“Everything seems to be moving along the timeline smoothly,” she said.

Those interested in the position can learn more at rayassoc.com or send an online application by the close of business May 26 in order to be considered for the position.

Lingering business

The selection of Phares as state superintendent Jan. 2, 2013 didn’t come without controversy following close behind.

On Nov. 15, 2012, former state superintendent Jorea Marple was abruptly fired, leaving many wondering why and scratching their heads as to potential political motives.

Marple claimed she was fired “unfairly” and sued the State Board of Education in February 2013.

According to Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe PLLC attorney Linnsey Amores, one of the attorneys representing the Board of Education, Marple “asked U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston to dismiss her original lawsuit, which did not single former board president Wade Linger out as defendant, without prejudice so she could strip it of federal implications and re-file in state court” on April 25.

Johnston granted the motion.

Attorneys for the State Board asked Kanawha County Circuit Judge James C. Stucky to dismiss the breech of contract complaint.

In their petition, Amores and J. Victor Flanagan, attorney at Pullin Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe, suggested that “as a state agency, the Board is immune from prosecution” and also said because Marple was an at-will employee, she was not entitled to continued employment.

Marple’s lawsuits seek relief for the loss of reputation in the education field, loss of ability to get another job close to what she had and mental anguish.