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Decision on new W.Va. schools chief delayed

Nov. 20, 2012 @ 08:35 AM

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia Board of Education is delaying a decision on hiring a new schools superintendent so it can focus on an audit of the public school system.

The board plans to hold a special meeting Wednesday to discuss the audit, which was commissioned by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. The superintendent issue was added to the agenda after board members voted 5-2 last week to fire former Schools Superintendent Jorea Marple, but was later removed.

Department of Education spokeswoman Liza Cordeiro told media outlets that board members want to focus on their response to the audit.

The wide-ranging audit, which was commissioned by describes a low-performing education system rigidly controlled by a state-level bureaucracy and a stack of policy-directing laws. It lists more than 100 recommendations to improve student performance while saving an estimated $70 million annually.

Board members scheduled a Nov. 29 meeting to discuss the superintendent's position, according to a notice posted on the Secretary of State's Office's website.

Deputy Superintendent Charles Heinlein is serving as interim superintendent until the board hires a permanent superintendent. Board President Wade Linger said during last week's meeting that he wants Randolph County Schools Superintendent James Phares for the job.

"I believe it would be more appropriate for our Randolph County Board of Education to wait on direction from the state board before taking next steps," Phares said in a prepared statement that he gave during the county board's meeting Monday.

"I remain humbled that I am even being considered for the position of state superintendent of schools," Phares said.

Phares has served as Randolph County schools superintendent since 2009. He oversaw an effort to turn the school system around after the state board placed it on non-approval status and declared an emergency in December 2008. The state board lifted the state of emergency in December 2009 and restored the school system to full accreditation.