CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State Board of Education members hired Jorea Marple as state superintendent of schools Thursday evening.
Marple, currently second in command at the state Department of Education as deputy state superintendent, is the first woman to be named the state's chief of schools. She will earn an annual salary of $165,000.
Marple will officially take over March 1. Over the next couple weeks, she'll work with current Superintendent Ted Mattern, state school board President Priscilla Haden said.
"We're fortunate to be able to have the two of them work through this transition," she said.
Board members met in closed session for a little more than an hour and said they reached "consensus" on the decision. No roll call vote was taken, but there were no "nays" voiced as board members voted on Lowell Johnson's motion to hire Marple.
Haden did not say whether some board members favored the other candidates during the closed session before they decided to reach consensus.
"I'm not going there," she said.
Marple, a Sutton native who was superintendent of Kanawha County schools from 1993 to 1998, said she was "humbled ... excited and I'm passionate about the opportunity" to work with teachers, principals, lawmakers, community leaders and others.
Marple's mother died in Georgia Monday, about one month shy of her 95th birthday. After Marple was hired, her son told her "how much this would have meant for my mother, who was an educator.
"She was a strong individual who was a devoted teacher," Marple said.
The other finalists for the job were Mark Manchin, executive director of the state School Building Authority, and Carolyn Long, chairwoman of the West Virginia University Board of Governors.
Board member Wade Linger said Haden had encouraged -- and state board members agreed -- to reach consensus by the end of the selection process. Linger agreed that philosophy benefits the state school system and serves as a vote of confidence for the successful candidate.
Board members debated during the closed session, Linger said, and it's no secret that he would have favored a longer and more extensive search for applicants.
Still, Linger said all three applicants were "stellar candidates" from West Virginia who were capable of doing the job.
Both Manchin and Marple decided to hold their interviews in open session so the public could watch. Long, who went first Thursday morning, asked that hers be closed.
In his interview, Manchin said if he were chosen as state superintendent, he would start a comprehensive, statewide literacy plan. He said, "If you can't read, you can't learn."
"I think we have built a home on a foundation that is starting to crumble," he said.
Manchin said being superintendent of McDowell County schools for five years had an incredible impact on him. There, he learned that the ones who suffer most are the poorest children.
He choked up when he talked about a young girl in McDowell County who needed -- and received as part of her individualized education plan -- a cochlear implant.
Over time, the girl's speaking ability improved. She told Manchin and others, "I want to be a doctor."