HAMLIN, W.Va. -- Randolph County Superintendent Jim Phares will take over as West Virginia's superintendent of schools while the state Board of Education conducts a national search for a more long-term candidate.
Phares, who worked as a teacher in Virginia for 25 years before acting as superintendent in Pocahontas, Marion and Randolph counties, was chosen over Kathy D'Antoni, an assistant state superintendent, for the position.
State board members met Wednesday at Lincoln County High School.
He will serve "however long it takes" for the board to conduct a nationwide search for a new superintendent to replace Jorea Marple, who was abruptly terminated last month, board President Wade Linger said.
"I love this state and I believe in every student in this state. That's why I stand before you tonight," Phares told the board at the meeting in Hamlin Wednesday. "This process over the last month has caused tremendous acrimony. I am ready to build some bridges and heal some scars.
"I believe my views on education are in sync not only with the state board but also with local boards," Phares said. "Everybody needs to know that our kids can do better and will do better. I think the board and the Legislature and the local county boards want us to do this efficiently. They know the days of just throwing money at stuff are past."
Linger initially recommended Phares for the position in an emergency meeting that was called on Nov. 15, the same day Marple was fired.
Since then, deputy state Superintendent Chuck Heinlein has been holding the spot. At Wednesday's meeting, Heinlein declined a nomination to continue in that role.
About seven hours into Wednesday's meeting, the board entered into private session to discuss the questions to ask the two candidates and gave them the option for a public or closed-door interview.
Phares, who chose to have his interview in public, cited "the three R's" as his immediate goals for West Virginia students: Relevancy, relationships and rigor.
He said his top priorities are giving county school systems more control, tackling the recommendations of the governor's education efficiency audit and working more closely with lawmakers to change restrictions of the board.
Current state code requires that the state superintendent of schools have a master's degree in educational administration and experience as a school administrator, in addition to at least five years' experience in public schools.
Several members of the board said those requirements narrow the pool for potential candidates, and hope that legislators will help change that.