Lee stood before the board at a meeting last week just before Phares was sworn in to voice his concerns about the proposed changes to state code.
"Why would you want to do that? Why wouldn't you want your top educational leader to have experience in educational administration? You can't run the school system like a business. We're simply playing politics," he said. "This lends credence to the fact that they do, in fact, already have someone in mind for the position -- someone without the requirements.
"This board has lost a lot of credibility in doing things in backrooms underhandedly, so any action that they take regarding this will be looked at with suspicious eyes."
However, Judy Hale, president of the AFT, said that while she believes a state superintendent should have experience in education, the language of the state code is restrictive.
"It doesn't come out and say you have to be a county superintendent, but you almost would have to be in order to have that experience," she said. "I think it would make for a broader search, quite frankly. I think it's probably a good idea. I'm not saying they shouldn't have an education background, but it doesn't need to be so strict that it amounts to having to be a county superintendent."
Tom Campbell, a retired delegate who was appointed to the Board of Education just last week, said he sees the benefits of changing the state code, but it's hard to predict what the Legislature will allow
"The results are going to be interesting. Obviously, anything that has the support of the governor has more of a chance to succeed. I would hope that the people of West Virginia understand that we're trying to find the best person for their children. I don't have children, but if I did, I would want the best leader you could find," he said. "The current legislation is highly limited, and that mostly affects the students. But, the Legislature doesn't respond too well to pressure."
"We're not asking for any money, we're just asking them to change the code -- that's the selling point," board member Jenny Phillips added at the meeting.
State code also calls for the superintendent of schools to "be a person of good moral character" who serves at the will and pleasure of the board and caps their salary at $175,000.
"I can't imagine the Legislature wouldn't be open minded to us coming to them. It blows my mind that all of these things are in the code -- not only specific qualifications of who this person can't be, but even salaries," board member Mike Green said. "We've got to stand up and say we need the flexibility to find the best person possible."
Phares will serve "as long as it takes" for the board to conduct a search for a more long-term superintendent, and said his number-one goal is to tackle the numerous recommendations in the governor's education-efficiency audit of the state's school system -- many of which would require changes to state policy.
"My time and my duty and my call is to get this implemented, and my job is to work as quickly as I possibly can to bring that about because, the quicker I get those changes about, the better off our students will be," he said. "This isn't a long-term arrangement, by any means. I don't know how long it's going to take for them to flesh out the national search, but I'm going to work as hard as I can to implement the audit response and put it into action."
Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.