CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The West Virginia Board of Education on Wednesday appointed Dr. James Phares, superintendent of Randolph County Schools, West Virginia's 28th state superintendent of schools. Phares will begin his new post on January 2, replacing Chuck Heinlein as the new state superintendent of schools. Heinlein will resume his previous role as deputy superintendent.
"This is an important position for the children of West Virginia," said board President Wade Linger. "The West Virginia Board of Education is confident Dr. Phares will provide the necessary leadership our public schools need as we move forward with education reforms that advance student achievement and the well-being of our students."
Phares, who brings nearly 40 years of educational experience to the position, will earn $165,000 a year. He will assume all the duties, responsibilities and authority granted to the state's top education leader and serves at the will and pleasure of the board as its policy advisor and executive officer. West Virginia's 55 county school districts serve about 282,000 students in preschool through 12th grade with an operating budget in excess of $2.5 billion.
"I am optimistic about the future of education in West Virginia and welcome this opportunity to give back to my home state," Phares said. "I look forward to working with students, parents, educators, administrators, higher education, all branches of government, business and the community to make the great strides necessary to transform our school system for the benefit of all students. Together, we can improve the academic opportunities of all West Virginia children."
Phares has earned a reputation for turning around struggling schools. He was hired by the Randolph Board of Education in 2009 after a report by the Office of Education Performance Audits outlined several deficiencies that could have led to a state takeover. Phares helped lead the school system through the turmoil, and full accreditation was eventually given to the system. He also helped spearhead an excess levy that passed in 2010, a first in Randolph County since 1989.
Phares has a doctorate in education administration from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and has experience as a classroom teacher, university professor, assistant principal, principal, and county superintendent in Pocahontas, Marion and Randolph counties. He earned his bachelor's degree in elementary education at West Virginia University and holds a master's degree in school administration from Lynchburg College in Virginia.
The West Virginia Board of Education also voted unanimously to conduct a nationwide search after they have a chance to approach the West Virginia Legislature about the current statutory qualifications for the state superintendent of schools.
"The current state statute does not allow for individuals who are highly educated but happen to have a master's degree in something other than educational administration to even apply for the job," Linger said. "I am confident that Dr. Phares can do the job but it is important that we also conduct a nationwide search as we move forward with education reform."
For more information, contact the Office of Communication at (304) 558-2699.
Highlight sheet: Accomplishments of James Phares