CHARLESTON, W.Va. – James B. Phares officially became West Virginia’s 28th state superintendent of schools on Wednesday during an oath of office ceremony in Charleston.
The West Virginia Board of Education hired Phares during its December meeting to fill the post overseeing West Virginia’s public schools. Phares, who most recently served as superintendent of Randolph County Schools, brings nearly 40 years of educational experience to the position. He replaces Chuck Heinlein, who will resume his previous role as deputy superintendent.
"I am optimistic about the future of education in West Virginia and look forward to working with students, parents, educators, administrators, higher education, all branches of government, business and community members to transform our schools,” Phares said. “The 21st century workplace requires us to change how we prepare students to live and work if we want them to be successful. Only by working together can we systematically improve the academic opportunities of all our children."
Phares will earn $165,000 to oversee West Virginia's public schools. The state’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.
A native of Elkins, Phares has nearly 40 years of experience as a classroom teacher, university instructor, principal, assistant principal and county superintendent in Virginia and in Marion, Pocahontas and Randolph counties. He earned his bachelor's degree in elementary education at West Virginia University, a master’s in school administration from Lynchburg College in Virginia and a doctorate in education administration from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Known for his in-depth knowledge of school personnel and operations, 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.
During his career, Phares has received multiple awards. In 2006, he was named the West Virginia Music Educator Superintendent of the Year and in 2007 was named the West Virginia Association of School Administrators’ Superintendent of the Year, the Marion County Chamber of Commerce Educator of the Year and a West Virginia Distinguished Mountaineer. He has been a national finalist for the American Association of School Administrators’ Superintendent of the Year award and was inducted in 2009 to the WVU Department of Education and Human Resources Hall of Fame.
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