Board Asks for State Superintendent Applicants

November 18, 1999

An Invitation to Outstanding Educational Leaders To Apply for the Position of  

Superintendent of Schools State of West Virginia  

October, 1999  


The West Virginia State Board of Education announces a search for a new Superintendent to lead its nationally recognized public education system. The Board seeks a Superintendent with a sophisticated vision of public education, a proven capacity to lead and inspire teachers and administrators, and a collaborative working style. Having successfully completed a decade of major improvements in its schools, West Virginia now stands in the forefront of education reform efforts nationally. The Board expects the new Superintendent to build upon the significant accomplishments of the past decade and to mobilize the educational system?s many stakeholders in tackling the next set of challenges facing its public schools.  


Background and Recent History  

An exceptional collaboration among the State Board of Education, the West Virginia gubernatorial and legislative leadership, and educators and citizens throughout the state is credited with successfully focusing attention and resources on the West Virginia public education system, transforming it into one of the nation?s educational success stories. A decade ago, under the leadership of then Governor Gaston Caperton, education reform became a centerpiece of the state?s policy agenda. Directed by a unified State Board of Education, a strong Superintendent, Dr. Henry Marockie, and with the active support of the legislature and the business community, West Virginia?s schools underwent a major transformation.  

Today the state devotes more than half of its annual budget to education, and is among the top five states in per capita student spending in the country. In the last decade the West Virginia public education system has set an example for the successful establishment of rigorous state standards and assessments. There has been documented improvement in student achievement test scores across the board.  

The successful integration of technology into the classroom has been a distinctive feature of the West Virginia school system success story. The coupling of technology and the training of 21,000 teachers earned the school system recognition as a national leader by Education Week. The magazine gave West Virginia the highest marks of any state in the nation for three consecutive years in its "Quality Counts" analysis, the only comprehensive annual report that grades states on educational achievement. Two studies of West Virginia?s Basic Skills/Computer Education Program marked the first time that a long-term statewide learning technology program was assessed for effectiveness. The results (reported in Education Week and by the Milken Foundation) showed that learning technology advanced both the basic skills of reading, writing and mathematics as well as students? ability to think critically and creatively. The World School Program, that connected nearly every school and half the public school classrooms in the state to the Internet, led to a 1996 Computer World/Smithsonian Award for innovation in education.  

West Virginia has a strong economic development program that is intimately linked to its education agenda. The state is evolving from an economy dependent upon declining coal, steel, and chemical industries into a healthy and vibrant place where existing industries are stable and there is substantial growth in the technology and service sectors. However, while the state?s population overall has remained stable - 1.8 million from 1960 to the present - the school population has declined. There were 416,000 students attending West Virginia schools in 1960. Today, there are just under 300,000. Though much of the state is experiencing a net decline in population, some areas in the Eastern Panhandle - little more than an hour?s commute from Washington, D.C. - are growing rapidly. Many of the new residents are families with school aged children, placing new demands on that area?s schools. In other areas of the state, the population is small and declining. Pickens, for example, a small coal-mining town, has a total school enrollment of 53 students, with only two graduating from high school last year. These demographic differences and shifts bear directly on the education system and present challenges for the reallocation and/or consolidation of educational resources.  

Much of the progress in the state?s education system can be attributed to a strong, shared focus and collaboration among the education, business and legislative communities. Gubernatorial leadership and support of education continues today under Governor Cecil Underwood. The unified agenda and collaborative spirit of the State Board of Education remains strong. The support and involvement of the legislative leadership continues. This cooperation toward shared educational goals is a unique asset and provides a strong foundation for the education system?s future development.  

The West Virginia Department of Education Mission and Goals  

In 1991, the State Board of Education adopted six education goals to provide quality education for all, to produce lifelong learners and to ensure that all students learn at a high level. These local goals were aligned with national education goals, and have driven policy and program at all levels. While they have served the system well in accomplishing the outcomes to date, the Board is very receptive to reviewing the goals with a new Superintendent and expanding upon them to reflect new approaches and best practices in education. The goals are:  

- All students will have equal educational opportunities and will be ready for the first grade.  

- Student performance will equal or exceed national averages with an emphasis on science and mathematics achievement. Performance measures for students in the lowest quartile will improve by 50 percent.  

- The best personnel will be recruited, retained, provided professional development to improve their skills and compensated with competitive salaries and benefits.  

- Ninety percent of ninth grade students will graduate from high school with the knowledge and skills necessary for college, other postsecondary education or gainful employment. The number of high school graduates entering postsecondary education will increase by 50 percent.  

- All school facilities will provide a safe, disciplined environment and meet the educational needs of all students.  

- All working-age adults will be functionally and technically literate. Schools, colleges and universities will be used as centers for lifelong learning.  

Size and Scope  

West Virginia has a strong county system comprised of 55 counties and school districts. Each county has a local school board that appoints the county school superintendent. The central administration of the West Virginia Department of Education is located in Charleston, the state capital. The staff numbers approximately 200. Five division heads report directly to the Superintendent. They are: the Associate Superintendent for the Division of Research, Technology and Professional Services, three Assistant Superintendents responsible for: 1) The Division of Administrative Services; 2) The Division of Instructional and Student Services and; 3) The Division of Technical and Adult Education Services; and an Executive Director of the Office of Healthy Schools.  

There are 834 public schools in West Virginia?s 55 counties. Of these, 629 are elementary and 205 are secondary schools. The total 1998-99 enrollment from Kindergarten to twelfth grade is 296,559 students. The public school staff numbers 24,484 professional personnel and 13,849 school service personnel. The ratio of students to teachers is 14 to 1. The average annual salary for teachers is $34,248, ranking 35th among state school systems nationally, up from 49th in 1989. The per pupil expenditure for 1997-98 was $6,335.93.  

School Facilities  

Through a combination of funds from local school bond initiatives and from the School Building Authority, which was established in 1990, 74 new schools have been built and more are well on the way to completion. These funds total over 900 million dollars. Three-fourths of the state?s school population attend a new or renovated school. The progress made in improving school facilities in recent years has drawn national and international recognition, defining West Virginia as a world class leader in school capital improvements. The commitment made in 1989 to improve, renovate, and construct modern schools throughout West Virginia will continue into the next century.  


The total funding for education in West Virginia in the 1999-2000 academic year was just over $2 billion. Of those funds, approximately 30 percent came from local sources, approximately 60 percent came from the state, and approximately 10 percent were federally funded.  


The West Virginia Schools are governed by the State Board of Education. The constitutionally defined mission of the West Virginia Board of Education is to provide supervision of the K-12 education system. The Board has twelve members, consisting of nine members appointed by the Governor and three non-voting ex-officio members: the State Superintendent of Schools, the Chancellor of the State College System of West Virginia and the Chancellor of the University System of West Virginia. The State Superintendent is a constitutional officer who serves at the will and pleasure of the board and is responsible for the management of the Department of Education. Board members serve overlapping terms of nine years.  

The Board has demonstrated a deep commitment to improving West Virginia?s schools and enjoys substantial and continuing support from the Legislature in promoting its activist education agenda. The degree of consensus among Board members is unusual and they envision a close working partnership with the new Superintendent.  

Distinctive Features  

West Virginia Basic Skills/Computer Education Program  

The Basic Skills/Computer Education program is an ongoing initiative, providing hardware and software for every K-6 classroom in the state. Currently, 21,000 student workstations are in use, and 15,000 teachers have received training. The program was begun in 1989, and it is the most comprehensive statewide approach to computer education in the country.  

Office of Performance Audits  

A statewide accountability system through the Office of Education Performance Audits measures the quality of education and preparation of students based on the standards and measures of student, school and school system performance and processes. Established in 1998, the office operates under the direction of the State Board of Education and independently of the West Virginia Department of Education. The first report compiling West Virginia?s accountability activities was issued in 1999. More than 77 percent of West Virginia?s schools met the rigorous requirements of the Performance Based Accreditation System.  

Student Achievement  

There has been substantial and documented improvement in student test scores in West Virginia. In 1996, fourth and eighth grade students made impressive gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress State Math Assessments. At the fourth grade level, West Virginia students ranked in the ninth position nationally. At the eighth grade level, students ranked in the 15th position nationally. The percentage of students taking the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) has increased in recent years. West Virginia students posted their highest score ever on the mathematics portion of the 1998 SAT. West Virginia?s 1998 high school graduates scored an all-time high composite of 20.1 on the American College Testing Program (ACT). The West Virginia Board of Education adopted the Stanford Achievement Test beginning with the 1996-97 school year. Forty-one of the state?s 55 school districts scored at or above the 50th percentile in total basic skills at all grade levels on the 1997-98 test.  

Safe and Healthy Schools  

West Virginia has had the lowest crime rate in the nation for more than two decades. The Department of Education devotes three distinct divisions to extending this level of safety. Its goals range from assuring that schools are well maintained and free of health hazards to a proactive approach to responsible student behavior and appropriate intervention. West Virginia supports one of the leading school breakfast and lunch programs in the nation with participation far exceeding national and regional rates. West Virginia leads the nation in school bus training and safety. School buses transport 230,000 students each school day on more than 3,000 school buses equipped with the latest safety features, and school bus operators undergo a rigorous training program. Other initiatives include the Responsible Students project and the Safe and Drug-free Schools project.  

The Challenges for a New Superintendent of Schools In West Virginia  

Building on the Past and Articulating a New Vision for the Future  

West Virginia?s manageable size, the school system?s governing structure, and the continuing support of important multiple constituencies have created a unique opportunity for the next Superintendent to have a positive, system-wide impact. Building on a decade of success, the State Board of Education intends to work closely with its next Superintendent to define and meet a new set of important goals. Among these are:  

Teacher, Administrator and Principal Staffing  

The system has talented teachers, and able principals and administrators. However, in the next ten years, a whole generation of teachers, half the current staff, will likely retire. The next Superintendent will face a shortage of teachers, administrators, and principals, especially secondary school principals. Currently, there is not an adequate pool of substitute teachers. In addition, there is competition from neighboring states that are better able to compensate newly hired teachers. The Superintendent will have to devise plans and strategies for attracting and recruiting staff to fill these anticipated gaps.  


In response to the challenge of increased expectations and achievement for all students, West Virginia increased academic standards and aligned curriculum, assessments, instruction, and professional development with the new standards. West Virginia has gone further than curriculum, instruction and student assessment results. It has a rigorous accreditation system that holds individual schools and school districts accountable for the investment the public has made in them. If they fail to meet these strict standards, the state steps in to provide full support and guidance until standards are achieved.  

The Office of Education Performance Audits submitted its first report this year. Among its findings was the need to consider a more diversified consideration of student and school achievement. While 77 percent of West Virginia schools have been issued full accreditation status, there remain a cadre of lower performing schools and a series of trends system wide that require concerted action to correct identified deficiencies. The new Superintendent will be responsible for communicating the duties and responsibilities of the new accountability and assessment components to educators and citizens throughout the state and for closing the gaps in the accountability system.  

Relationship with Higher Education  

West Virginia?s higher education system includes a system of State Colleges and State Universities, each headed by a Chancellor. As noted above, the Chancellors are ex-officio members of the State Board of Education. Likewise, the State Superintendent of Schools is an ex-officio member of both the state college system and university system boards. Among the issues that could be addressed in a closer working relationship with the higher education leadership: a workforce development agenda aimed at preparation for the jobs of the future; teacher (and principal) preparation and certification; a program for providing vocational education through the state?s community colleges; and the use of community college classrooms. The new Superintendent will be expected to develop an aggressive agenda for bringing about a productive working relationship with the Chancellors and the state?s higher education resources.  

The Qualifications and Experience Required In a New Superintendent  

The State Board of Education, West Virginia legislative leaders, school department staff, and citizen groups share a similar interpretation of the history of the school system and carry into the future a strong sense of its inherent strengths. They share a broad consensus on the challenges that now face the schools and that frame the requirements for a new Superintendent. S/he shall:  

- Be an educational leader, well versed in the national standards movement, who will speak effectively for the schools, representing the system and articulating educational goals and policy to a wide range of demanding constituencies.  

- Be adept at working collaboratively with the Governor, the Legislature, the business community, citizens, parents, teacher and educational organizations, county superintendents, and local school boards to identify key challenges and articulate policy in ways that draw competing perspectives together.  

- Have demonstrated sensitivity to the needs of students and staff from differing geographic, economic, racial, cultural, and special needs backgrounds and have a track record of actively promoting and improving student achievement from every level of academic preparation and learning style.  

- Have a sophisticated understanding of technology and how it is used and integrated with curriculum, standards, and assessment.  

- Have deep and thorough knowledge and understanding of instructional design, implementation and measurement and have demonstrated success in this arena.  

- Have a sophisticated understanding of the relationship between student health and student educational achievement. Bring a passion for education and education reform and a record of measurable accomplishments in previous organizations or systems. S/he shall have a personal appreciation for excellent teaching and a proven track record for inspiring such teaching.  

- Demonstrate a capacity to build trust among department staff and other stakeholders, and be a person of integrity, resilience, and flexibility who is willing to take risks and make difficult decisions. S/he must have evidence of outstanding management accomplishments.  

- Have highly developed skills as a communicator and facilitator in working with the State Board of Education. S/he must possess the ability to generate and engage in dialogue, present options and challenges, and be responsive to the State Board of Education.  

Compensation will be competitive and commensurate with experience.  


All applicants should submit a resume with references and a letter of interest to:  

Alan Wichlei, Vice President and Director or Jenny Gelber, Ed.D., Consultant Isaacson Miller 334 Boylston Street, Suite 500 Boston, MA 02116-3805 Fax: (617) 262.6509 E-mail:  

The State of West Virginia and the State Board of Education is committed to equal opportunity and encourages applications from a broad spectrum of qualified individuals.

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