Who’s being considered as the next state superintendent of schools, the most powerful K-12 education official in West Virginia, will stay secret until the winner is chosen.
And that winner of the historically six-figure-salary job may be chosen Thursday of next week — or, if not then, on June 10.
That’s according to Dave Perry, president of the state Board of Education, which picks the superintendent. The superintendent has day-to-day control of the state Department of Education.
The state school board hasn’t released the names of the three finalists, who are all West Virginians. If it does release them, it will only do so after choosing the next superintendent, Perry said.
“We don’t want to subject ourselves to any political group or organization politicking for any particular candidate,” he said.
Miller Hall, vice president of the board, also declined to name the finalists.
“We, as a board, that’s what we decided upon, and I’m not going to go against [their] wishes,” Hall said.
Though Perry is a former Democratic state lawmaker, and despite other current and former board members having been lawmakers or otherwise politically connected — Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s wife once ran the board — the board is at least insulated from direct electoral politics.
According to The West Virginia Encyclopedia, a constitutional amendment in 1958 changed the state superintendent from an elected position to a position appointed by board members, who themselves aren’t elected.
The board members are appointed by the governor, and state senators decide whether to confirm or reject those appointments.
Perry said interviews with the finalists will be next Thursday.
That meeting will start at 9 a.m., and you may listen online at http://wvde.state.wv.us/boe/live.html
Citing the pandemic, the board is barring the public and media from the meeting room.
You may submit written public comments no later than 4 p.m. the day before the meeting to email@example.com or by mail to:
West Virginia Board of Education
Capitol Building 6, Room 351
1900 Kanawha Blvd. E.
Charleston, West Virginia 25305
Each finalist will decide whether their interview is open to the public or not, though Perry said the board may regardless release the finalists’ names after the superintendent is chosen.
About a month ago, he said some finalists’ employers didn’t know that they had applied and didn’t want that known. On Wednesday, he said the current finalists — two of the original five have dropped out — would have stable positions even if their names were known, but he newly raised the specter of political interference.
West Virginia currently has a state superintendent.
The board promoted then-deputy superintendent Clayton Burch to the top role on Feb. 21 to replace Steve Paine, who retired that day.
But the board had already announced a search for a permanent new superintendent, and it continued that search.
Burch hasn’t said whether he applied for the position.
Perry said there were about 15 applicants by the application deadline in March, and all but one met the minimum qualifications. He previously told the Gazette-Mail a few more hadn’t met the qualifications, but he said he was mistaken.
While the applicants included people living out of state, the finalists only include West Virginians, he said.
“They’re not all county superintendents,” Perry said. “They come from varied backgrounds in education. That’s all I can tell you at this point.”
Burch currently earns a salary rate worth $233,000 annually, if he were to be in the position a full year. Perry said the new state superintendent “absolutely” won’t make any more than that.
Hall said “a fellow who can communicate, communicate, communicate, that’s what I’m looking for.”