Clayton Burch will keep his job as the West Virginia school superintendent.
In February, the state Board of Education promoted Burch from deputy superintendent to temporarily replace the departing Steve Paine.
The school board voted unanimously Wednesday to keep Burch in the position at a $230,000 annual salary.
“We think, we believe, we know that we have made the best decision for the West Virginia Department of Education at this time, in the interest of children throughout the state of West Virginia,” board President Dave Perry said.
Burch thanked board members for their vote of confidence.
“Feb. 21, when the state Board of Education asked me to first take over during the transition, I don’t think that any of us knew what we were actually getting into a month later,” Burch said. “Going through a pandemic and a crisis around the world, I could not be prouder of our state board, of our district superintendents and, most importantly, our governor.”
He thanked teachers and other school employees for their work during the pandemic.
Before becoming deputy superintendent, Burch had been the education department’s chief academic officer. Outside the education department, Gov. Jim Justice had appointed Burch the interim leader of the Department of Commerce and the since-disbanded Department of Education and the Arts.
Justice also appointed all but two of the current nine members of the board that’s now decided to keep Burch as superintendent.
The other two finalists, whom the board announced last Thursday, were Blaine Hess, president of the county schools superintendents’ association in the state, and Kathy D’Antoni, West Virginia’s top vocational education leader.
Hess and D’Antoni had been two of the three finalists the last time the board searched for a superintendent.
That 2017 search ended with Paine being named to the position. A short time after taking over the job, Paine named Burch deputy superintendent, the No. 2 role in the education department.
Burch also previously directed the department’s Office of Early Learning, which was focused on implementing the state’s universal prekindergarten program. West Virginia has a nationally recognized free, voluntary pre-K program available for 3-year-olds with special needs and all 4-year-olds.
He also was involved in making and defending the state’s controversial changes to its science education standards. Critics said the changes cast unwarranted doubt on the overwhelming evidence that greenhouse gas emissions are the chief driver of climate change.
The board mostly retracted those changes after public criticism. Few members from that controversy still serve on the board.