State superintendent meets RESA members

PARKERSBURG – West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Jim Phares met with members of the RESA 5 district Wednesday, spending a few hours in a question and answer session with education officials.

Ralph Board, executive director of RESA 5, said all eight counties school superintendents and at least one board of education representative attended the meeting. Education officials from Wood, Wirt, Pleasants, Jackson, Ritchie, Calhoun, Roane and Tyler counties were in attendance.

Phares, who took over in January, has spoken to more than 30 county school system officials this year. His goal is to meet with representatives from all 55 counties within the next few months.

“I want to bridge the gap between the state and local boards,” he said.

Phares and the group of more than two dozen local education officials discussed several topics, including the new hiring practices for teachers instituted by the state to give educators a bigger role in the hiring process.

“The intent of the board was to allow teachers to get involved in the hiring process,” Phares said. “My hope is that teachers and faculty won’t be coming to you after the hiring process saying that’s not the person we want.”

Phares said if the hiring recommendations from the teacher representatives, the principal and the superintendent are all the same, the board of education – by law – “shall” hire that person.

If all three agree the board can’t go against it, Phares said.

Wood County Board of Education member Jim Fox wondered then why the board would bother to vote.

“The public votes on board of education representatives to have a say,” Fox said. “It seems this is taking it out of our hands and the public hands.”

Board, a former principal, said when he hired chemistry, math and English teachers he never once got a call from someone in the public regarding the hire.

“Let me hire a football coach, and my phone is ringing off the hook,” he said.

Fox said he was not saying education officials were unqualified to make recommendations.

“I want to stress that,” he said. “But it seems to remove the checks and balances of the public role.”

“Am I the only who thinks that?” he asked.

“Not in the state,” Phares replied. And he encouraged Fox to comment on the new rules, noting it was still open for public comment.

Phares said he’s been receiving thank yous from teachers across the state for the new rules because they will aid in hiring new, bright, young teachers.

“We want to keep seniority as a factor, but not the only factor,” he said.