Randolph County's loss may turn out to be the state's gain.
The West Virginia School Board voted unanimously Wednesday to name Dr. James Phares, who currently serves as the Randolph County superintendent of schools, to temporarily fill the state superintendent's post while a nationwide search for a long-term superintendent is held.
In November, The Inter-Mountain supported Phares for the position, while acknowledging that there were still unanswered questions regarding the sudden firing of former Superintendent Jorea Marple. A month later, many of those questions remain.
We feel the state school board must be more transparent in its actions, and hope that in his time as state superintendent Phares will do his best to make clear what the board wants to accomplish and how they intend to go about it.
He addressed the issue while being publicly interviewed by the state board Wednesday.
"There's some tremendous acrimony" resulting from Marple's firing and the board's actions afterward, Phares said. He promised that one of his first duties will be to "re-establish bridges with local counties and local superintendents."
Phares has always been straightforward and approachable in his dealings with The Inter-Mountain, which bodes well for his future in Charleston.
He will offer his resignation at Monday's Randolph County Board of Education meeting, making this a good time to look back over his accomplishments in our county.
Phares was hired by the Randolph BOE in 2009, and took over the school system when it was under scrutiny from the West Virginia Department of Education and the Office of Education Performance Audit. An OPEA audit outlined several deficiencies in the school system that could have led to a takeover of the local school system by the state. Phares helped lead the school system through the turmoil, and full accreditation was eventually given to the system.
Phares also focused on dealing with structural problems at Elkins Middle School, and the dilapidation of the former Elkins High School building, which had become "a symbol of decay," he said.
He also helped to spearhead the excess levy that was passed by voters in 2010. The levy was the first to pass in Randolph County since 1989.
We stand behind his record of leadership here and look forward to seeing him apply his abilities on the state level. And who knows - Phares may well be one of the candidates considered during the nationwide search for a long-term superintendent.
"I won't rule anything out," he said Wednesday evening.
Phares could be in for a long stay in Charleston.