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W.Va. school board again taps deputy for top job

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Board of Education decided Tuesday to employ Deputy Superintendent Charles Heinlein as its next superintendent, though the two parties are in agreement that he will only serve on a short-term basis until the board finishes its national search for Jim Phares’ replacement.

For legal purposes, Heinlein will assume all job requirements July 1 and be paid $165,000, but he was hired only to “close the gap” until a candidate can be chosen, board President Gayle Manchin said.

“We are still in an ongoing process with our discussion,” Manchin said, later adding that the board is required by law to hire someone because it is illegal to not have a superintendent or appoint one on an interim basis.

Mary Catherine Funk, counsel to the board, said it is important to clarify that the board does not perceive Heinlein as an interim superintendent even though he will return to the deputy’s office once the board makes its final hire.

“Interim” or short-term hires are not foreign to the board or Heinlein.

In 2012, Heinlein was given the job after the board fired Superintendent Jorea Marple.

Then-president Wage Linger was already considering hiring Phares as superintendent. Linger and Phares, then the superintendent of Randolph County schools, had exchanged emails in the months leading up to Marple’s surprise firing, according to information obtained by the Daily Mail at the time through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Eventually the board determined to re-fire Marple in a subsequent meeting after questions arose about possible violations of Open Meetings laws. The do-over elicited public anger and a brief, intense interaction between board member William White and a meeting attendee that led to Capitol police rushing to the meeting.

It also meant the board had to appoint Heinlein as superintendent a second time.

 Heinlein served as superintendent from November 2012 until Phares was officially hired in early 2013.

While it is illegal to hire an interim superintendent, the board at the time also clearly intended to replace Heinlein while it conducted a national search for a replacement.

“I think we’re looking at a longer time period than we want to go without a serious leader in that seat,” Linger said about Heinlein’s temporary role in November 2012, according to Daily Mail archives.

Fellow board member William White characterized the position eventually filled by Phares as the “short-term” superintendent who would take the reins from Heinlein until the national search yielded a long-term solution, according to Daily Mail archives.

Some 19 months later, the board still hasn’t found that long-term solution despite conducting a national search that cost $43,000 and brought in 64 applicants from 43 different states…

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