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Some say search for state superintendent should begin here

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By Roger Adkins 
The Exponent-Telegram

CHARLESTON — The search for a new state superintendent of schools should start in West Virginia, according to several education officials in North Central West Virginia.

The West Virginia Board of Education is conducting a nationwide search for the person who will lead the state’s school system, though board members have said they won’t exclude candidates from West Virginia.

Dr. Mark Manchin is executive director of the School Building Authority of West Virginia. He also is the future superintendent of Harrison County Schools.

There likely is someone in the Mountain State who is a good fit for the position, Manchin said.

“We have outstanding leaders from all over the state. I think your first look should be here. Now, I don’t want to be parochial and say someone from outside couldn’t lead here in West Virginia,” he said.

“If they come back and say they haven’t been able to find anyone here, I certainly would have no problem with them talking to somebody from outside.”

Doddridge County Schools Superintendent Rick Coffman said he believes a West Virginian would know best how to run the state’s school system.

“They would know our circumstances, our culture and our education system,” he said.

Coffman said he believes any candidate under consideration should have a high level of integrity, an extensive resume and a strong educational background.

Barbour County Schools Superintendent Joe Super agreed there probably is a candidate in the Mountain State who has what it takes to lead the state’s education system.

“I would like to see someone from West Virginia in that position,” Super said.

Andrea Alfred is president of the Harrison County American Federation of Teachers-W.Va. She doesn’t believe someone coming in from out of state would be in tune with West Virginia’s educational needs, though given time they could learn.

“Personally, I feel they should start the search here. The areas of our state are so vastly different from one county to another,” she said. “If they don’t have anyone respond, or if the respondents aren’t of high quality, they could expand.”

There is likely a sitting superintendent in West Virginia who could be a great leader for the state Department of Education, Liberty High School Principal Pamela Knight said.

Many sitting superintendents have the right mix of qualifications and experience, she said.

“And if they’re a sitting superintendent, they have a vested interest in West Virginia. I don’t think it should be limited to West Virginia, but I definitely think it should start here,” Knight said.

Some area teachers were less concerned about where the next superintendent is from, and more concerned about whether that person will be in touch with what’s happening in the state’s classrooms.

Cindy Yazvac teaches sixth-grade math at Washington Irving Middle School.

“I just wish they could find a way to find the person who’s going to make things better for our kids. It would be lovely if they were from here, but I don’t feel strongly that it has to be someone from here,” she said.

Emily Moore teaches English 12 and theater at Robert C. Byrd High School. She said it’s more important to find someone who has a great deal of experience in the education system.

“It should be someone who’s actually been in the classroom as a teacher. Oftentimes, we think of education as a business, and it’s not,” she said.

That also was an important point for Super. He said someone with a business-model background would not be the ideal candidate.

Super, too, said the new superintendent should not be far removed from public education on the front lines.

“I would hope that they would possess an all-around background. I hope they’re not looking for someone who just has a business-model background. That’s not what we need. We need someone who has a good understanding of academics, finances and a lot of other things,” Super said.