Mark Manchin accepts Harrison County superintendent job

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By Lauren Talotta

A little more than a week after the Harrison County Board of Education voted 4-1 not to extend Superintendent Susan Collins' contract, members voted on Wednesday to issue a contract to her replacement: Mark Manchin.

The board voted three-to-one after meeting in executive session to offer Manchin the job and offered him a three-year contract that will take effect July 1, 2014.

"Change is always difficult," Manchin said. "All I ask is give me an opportunity."

It was a packed house at the Harrison County Board of Education offices Wednesday, Jan. 29 as members ultimately voted to offer Manchin a three-year contract, which he signed.

Manchin currently is the executive director for the West Virginia School Building Authority. Before that, he spent several years as superintendent of schools in McDowell and Webster counties. So when BOE members met last Friday, Manchin's name was at the top of their list.

"Immediately, it was just like it was made to be. The negotiation process went extremely smooth," said David Sturm, Harrison County BOE president.

"We've taken a huge step forward. We need to give him time to prove that to us," said BOE member Allen Gorrell.

But not everyone was so easily convinced. Several people spoke out during the meeting's public comment session, asking the board to take its time weighing its options.

"We really believed that if the board believed this much in that candidate, he would rise to the top in that process anyway," said Greg Phillips of the Harrison County Education Association. "We are a little disappointed in what they've done, but that's not going to hinder us from moving forward," said Greg Phillips of the Harrison County Education Association.

But Manchin says he is grateful for the chance to prove that he's the right man for the job, citing his North Central West Virginia roots as a driving force in his passion for education.

"As a father myself, as a grandfather, as a person who truly cares about West Virginia, and particularly Harrison County, the question that we ask, and the question I'll ask is 'What does a diploma from Harrison County schools mean?'" said Manchin.

A Marion County native, Manchin is the cousin of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.