By Mackenzie Mays
The West Virginia Board of Education is one step closer to naming the next state superintendent of schools.
Ray and Associates Inc. -- the national education search firm hired by the board -- “engaged with” 248 individuals regarding the position, according to a Department of Education statement on Thursday.
The statement didn’t clarify what the board meant by “engaged with.”
The board met with Ray and Associates, which it is paying $43,000 to assist in the search, on Thursday to assess a pool of 64 candidates who have submitted complete applications.
Those candidates represent 43 states, but Department of Education officials are not yet releasing information about those candidates or whether some are from West Virginia.
The board narrowed that pool of candidates on Thursday and hopes to make a decision by the end of the month, when current superintendent Jim Phares plans to retire.
The new superintendent will step in following a tumultuous year for the school board.
Former superintendent Jorea Marple is suing the board for wrongful termination, and claims that the board illegally fired her in November 2012.
Phares, former Randolph County Schools superintendent, was sworn in in January 2013 as a sort of interim superintendent while the board conducted a nationwide search for Marple’s more permanent replacement.
The board has since hired outside counsel with the sole job of overseeing the search process to prevent any legal mishaps.
The next superintendent’s salary will be in the range of $225,000, according to an ad posted to Ray and Associates’ website.
Last year, the board worked to get the Legislature to remove a $175,000 cap on superintendent’s salary, and also change the superintendent’s educational requirements.
Until last year, the state superintendent had to have a masters degree in education administration. Now, the superintendent is only required to have a master’s degree in any subject.
The Board of Education will meet in a regular meeting on Wednesday at the state capitol.